It’s a battle royale! We have two trees that have been at war for some time now (well, since this post, really, which was an update to this post, actually, which goes back three years and is one of my most popular posts on air layering).
Two ficus microcarpa. What some people call tiger bark ficus or erroneously, ficus retusa (You know what? I’m feeling frisky enough today….I’ll wade into that battle; I’ve even been arming myself for it. Ready? Begin rant: When we refer to plants using the binomial nomenclature system, devised by Carl Linnaeus, we use the genus (i.e., ficus) and then a descriptive (i.e., microcarpa) which then tells us the species. In this case “microcarpa” means “small fruit”, it is the singular form of “microcarpus” . I used to think it meant small leaf because ficus macrocarpa has big leaves (it also has big fruit). Anyway, back to the erroneous use of “ficus retusa” to describe the tiger bark fig. The word “retusa” is derived from the Latin “retusus” which means: (Botany)having a rounded apex and a central depression: retuse leaves.
Here’s a pic of retuse shaped leaves:
And leaves from a ficus “retusa” The ends are pointy. I rest my case. There is a real ficus retusa, but no one cares enough about it to put a picture on the World Wide Web for me to steal. It’s native to Malaysia from what I can auger. A synonym (which is an old name for it) is f. truncata. This is an old illustration for it:
Back to ficus vs. ficus. Where was I? Oh yeah:
Two ficus walk into a bar, one asks for a martini, the other for a margarita. The bartender gives them both water, neat. “This ain’t what I wanted!” Says the one on the left, “me neither!” Says the other. The bartender just looks and wiggles his finger at them. He says “I ain’t dealing with your equal and opposite reactions to no booze, ya’ fig Newtons” Yuck yuck yuck.
Anyway…..sorry. These two ficus have been the poor subjects in an unscientific, purely anecdotal and poorly designed experiment that confirm my own biases but I will tout as irrefutable fact because, that’s how the internet works. My first challenge was air layering a ficus as opposed to just taking a big cutting (you should read the links above for the whole story). Both methods work, by the way, but I extrapolated that the bottom section would be more developed simply because there wasn’t an airlayer in the way.
As for the tops, they both took. Here they are today.
Let’s see…..this was the air layered bottom. I decided to do the long game on it. Let the branches and leader just grow.
Now, the chopped one.
Back to the “let it grow” ficus.
Wiring the branches horizontally
Back to the other tree….it’ll get the normal developmental treatment.
Considering I didn’t have a control, my sampling size was one (for each method) and I didn’t measure the water or the fertilizer, I think that this is conclusive proof that there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
Of course I know that there will be people mortally offended by this cavalier and irreverent post that’s going against the orthodoxy taught almost universally (read the byline up top, look up the word “iconoclast”) in bonsai workshops and books and YouTube videos throughout the world. But that’s my job sometimes, to ask the teacher “Why?”.
Why does it seem that one can use multiple bonsai techniques and still arrive at a similar end?
I’ll leave you with this sentence, in reply:
Horticulture is a science. The practice of horticulture is an art.
I’m tired, all that philosophy (or is it just sophistry?) is thirsty work.
Time for a beer.