My work area is getting worn out. Like my soul.
The black background is really taking a beating, with me breakdancing on it and all. The headspins, windmills and backspins are taking their toll.
And the stainless steel bench….smh. Sorry Dave.
The rust is from me leaving organic fertilizer granules on it overnight.
It’s a good thing I have a tree to work on, I might have to do some real work and sand it down.
Man, the details behind bonsai are hard work.
Pull the weeds, water the trees, clean and maintain the benches, pay the bills.
And the politics…oh boy oh boy do the politics drain the joy out of everything…..considering that we are just playing with little trees here, some few people are vicious in the bonsai world.
Some of it is ego, let’s be honest.
But a lot of bonsai politics has, at it’s roots, a belief that the bonsai world is a zero-sum game (Oh no! I’m letting my slip show with that one). What this means is that people believe there are only so many clubs, nurseries and people who do bonsai and therefore, every sale, every enthusiast, every club member should belong to you.
To put it more plainly: people think that the bonsai world is finite pie to be cut up and you’d better not touch my piece or I’ll call you an ignorant, son-of-a-motherless goat and whisper in everyone else’s ear that you don’t know what you’re talking about.
Little trees fellas.
What we should be working towards is expanding the pie so that there’s enough for all.
What that entails is working with beginners, garden clubs, going on radio/tv shows and volunteering with local bonsai societies. The more people we can get interested, give the correct info to, the more people will progress towards that high end, rare air, stratospheric height that people like Ryan Neil prefer to work at.
That also means working with beginners with trees like the juniper mallsai or those ugly, much maligned, ginseng ficus they sell in box stores.
Like it or not, these trees are the trees that most beginners begin with.
If you call their little tree they’re so proud of a piece of shit, most likely they’ll resent you a little.
I had a customer today who came by with a “ginseng” ficus.
Her name is Carlene and she called up because she was concerned that the leaves were falling off.
When she got here I started with the questions.
Where do you keep it?
How often are you watering it?
How are you watering it?
Of course, she was keeping it inside. She was watering correctly (pouring the water on the top of the soil) but it had the ubiquitous glued on rocks on the top of the soil and it was planted in, unexpectedly, two pots, with a drip pan and in totally organic. There wasn’t even perlite in the soil.
My diagnosis for the falling leaves was: inadequate light and too much water.
I explained about minimum light requirements, had her pick out a proper pot and I repotted it for her into my soil mix.
I then styled it for her.
Here it is.
She had picked out a decent tree with good taper and branches in the right place. The tree from the front isn’t so bad but…,
Like many beginners, she had gone online to try to diagnose her trees problem and it was there where she discovered that her tree was considered, by general consensus, to be a shit tree and not a real bonsai.
We talked about this and I walked her around my nursery to show her what her tree could become.
I showed her these two trees.
These are just one year repotted and rescued from a box store shelf.
Imagine one more year. Or five.
That’s the thing about bonsai, they take time.
Her tree is already starting to mature.
Give it two years, with the proper care, and it’ll be fantastic.
If she chose to grow it bigger (putting it in a big pot or in the ground) she could end up with this tree.
I think I’ll work on it in the next post.
So what did I charge Carlene for the work? I do bonsai for a living after all. If you wander around the site you’ll see find my rates. She was here for about two hours.
I only charged her $15.
Basically just for the pot and for the soil.
Why? I coulda made enough for a trip to the market to feed my four children.
But, I could see, in her, a spark, a tiny ember of interest that was almost extinguished because some troll on an Internet forum called her tree shit.
They called it a houseplant with no hope of ever being a real bonsai.
Tell me something, answer me this, motherfuckers: why do you feel the need to belittle beginners and their trees?
Is it to make you feel better about your pathetically mediocre trees? Did the boss laugh at your bonsai collection when you were sharing photos of them? Does your wife compare your penis size to your shohin?
I don’t understand the need to make fun of other people’s trees (except when there’s a full-of-shit bonsai professional bragging about his trees, it’s in all of our best interests to knock those fuckers down a notch).
Ok, enough ranting, I think I’ve made my point. How about a “ginseng” ficus that’s beyond the norm?
You’ve seen the tree before. I can’t find the post.
Let’s have a contest.
The first person who finds the original post this tree was in and links to it in my blogs comment section gets an Adam’s Art and Bonsai T-shirt.
I’ve wired it a little but mostly just let it grow.
Oh…from now on I will not use the term “ginseng ficus”. These trees are really the original, non hybrid form of ficus microcarpa.
They are also grown from seed, which explains the caudex-like root base that gives the tree it’s common name “ginseng”.
If you grow them as cuttings they don’t get the bulbous roots.
I’ve let it get weedy and out of shape.
The wire’s cut in a little too.
I’ve had the tree in its training pot for almost two years, it’s time for an upgrade. One of these two pots.
I’m also keeping the rootage as simple as possible. Which means that these roots are going bye bye.
But first, (if you’re a frequent reader of the blog you’ll know the drill) some defoliation.
And some judicious trimming.
Some of the growing tips will be left alone to continue the elongation of that specific branch.
Like this one.
Letting a branch get long thickens it faster.
On other branches, I’m cutting the growing tip.
The red circle is the growing tip. The orange slash is where I’ll cut the branch.
I’ve been asked why I trim first, then repot, and then rewire.
Simple, it’s easier to clean up before potting the tree, you don’t get leaves in the new soil
And I wire after potting so I don’t have to readjust the wires after putting the tree in the pot.
Let’s look at the roots.
It’s time to repot.
And clean up the crossing ones.
You may think that a ficus bonsai is required to have random and tangled roots.
Nah, I disagree.
Sometimes tangled and messy roots work in the design.
Most times, like here, they don’t.
They are contrary and jarring to the root base’s flow into the soil.
How can you not agree?
See this root?
Even though the tree will fit in the pot as is, the root should be cut back.
It’s only the small, feeder roots that are useful. The big roots only provide support in the ground. When you cut them back they’ll push out new roots all along the cut edge.
The next big decision is: which pot?
Or this one?
I like the naturalness of the second one.
It goes with the raw sexiness of the tree.
Oh yeah, curves baby.
And now some wire.
When I first styled it it was pretty sparse but it’s filling in nicely. Lots of branching to work with.
I’m in love!
Well….sorry for the long, rambling post. I’m kinda passionate at times.
It all turned out well in the end though. You got to see a cool tree.
And I think that the tree takes the idea of a “ginseng” ficus and retires it.