It’s a bush. A big, big bush.  

It certainly has filled in.  

 I’m going to get Johnathan to defoliate it while I tell you a story.  


Once upon a time, when hubris was a thing (not Greek hubris but more like Miltonian hubris) I thought I could rule the world. Then I was brought low. Not by anyone in particular, there wasn’t anyone with the power to do it. It was my own body which brought me down. Around this time last year I posted an article about this tree and I issued myself a challenge to get the tree green enough to photograph it by December 31st. Little did I know that I’d be in the hospital in less than a month. If you’re a regular reader, you are familiar with my health issues. It’s been a long fight but, as with this tree, I’m  going to be successful. I intend to rise to the title bestowed upon me and be a fully functioning asshole instead of the useless one I am now. That’s a joke only a very select few will totally understand. 

Here’s the tree when you last saw it.  

It’s a ficus benjamina, or weeping fig, as it’s commonly known. Like I said, it has filled in since then. And gotten green. It was chlorotic and infested with white fly. The combination of cold weather and the use of granular products (Merit systemic insecticide and Ironite chelated iron) defeated my goal of greening and fighting the white fly. When the weather is cold and the tree isn’t using water and growing, anything applied to the soil just doesn’t get taken up into the tree. That’s where my being in the hospital defeated my plans. A foliar feed and an application of a liquid insecticide would have helped. Usually I don’t recommend liquid applications because of the waste involved; just talking fertilizer, you’ll lose up to 90% out of the drain holes. And spraying insecticides can kill non-targeted, and even beneficial bugs. But sometimes you have no choice.I didn’t get the chance. It didn’t really green until spring and the whitefly persisted all winter.

You’ve read in previous f. Benjamina posts that they are known for their dieback. Especially if you cut them back to no green. So you are wondering why we are defoliating the tree, right? Well, we are leaving the new buds intact.  

The long pointy thing is actually a protective sheath, called a stipule, that, when the leaf emerges, falls away. You will also note how green and healthy the leaves are. Summer in the F-L-A will do that. Okay, enough talk, to work.  

I know I talked about the front in the last post on this ficus, but I’ll revisit it again because Johnathan questioned me. He did all the defoliation work looking at this side.  

 Which is the back. But, from the pic, it might seem like a good front. 

This is the front.  

 I explained to him the reasons: the structure of the branches are more suited for this side, the aerial roots are more inviting (though it seems like the other side might be more so, in the pic), but the main reason is that the trunk seems more solid and massive from this side, the other side is flat where’s this side has dimensionality. 

So, after about an hour of cutting off the leaves, it’s time to do some pruning. 

But first, it’s Johnny Appleseed!  

 My son was having an international parade day at school and his class got the U.S. to choose from for characters to dress up as. My wife did a good job putting the costume together too. Here’s a brief history of the man known as Johnny Appleseed, Johnathan Chapmann (which is apropo because my apprentice is named Johnathan). 

The original myth was that he planted apple trees all across the early United States because he believe in the spiritual symbolism of the Apple. He was a Swedenborgian Christian (which was called the New Church) but I won’t get into that story too much. Needless to say, he was a deeply spiritual man who was, in essence, a missionary in his time (he was born in 1774). 

The second myth, which is slightly more cynical, is that he planted apple trees to bring apple cider to the early American settlers. The apple trees he grew were not cultivated apples but seedlings. You see, when you grow apples from seed, you will get totally different plants with each seed you plant. The apple does not grow true to its cultivar. So if you want a Honeycrisp™ apple, you have to acquire a branch from an existing tree and graft it on to your tree. That means that every varietal apple tree is genetically identical on the fruit bearing branches. That’s a nightmare waiting to happen. Conversely, just imagine a forest of apple trees with thousands of varieties of trees growing together. That would be cool. 

The trees Johnny planted were just not good for eating. But they were good for making hard cider. 

The reality was a mixture of the first two myths and this: to claim land in the early years of the U.S., you had to cultivate it. Johnny would travel, find good land, and put a fence around it and plant apple trees. Then the land was his. He was a spiritual guy, and he did bring apples, and thus, apple cider to the settlers. But he was a shrewd real estate guy too. 

You should read up on his life, im leaving a lot out (like his propensity for going naked in the summertime) and he was a very interesting man. Too bad I can’t grow apples in Florida, I’d love to have one as a bonsai. 

Anyway, Johnathan had to leave, his girlfriend is waiting on him to take her to lunch and I talked too much about Johnny Appleseed. Sorry.  To the pruning.  

There are several bits of dieback that will need to be cut off. This is the most significant. 

Don’t ask me why I’m using these ugly, rusty concaves when I have bright shiny American Bonsai tools to use. They were just handy. 

There are too many branches here, the task is to simplify and use directional pruning to put movement into the branches.   
There are also branches with serious lack of taper. 

  And lots of crossing branches too. 

Here’s a before for reference.  
And a before of the trunk too.  

I’m simplifying the aerial roots a bit. Not too drastic now, just a bit. I am an agent of Eris, after all.  

That’s a lot of tree to cut off. 

The leaves filled up half of a 15 gallon nursery can. 

Now what?  

 I need to fix some of the bigger aerial roots. They’re bugging my boy, Seth. I sent him a picture and he got all huffy. He’s a bit more conservative than I am.  

 He prefers them straight, as God intended them to be.  

   And that’s that.  
 We just need some leaves. Maybe I can get some viagra for plants. The challenge this time will be: leaves by December 31st. I think I can make it. 

Cross your fingers. 

Hubris flies with wings of feathers and wax, and it’s hot in Florida. 


2 thoughts

  1. Hmmph. My sister in law always complained that she missed being able to fart.

    That said, I like the tree and the direction its going. Looking forward to seeing you in Columbus this summer.


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