Here’s a tree I practically stole at the Multiclub Auction the other day.
It amazes me the price it went for, similar trees on some of the sales tables up in New York were priced at $150, 200, $250.
Granted, this one isn’t styled yet but, give me a minute, the tree is in there.
One flaw that most beginners wouldn’t understand as a flaw is this root.
It’s true that the root widens the tree’s base but, as should be above-so should be below; there’s no taper.
Taper is one of the most important design tricks in shohin trees.
Do you wanna see how to fix it?
Ok, let it begin then.
First, pry it out of the pot.
I was worried that it was repotted recently,but no, I got lucky.
It’s going into this pot.
It’s a handmade pot and this looks like it says “Eve” to me.
There’s a joke there…..I’m putting my tree into Eve’s pot.
I gently wash the old soil off (mostly calcined clay looks like) and trim the bottom roots.
The root my thumb is under is bent out a bit so that it’s more horizontal and radiating. It was growing down and under the trunk.
There were some square-cut roots that I shave so the transition to the soil is more even; sloping, so to speak.

And now, the Technique.
We have the root presenting itself, looking like a squid.
Oh yes, I am doing that.
Where there was one, now we have two.
To round it over a little, I shave off the top edges of the split.
Which is hard to see, so I shall make for you a diagram.
The split root, in cross section.
And after the shaving of the edges.
One could say I even beveled.
To keep the two halves spread, I take a chopstick and wedge it in.
Then trim the chopstick down.
In the meantime, my apprentice prepared the pot for me, cleaned it, secured the drain holes, placed the tie-down wires and filled it with soil.
I wish.
After I did all that, I put the tree in the pot and tied it in all by my lonesome.
I think it looks good in that pot.
I purchased it at the last Bsf convention for $15. It, too, was a steal.
There are some astute readers out there who are now wondering about the different looking soil mix I’m using.
You all will have to wait until the next post for that mystery to be revealed.
This tree was growing strong.
The top is pulling all the energy and weakening the bottom branches.
Which is typical, often you’ll see the bottom branches die back on a neglected salicaria.
I’ll have to nip it in the bud…I know, I know….groan.
I go through the first branch on the viewers left and trim back so there’s only two branches at every junction.
The first branch on the right I will remove.
It’s too low and, since I have the big double root on that side, it will literally and figuratively overshadow it.
Now I have to decide where to cut the top back to.
Nah, too low.
Up here…..somewhere, Hmmmnnn
Right here!
Some more trimming and defoliation.
My last step is to wire.
Before that, I want to point out that what I did with the roots in this post is generally done only with ficus (and strongly growing ones at that). Although I have seen it done on trident maples before.
You need a tree that can handle severe root pruning, like a ficus, and that will callous over the cut ends.
Ready for the finished tree?
Here you go.
Side view.
Not bad for a $20 tree, right?
That’s right, I won the bid at $20.
Those who didn’t bid on this tree at the auction….
…couldn’t see that, with just a little pruning….
……and a little wire, you could get this tree as the end product.
I’m happy.
The next post will be on a tree I took to the auction that no one bid on.

13 thoughts

  1. Man. I have a little Salicaria that I’ve been working on for a couple years. The branching has been coming together very nicely, but It needs work on the nebari. It started as a root cutting and the base looks like an upside down Y with a more swooping curve. It’s not radial at all. I was prepared to ground later it next year, but this looks like the technique I need to use.


  2. Man that was a good deal on the tree and a great deal on that $15.00 pot.The tree looks great as usual, I’m telling you your name stands as the ficus king, lol.


  3. Any experience with this root splitting technique involving elms? I have a couple chinese elms I lifted from the ground with comparable, honking roots.


  4. Very nice little tree.
    Any experience regarding backbuding?
    I have one little F. salicaria (growing under lights during the cold months) which is green only at the tips of branches.
    Thank you !


    1. Once it starts growing again your tree can backbud like crazy. With more shoots than you want really. Fertilize it now with a granular fert and get it outside as soon as the weather allows. Trim each growing tip as well.


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