This was a comment by my friend Bill Butler on a Facebook picture I posted:

“And now, a passage from “Fifty Shades of Green” by Adam Lavigne:

I found her sitting on the bench.  She was soaking up the sun without a care in the world.  “You’re a mess,” I said. “What have I told you about keeping up appearances?”  

She said nothing.  The breeze sighed across her limbs, caressing them with a lover’s touch.  Was she ignoring me? I walked around the bench and placed her in my shadow.
“The neighbors will talk,” I said with a smile.  “I don’t care.  You need discipline.  Here.  Now.”
And so I undressed her there in the dappled sunlight … one leaf at a time.”

Damn I wish I had written that, brilliant. That is officially the first occurrence of fan fiction for the blog.  I bet you the Valavanis blog has never gotten anything like that. It was in response to this pic:  Which was captioned: “About to apply some scissor discipline upon a recalcitrant ficus.” 

We are (we being me, that is. When you see people use we instead of I, it’s called the “royal we”, not to be confused with the “Royal Wee”, of which its best to dodge, it still being wee. When speaking in a position of authority, like, say, a king or an emperor or a blog author, it is sometimes more correct to say “we” instead of “I”) working on a willow leaf ficus (f. salicaria) today. Or actually yesterday (or if you’re reading this on a day other than a Monday it’s safe to say “earlier this week/month/year), it’s usually a few days after I work on a tree before I write the post. Sorry if I ruined the illusion for you. Anyhow, it’s this tree:    Though it looks like a bush at the moment. It was the recipient (or victim) of the infamous Trunk Chop. Which is here, in case you were interested:  I know, it looks very intimidating trying to find a starting point with all this growth…… ……and trying to figure out where to prune, but it’s really just going back to basic principles.   No ups or downs or crossing branches or……..etc. 

And that brings us back to this pic and the whole concept of “Scissor Discipline”   And, as reality is often lacking in the romantic depiction we find in fiction, Bob’s your uncle.    Was it good for you? I’m exhausted, I could use a nap.   “She looks at me incredulously, she says 

“Is that it?” With a slight rise in her voice on the last syllable. 

I suppose I should finish her off. Although in this light she’s beginning to look somewhat like Bob, my uncle.   Except that Bob, my uncle, has a mustache and goatee…….”

I have to decide on the top branch.  

This one, the obvious choice. 

Or this one in the back.  It’s not one most people would choose. I’m going to use it because it will give a forward/back bit of movement (that kind of movement is never apparent in a photo unless really professional lighting techniques are used. Most bonsai in photos appear flat and two dimensional, which is why, and this is important to the development of your art, so write it down, you must see bonsai in person to truly learn how to create one. Go to a show, join a club, visit a nursery, find a mentor).   

Next, since some of the branches need thickening, I’m going to strip (take it all off baby!) all the leaves except the terminal buds on those (this causes the branch to elongate faster and, therefore, get thicker).  They will be allowed to grow uninhibited for the summer. 

   On those that are at a thickness that is advanced enough, at this stage, I’m going to cut for movement and taper.  


Higher in the tree, we have (Oh no! The Royal Wee, look out!) branches that are the same thickness as the lower branches. Logically thinking, the higher the branch, the younger it is (and, inversely, the lower, the older). To slow them down from thickening anymore, I’ll trim them back.   

But our top branch I’ll leave alone (mostly, I did remove some leaves).  To let it and the secondary branching get thicker, faster.  And that is Scissor Discipline. Cutting or not cutting certain branches so that they grow faster or in the direction you want or to slow them down to allow other branches to catch up. With a ficus or a deciduous tree this is just as important as wiring. 

 And now I need to address the soil.   That black gunk is spent organic fertilizer. I need to remove it (which is just removing the top layer of soil)   

Add some new fertilizer.   Put a new layer of soil over it and then mix it in with a chopstick.   And I’m done. Well….

“I know she wants the wire. To be bound and trained like she deserves. But she’s not ready yet. Whatever contortions I twist her into she’ll just bounce back and show the recalcitrance that I know is her nature. Naughty girl. She needs a year. Some more maturity. Then the bondage….the fun part. That’s when I will truly enjoy our time spent together….”

Sorry, that’s enough of that. 

So, yeah….no wire today. Like I said above, it won’t hold. These branches are way too young to train yet. They’ll just bounce back and frustrate me.   I have time. We will let it grow. 

Later in the summer I might repot, if I do, I think the new front will be here:  This angle gives the tree more movement. And makes her look just a little less like my Uncle Bob. 

Next post: an ilex!!!!

12 thoughts

  1. wow. need a cigarette after that post! As always, a great educational and entertaining post on one of my favorite species. Miss you my friend. take care.


  2. What can I say, Adam? You inspire me.

    And for my next trick, I shall channel my inner Art Carney: “And now I need to address the soil.”


    “Hello, soil!”


  3. Hullo!

    Wonderful post, I was just wondering what kind of tree that is. It looked like a willow variety for a moment, but I’m not too sure.


  4. Adam,

    I was hoping you might be able to lend some knowledge to me. I promise I will return it. I have gotten my first ficus last month and apart from watering and deciding to trunk chop it I haven’t gotten very far. Simply because of the latter decision. This is why I need your help. The ficus has a long trunk (9″ height roughly) with only upper branches. If I trunk chop this tree is it necessary for it to have some lower branches to live? Any suggestions and information would be greatly appreciated. I enjoy your blog. I’ve been reading a lot of the previous posts starting from the beginning and have learned a lot. Keep up the good work and I hope to hear from you. Thanks.



    1. Trunk chopping a ficus is usually not a problem unless you have a certain few varieties. Do you know what kind of ficus it is? If it’s one of the Benjamina varieties be aware that it could kill it at worse but at least it will bud back lower on the trunk with dieback.


  5. Adam,

    I was hoping that you might be willing to lend me some knowledge. I recently received my first tiger bark ficus. I’ve decided to trunk chop it since it has a relatively tall trunk (roughly 9″). My question was whether or not it is necessary for there to be any lower branches when I perform the chop. As of right now it is all top branches. Any advice would be appreciated. As a side note I really enjoy your blog. I’ve been reading the back log of posts from the beginning and have learned quite a bit. Thanks.



  6. Would the bends hold if you were to wire the small branches with exaggerated curves, so that even if the branches tried to bounce back, some of the bends would be left?


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