“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see..”
Henry David Thoreau
What are we looking at here?
What do you see?
I can already guess what the responses will be, I’m a psycho…..uh, I mean a psychic.
But I’ll get back to that in a moment.
Let’s roll back the clock a few months to June 7th, 2014.
The Central Florida Bonsai Club had been asked by the Orange County Library system to give a talk about bonsai in their continuing education series.
We had myself, Stephen and Anthony talking and answering questions about bonsai.
In the middle of the talk I was styling a tree.
It has a nice base but an unfortunate scar in the front from the trunk chop.
We must have done a good job because they’ve invited us back for a few more teaching sessions.
Here’s how the tree (ficus salicaria “89”) ended up.
And, as I you showed you at the beginning of this post.
I know what you’re looking at.
The wire is cutting into the trunk pretty badly.
Ife dun goon en roont it, roight?
Maybe I should say,
“Right, I do bulleaf hive luft the wires on too lung”
Or maybe
“Doood! Like, whoooah! Wire scars man! You cool?”
Any way it’s said, I will hear from those long term bonsai enthusiasts who have the “been there, done that, got the tee-shirt” attitude.
Before you sneer and jeer and dismiss me for a lout, ask yourself this question: I have a blog in which I am totally in control of the content, why would I show you wire cutting in this badly?
What kind of idiotic, supposed professional, bonsai man would sully his reputation by not only showing such obvious ineptitude, but pointing it out and even fixing it in his readers minds with silly jokes?
Because letting the wire cutting in is necessary to get the tree to do what I want it to do.
First, look at how many wires I have on it.
I needed that many to get the trunk to bend, it’s nearly an inch thick.
And, from experience wiring and rewiring ficus, if you want a branch to stay (especially a thick branch like this) you have to let the wire cut in.
If your sensibilities can’t seem to be able to let it cut in, you shouldn’t even bother wiring, just be superior, preach your intermediate tripe, clip and grow, and stay in your corner with your little trees and be king of the beginners (who you so graciously take under your wing).
A little strong?
Let me be clear, wiring is to bonsai as a pencil is to drawing, a brush is to painting, a chisel is to sculpting.
Wiring is how we create line and form in this art.
If you aren’t utilizing it to its full potential, don’t bother.
But don’t ask yourself why your trees don’t quite get to the level you want them to.
If you look at bonsai before the widespread use of wire and look at modern bonsai, the difference is night and day.
But wire is only temporary, if your branches keep moving back after you remove the wire, regardless of wire cutting, then you are not leaving it on long enough.
You see, the action, the mechanism, the reason that wire works is: a branch has to grow enough new wood, wired in the place we put it, to be able to stay there and hold that shape.
With a ficus it is a battle because the woodiness takes so long to get hard (kinda like a…..nevermind, that joke is just too easy) that you have to allow the wire to cut in.
Period, plain and simple, no way around it.
Damn, that’s a lot of words. I should have just said,
“Because I say so…” And slapped your knuckles with a ruler.
Another no-no I am flouting (like a boss) is showing the big pruning scar in the front.
There are two reasons for that.
The base of the tree, the nebari, is the best with the pruning scar in the front.
The nebari is the king.
And, for this tree, I wanted some age. Which means I’m going to try to make the scar look more natural than it is now.
Are you ready to see instead of look?
Let it begin.
If you caught it, I called this tree a ficus salicaria “89”.
Which means, briefly, that it is a sport that showed up after the freeze of 1989 that reached Vero Beach, Florida.
It has bigger leaves.
It also has longer internodes and a faster growth rate.
Many Florida bonsai people don’t like it.
I like it because branches grow longer and thicker quicker (another joke I will let float free in the ether…)
Off come the wires.
Some preliminary pruning.
And defoliation.
Now we have a clear view of the tree.
That scar is like a bullseye.
What can you do if you have a detail that’s big and glaring and unavoidable?
Make it into a focal point.
As it is, it looks like it was pruned with a knob cutter.
I need to make it look more natural.

Looks better, just needs some weathering now.
Next, I need to rewire the primary branches and wire the new branches
And even though I don’t have to wire the trunk anymore, I wrap some around it.
You see I wrapped the wire the opposite way; as the tree grows I’ll let these wires cut in as well. This will cause the bark to become more rugged and old looking.
And violá.
Yeah, cool man!
Let me update y’all with two f. salicarias I’ve worked on recently that both fit into the theme of this essay.
This post https://adamaskwhy.wordpress.com/2014/06/06/why-am-i-keeping-this-bonsai-so-tall/ and this post https://adamaskwhy.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/its-willow-leaf-ficus-appreciation-week/
The first post featured a tree I kept tall and this is how we left it.
And here it is today, after wire removal and pruning.
I gave the tree a serious hair cut and I wired a few branches. The next step is growth. I’ll let it grow probably until the middle of October and totally rewire the tree.
How much did I cut off?
Let’s look at the other ficus from the second post I linked to:
As we saw it last-
And now,
be prepared….
Wow, it’s like a 70’s ah….film.
Get out the razor, heat up the wax. It’s time for a Brazilian.
I’m cutting the whole bud area off when I prune.
By doing this (hopefully) I won’t have to shave the tree every three weeks.
Kinda like pulling a hair out by the root.
On this tree, as on every tree in this post (remember the theme), the wire is cutting in.
I did some serious bending and, once again, if I hadn’t let the wires cut in, the bends wouldn’t hold after the wires came off.
Now some branch selection and a few more wires.
And I do believe I am at the end.
The tall tree again, which needs some growth.
The middle tree, getting there.
And the star of the show….
There’s something just not right.
How come no one noticed this before?
Just give me a minute…hmmnn, yes!
Here you go, what do you think now?
Of course, the next time I trim and wire it, the top will probably be different.
It’s just the nature of a developing ficus.
Can you see it yet?

8 thoughts

  1. But duuuddeee, those wirreeesss…. haha love it! Those scars will heal up a treat, and give some nice texture to the bark when they do. Love your work 🙂
    Do you treat the deadwood/shari that you created from the scar on the first one?


    1. The two second trees are in fine form, but the “89” I’ve let go. I keep looking at it but it’s not talking to me anymore. I may just put it in a big pot and let it get big.
      You’ve made me think about it again. Thank you


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