This, my friends……is day three.
It was like seeing the tree from Gondor, of old.
Majestic, ancient, noble.
An eight foot tall bonsai.
It’s name is Bigfoot.
How do you do, Bigfoot sir?
The tree is a ficus microcarpa (some still call it the old name, ficus retusa, or the common name is tiger bark).
I was called in by my friend Darlene, who is this trees caretaker, to help lower it so it could fit through the door.
At eight feet tall it wouldn’t fit anymore.
The tree was suffering from lack of sunshine and fresh, outside air.
It was seriously dropping leaves.
You’re thinking, it’s in a giant window, that isn’t enough light for a ficus?
No, no tree is a houseplant.
This one even had some supplemental, high power lights.
It was just not enough.
Why does lack of light cause a tree to drop its leaves?
Well, to simplify it, when winter comes along, the northern hemisphere experiences less daylight hours as well as diminished light strength.
This causes a tree to go dormant.
Which is what is happening here.
Bigfoot needs sun.
There is a history to this tree.
It was probably grown in Taiwan and it’s age is estimated at about eighty years old.
I’ll probably be at least this wrinkly at that age.
Many of the branches are grafted on.
Which is how many of the ficus are grown in Taiwan; they are at the pinnacle of technique in bonsai there and are highly specific when growing a ficus bonsai.
The Taiwanese are even more technical than the Japanese, and they insist on perfect branching and perfect nebari.
Usually a different leaf variety is grafted on (f. Microcarpa grows faster than, say, the green island or the kenman varieties, that have nicer leaves) but they used the species type microcarpa on this one.
You can see that, even though the tree is self-defoliating, there are still healthy growing tips present.
Bigfoot was purchased from Miami Tropical several years ago along with its smaller brother, Little Foot.
Little Foot is so much healthier because it’s able to be moved outside in the spring and summer months.
I’m at a company in Ft. Wayne that deals in the buying and selling of gas and diesel for distribution to trucking companies, cities and school systems.
The owner, Mike, is a collector of bonsai and rare trees.
He has some nice, smaller bonsai on his rooftop garden.
This is a small trident maple.
A ficus salicaria.
Yes, I saw the mess of roots.
One thing at a time, I have a bigger tree to work on.
This is Bigfoot before.
And these are my tools.
Time to go to work.
I might as well chop the top off and go from there.
Hmmmmnnnn……..somewhere around here….
Seemed like a good time for her to enter the room.
Thats quite the look of astonishment on her face.
And there it is.
Makes a bit of a difference. Hopefully it’ll fit through the door.
Bigfoot has been written about before. The indoor ficus master, Jerry Meislik, repotted it years ago. They had to use an automobile engine lift to accomplish the task.
There exists a link somewhere out there on the world wide inter-web and if anyone can find it, I’d appreciate the address so I can include it here.
The tree is in need of some hard pruning and refinement.
Nothing but to go to it, I’ve already cut off the top.
This is something I’m not really taking lightly but I am working quickly.
All the hundreds of trees I’ve worked on so far in my career were but training for this tree, for Bigfoot.
And the pruning is done.
That is Darlene cleaning up after me, I made a big mess. Thank you ma’am.
Me, I gotta pee.
Bigfoot’s home is a beautiful building with fine art and a modern design.
Those were actually the urinals, you should’ve seen the hand washing sinks; pure gold with a micro-mist faucet system using an ionized, uv-light purifying, cherub-shaped faucet coming out of a giant, purple Madagascarian geode rock sink with moon rock, cantilevered drains.
I was told that this ficus was purchased for $25,000 and 50 cents from Miami tropical.
Then it had to be boxed up, put on a truck, and shipped up from Miami.
In the snow, uphill all the way.
They used a crane to get it to the rooftop garden and at one point it fit through the door to get it to its current living space.
Now, my dear friends, you know what comes next, right?
Now…it’s time for some wire.
It may seem like a slightly mad thing to you that I am undertaking the wiring of this tree.
And it seems odd to me to be doing fine, detail wiring with #5 and #6 wire.
Here are some action shots for the ladies.
Maybe I should change my Facebook profile pic.
Hmmmnnn, I look a little confused.
Maybe this one with my muscular forearms.
Hah, I’m blinking. Maybe I could say I can do bonsai with my eyes closed? Nah?
Here’s an heroic, noble pose.
Let’s have a vote on it, chime in and let me know which one should be my new profile picture.
It took about three hours to complete Bigfoot. Let’s see if it’s short enough to fit through the doors.
How did we move it?
It’s on a specially made stainless steel drip pan with caster-wheels on the bottom.
We made it out of the room that Bigfoot had been living in for years.
We made it into the break room.
We took a short break.
Which is a good stopping point to show you the finished wiring job. You see, we ran into a problem with the last door.
Unfortunately, whoever constructed the building decided that the door to the outside, rooftop garden should be about four inches shorter than the interior doors.
I thought there were building codes for these things? What happens to those tall guys who get used to walking around inside and then bash their heads exiting the building?
I smell a lawsuit.
Anyway, after a small tantrum with oaths about goats and their offspring and contractors in general….
I got my tools out and cut it back just a little more.
And Bigfoot is outside.
It seems that the whole world heaved a sigh of relief at Bigfoot in the fresh summer sunshine.
Even the hitchhiking Buddhist monks seemed happy.
It looks like they’re starting a card game (shhhhh! Don’t tell the police! Everyone knows that owning a deck of cards is highly illegal in the State of Indiana. It seems inexplicable but it’s true, I mean, there’s nothing to do during those long, cold winter nights but to play cards, especially that oddly Indiana-ish game pronounced you-kerr but spelled euchre.).
The progression, for your perusal and convenience.
In the break room, before lowering the top a second time:
And, finally, there he is, Bigfoot, standing tall in the sun, proud and very stylish with his new haircut.
He will be in good hands with Darlene taking care of him. And she’ll be petitioning for me to make a return trip next year for a much needed repot; I think it should go in an oval pot.
I’d love to fly up on his private jet.
That’d be cool.
Oh?! Did Mike, the owner, like the job I did?
To quote him (a very honest and straightforward man of few words) he said,
“It is well done. Thank you. Michael “
Wow, what a fantastic ficus! You did a great job on the styling it looks much better. Hopefully it can spring back outside for the summer. And I would go with the heroic pose.
They may fly you back up there sooner once they realize someone has to take all that wire off. Great post – thanks. and I’ll place a second vote for the heroic pose.
It reminds me of Michelangelo’s sculptures, entitled “Prisoners.” Of all the art we saw in Italy, these pieces touched me deeply….The spirit of the rock was released by the artist. Bigfoot, no longer a Prisoner!http://thosecrazyschuberts.com/2010/02/florence-italy-michelangelos-prisoners-and-david-thursday.html
What a tree!
A very enjoyable bonsai blog! So much great information and humor. Keep at it!
Here’s an update several years after your work, I saw it on Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/BonsaiPorn/comments/f2j7yh/the_bonsai_at_my_new_job_is_so_stunning_and/
Thank you for sharing!