I made Erik mad that day.
I was out back in his nursery, digging through his growing on area (weird term “growing on” isn’t it? That’s what they say though when they are trying to grow a plant larger. Why don’t they say “growing up”?) and I found some gems.
They don’t look like much but they are very old and valuable plants.
They are, technically, ficus microcarpa “melon seed” , which is a dwarf variety that has the potential of developing tiny leaves and a dense canopy.
Erik is growing them as material to use in grafting as well as on their own.
He has many large leafed microcarpas that have the retusa foliage but he wanted smaller leaves and internodes and he put one and one together to make, uh, one.
I picked these two for the only reason you should be choosing pre-bonsai stock: the bases.
I see two little sexy cuties as banyan-style trees.
This is as big as the leaves get.
And this is how small, without even trying, the leaves could be.
Imagine the leaf reduction after two or three defoliations.
I mentioned that these trees were old.
Even though they’re ficus, they are a dwarf variety, which means slower growth.
Erik had given me a cutting about two years ago and it’s only doubled in thickness since then.
So I’d guess that these are maybe about ten years old.
If you had a regular ficus microcarpa in a “growing on” area for ten years it would be about a foot wide at the trunk, never mind the base.
There’s a water bottle for scale.
You’ll notice how tall the trees have been allowed to grow. Unchecked growth (height and width) in big pots is the fastest way to get the trunk thicker.
If you start with a cutting or a seedling and you want it bigger you just can’t practice bonsai techniques on the tree.
Once you start to “bonsai” a tree the energy goes to growing branches and not trunks.
I have two different plans for these trees.
First, I am chopping them both back.
Mainly for cuttings.
Not that I can compete with Erik but there is some satisfaction to growing your own.
One tree goes into a bigger pot and will be “grown on” for 5 or 10 more years.
The other one I’ll start on its way to bonsai-ship.
First, the roots.
Sorry, I took the pics like a week ago and there have been way too many drunken binges and rock shows in between.
Just last night I saw this interesting group called Steel Panther.
And if you can remember anything after one of their shows you are a better man than I.
Boobies is all I gots to say ’bout that.
Wait, I remember, that’s where I was going to cut the trunks….duh!
Now some more finger pointing.
Speaking of finger pointing, you all know the Heavy Metal hand gesture called the Metal Horns, right?
The lead singer kept doing that gesture but with only the ring finger folded down.
I guess that’s the new thing? Anybody have a clue what it means?
The original was actually a hand gesture to ward off evil spirits.
It was introduced to the metal world by Ronnie James Dio, rock god.
Anyway, those knobs (on the tree, not on that girl) I’m pointing to are areas of dieback that (hopefully) new branches will grow from again.
The tendency is to cut those knobs flat to make a nice smooth trunk (that’s what concave cutters are for after all) but, if you need new branching, just cut the end off (enough to get the sap flowing)….
…and you’ll get at least one new bud from that spot, if not three or four.
That area has all the bud info right there, and your bud appearance will be faster for it.
Now, let’s talk pots.
It would look nice in this pot now.
And I will probably use this or a similar pot when I’ve developed the tree a little more (say two or three years).
But for now it’s going into this pot.
It’s a little deeper and it’s wider.
I need to desperately develop branches on this tree.
By using this pot, I have more lateral space for the surface roots to travel (hence the “wider”part) and get thicker faster and I the deeper pot means better drainage.
Better drainage dries the soil out faster, causing the roots to search out water by growing, and this root growth makes the top grow faster.
To reiterate: wide pot makes root base wider. Better drainage increases growth.
I’m also using my coarse soil mix.
Which means more watering but, again, faster growth.
And that’s it.
We started with this.
And after a long journey with songs about glory holes and things smelling like sushi playing in the background we have:
a tree still in development.
Lots of cuttings…..
…which means real work for me…
And a tree that looks gawd-awful at the moment but…
…has so much potential.
So much so that I drew a picture on the back of an envelope to give you an idea what the future could hold in store for this tree.
In closing, I’d like to leave you with the wise words of the metal poet, Michael Starr,
“Let’s all party, like tomorrow is the end of the world!”
*** I must warn you, if you search youtube for Steel Panther, you might be offended, just sayin’ ***