Why am I keeping this bonsai so tall?

What do this tree-
and this tree-
have in common?
You’ll have to wait a little for that to be revealed.
The former tree (I love using this kind of wordage…but you have to read it with a British accent, “tha fourrmahr annd tha laattehr” ) is one I’ve been working on for about ten years. It was styled when I got it but I’ve let it grow for nine of those years and I’ve only had it styled now for less than a year. Two styling sessions in fact.
The latter (heehee) is our subject for today.
It is the ubiquitously tropical bonsai subject-Ficus salicaria (née nerifolia, salicifolia, exotica et al), the Nomine Vulgaris being “willow leaf ficus”.
It belonged to my friend Juan and I’ve been asked to take care of it.
Let’s take an assessment.
It is really an interesting subject. Very intriguing.
Challenging, even.
The roots are a bit messy.

That’s a literary technique we in the bonsai blogosphere call understatement.
It’s well branched on top but it has an unsightly bulge where a scar of some sort has been healing.


It kinda looks like it was snapped or broken and has begun healing from the inside out.
But more on the wound later.
The normal Adamistic tendency is to just cut the trunk here and regrow a short, sweet little tree.
But, since this was Juan’s tree, I’m going to keep it tall, as he would have preferred.
Which is doable, I think, with a little work and some fancy Florida technique.
There are three distinct areas that need work.
The top, the middle, and the bottom.
Not much but…..well, only everything.
Ima start ina middle area spacey placey.
Pretty bad, right?
Time to go all Nip/Tuck on it…
This growth will make a nice cutting. The knob at the bottom is a good start for a decent root base.
But this isn’t a very clean cut.
Damn dull, old tools.
I should throw it away.
Or sell it to an enemy.
Yeah. An enemy.
I’ll make a call.
Now these tools….AHHHH, I love these tools.
I’ll do a write up on them soon, don’t you worry. I have to brush up on my metallurgy and the theories of blade geometry first.
Back to the tree.
The technique I’m using on this wound, which should help it roll over, is to elongate on the top and bottom to a point.
And to carve the wound inward with a sharp knife.
This shape (besides being highly suggestive…) allows the sap to flow around the wound more efficiently and should close it quicker.
Let’s talk about wounds healing on ficus salicaria.
In my experience and observations, I don’t really have very much hope of this wound healing very quickly or completely.
…that brings us back to this tree.
When I first got this little dude (about ten years ago) it had a similar reverse taper high up in the trunk.
And I did a very similar carving on it, hoping for the best.
Here’s are some close ups.

You can see the old cut paste residue.
It seems to have worked well. It’s not fully closed yet but it’s pretty close.

I used this kind of cut paste way back then.
And I’ll use it again today. Which I don’t usually use on a regular basis, but since it worked on this one I figured, eh..why the hell not.
There is reason to use cut paste if you live in Florida and other tropical climes; we have a nasty little bug whose larval stage is a boring (meaning “making tunnels” not dull and uninteresting) white maggoty looking thing with an amazingly mean looking chewing mandible.
Ask Ed Trout what his experience is with those nasty little bugs.
The adult borer looks like a green cockroach.
Kill them on site and eat the body, that’s the only way to eradicate them as they are able to revivify themselves under a full moon.
And use cut paste on big wounds. Hollow ficus are not very viable.
This is what my wife calls “snot paste”.
Apropos, wouldn’t you say?
It doesn’t taste like boogers though.
Not salty enough, it tastes more like anti fungal cream……don’t ask how I might know that.
On that note, time for the roots.
As I said, a bit messy.
But there’s a nice fat bottom hidden down there. I can smell it.
And we all like big bottoms….um, on our trees that is.
But there’s also some nifty roots that will make some awesome root cuttings.
Which end is the top and which end is the bottom?
Ah, a little snip and FREEDOM!
Clean it up and pot it.

And a little wire and growth (things grow fast in Florida) this is the root cutting now-

Just kidding… This is actually a sweet little tree I picked up at the BSF convention from a nursery that’s down in South Florida called Emblem Bonsai and Exotics. Check them out, great trees great people. They’re usually vending at the Miami Bonsai Society’s annual show.
I’m showing you this little tree because it really illustrates what can be done with root cuttings.
Enough about that, that’s another 3 or 4 posts I’ve already written.
Time to play in the mud now.
I think I pulled about four more good root cuttings but none as good as that first one.
Maybe I shouldn’t have watered this morning, I’m making a big muddy mess on my table.
Wait, that’s a cool pic, that one’s going on Instagram.
That’s right, I’m an Instagram dork.
Anyway, here we go, all cleaned up.


When I was originally looking at the tree, I preferred this front.
But the front of a tree is determined mainly by the roots.
Unfortunately, these are the roots if I went with my original front.
Not bad, but if I turn it around…

So much better.
And they’re really set off when it’s in the pot with soil.
Big difference from what we started with.
I’ve dealt with the bottom and the middle, now for the top.
Which means I get to wire, YUUUP, HOLLA DOLLA BILL YO!
Wiring is the way for me
To make this plant
Look like a tree
It’s a bonsai rap
So sing with me
Cuz little trees
Will make you free
Uh huh huh huh hah!
Word to your Mother!
Mother Nature!
Yay yuh!
What what what?

I’m going to stop there I think.
Pruning first.


And wire.

Side view after branch placement.
Skinny and weird.
And the front.
And you know what time it is, right?
It’s Miller time!
In defense of my beer choice of late, those who know me, and by know me, I mean who’ve gone drinking with me, know that I usually drink a more wild and dark beer than this, the champagne of beers, Miller High Life, but I got a twelve pack for five bucks.
Five bucks!
I couldn’t pass it up. And on a hot day it’s just like drinking water. And we should all stay hydrated on a hot day, I always say.
And at least it’s not Bud Light, right?
That stuff is like cold, watery piss.
Here’s the progression so you don’t have to scroll to the top.





And that’s all for now.
One thing I can tell you that I learned from this post…..I realize that I’ll never get an endorsement deal from Bud Light.
Oh! Wait!
To answer the question in the title:
Why am I leaving the tree so tall?
Because that’s what worked. I think it looks cool, it has some elegance and style.
They don’t all need to be short, stubby little cookie cutter Christmas trees.

About adamaskwhy

Visual artist specializing in bonsai, mostly.
This entry was posted in branch placement, rare finds, roots, tips and tricks, wiring and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Why am I keeping this bonsai so tall?

  1. tmmason10 says:

    I like both taller trees in this post. Nice wiring job.


  2. Phil krieg says:

    Tall and skinny are way cool…!


  3. You are a magician! After the Hackberry post, I will resume my search for one in the fall…I am carrying a shovel in my car now.


    • cmvalente says:

      I agree with you, Barb. I loved the Hackberry post, too. I’m not carrying a shovel with me, though. I can grow flower gardens, veggie gardens, and trees, but I’m not too lucky with Bonsai.


  4. Nice! I am loving the taller more feminine ficus bonsai. They’re a nice contrast to the sumos floating around everywhere.


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