This post is about the day I took this pic.
If you follow my Facebook or Instagram pages, you’ve seen the photo before.
If not, why not?
Here’s the beginning of that daylong, Kentuckian, private session which ended with a Led Zeppelin concert.
Well, kinda.
Let’s get to work.
This is a ficus salicaria belonging to my friend Evan of the Cincy club (but he lives over the river in Covington, KY) 20140703-211951-76791863.jpg
Yeah, I see those roots.
You want a close up?
I think you’re like one of those people who slow down at a roadside accident, aren’t you?
This must not stand.
I mean, just damn.
Out of the pot, what kind of roots are we looking at?
Hmmmn, the soil is a very familiar mix: calcined clay, red lava, and pine bark.
Look at all these fine roots!
Holy moly!
Who’d a thunk it with all that calcined clay in the mix. Or should I call it by its brand name, Turface?
This is the new mix I’m putting the tree in.
This is my SuperMix© I use on all my trees.
But first, I must have a drink.
It’s hot today here in Kentucky, over 90 Fahrenheit, and I must stay hydrated.
Purified water, ahhh.
We must make sure that the beverages we drink are not contaminated.
It used to be, hundreds of years ago, before the germ theory of illness came into favor, people thought there were water sources haunted by evil spirits and they wouldn’t drink from them.
But….if you made beer out of it, God would bless the brew and it would be safe to drink.
In fact, many a religious experience was had after imbibing alcoholic drink and that’s why the Trappist Monks are renown the World over for their beer making prowess.
Do you know what?
I’ve inspired myself, I think I’ll have a beer.
It’s noon o’clock somewhere.
Ahhhhh, by the gods, that’s good.
Alright, where are my tools?
Time to go all medieval on the roots.
Uh huh.
That’s right.
Some cut paste, or putty, as it were.
And Bob’s your uncle.
I think I’ll dip my foot into the deep pool that is the “wound sealer” debate.
Just a toe, promise.
The first reason I’m using cut putty here is because these wounds are so low on the tree and I want them protected from the routine watering we do.
Ficus will rot no matter what but, by protecting the cuts, the edges will begin to heal and roll over faster.
The second reason is aesthetic, the putty blends in a little better and looks oh so much prettier.
We are practicing a visual art here.
I’m putting it back into the same pot.
Which is not a bad pot for the tree.
And, as always, I tie it in.
Now, for the pruning.
But first, another frothy, pure beverage.
My idea for an Adam Lavigne signature tool: bonsai scissors with a bottle opener built in (consider this a published, and, therefore, protected idea).
Look for it soon.
Since this tree is really well developedalready (a tribute to Evan’s work, not mine, I’m just a hired wirer) I’m not really removing any major branches or doing anything drastic (well, the root work was kinda harsh) except to rotate the tree about 10-15 degrees counter clockwise (anti clockwise for our European friends) in the pot to show off the movement a little and mitigate some reverse taper (inverse taper for those same Europeans and those who have adopted the term).
I prune as I wire, and I go from the bottom up.
Which brings me to a question; how do you prune and wire your trees?
Let me know, I’m curios.
I’ve read that at least one Japanese nursery teaches their apprentices to prune from the top down because it’s easier to clean up. Idk on that, kemosabe, I don’t clean up after myself.
Back to our ficus at hand.
There are several instances of wire scarring.
If you wire the opposite way as the scars and allow the new wire to cut in……20140703-234731-85651536.jpg
…the resulting scar will add ruggedness to the branch and, in the long term (how we should be thinking about our trees), make the tree look older.
Wire scars are cool, like bow-ties.
Wire, wire, wire, my friends.
It wasn’t until the advent of malleable wire that bonsai really became a truly refined art.
Like the difference between fingerpainting and using a filbert.
Your trees deserve wire.

Oh, don’t forget the beer.
You deserve beer.
Or at least I do, this is thirsty work.
All done, a little dunk (dunk, not drunk, not yet) in some water to settle the soil.
Some serious contemplation of the mess I’ve made.
And the finished tree.

The before-
I’m thinking I’ve reduced the height by about four inches.
I think the roots look so much better now compared to what we started with.
And overall it’s a little more detailed than it was.
Evan seems very happy with it.
Which is what is important, it’s his tree after all, and he has to look at it everyday.
Oh yeah, I didn’t get to see Led Zeppelin, obviously (they’re no longer a band anymore, in case you live in a cave.) but a cover band called Get the Led Out.
Very talented band, they travel all over the country and you should take the time see them when they visit your town.
If you’re into that kinda music.
I am, and I like it loud while I’m working on trees.
With beer.

2 thoughts

  1. The ficus is doing quite well. popping very quickly! I had been wanting to do that root work for a long time. never did like the root system….. This bonsai is one of my favorites, and a very sentimental one for me, as it was one that belonged to my bonsai instructor, Dick Straus. It is amazing how much this type of ficus can take. They are the timex of bonsai….The only issue I had that day was which one was better…the newcastle, fat tire, mt.carmel, third shift, or the spring blonde? Another session is def in order to further research this dilemma. I usually revert to my standard conclusion….the current one I am having.


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