There I was, day two, enjoying the sweltering afternoon sun at the Brevard Zoo, hanging with my peeps at their annual showing at the zoo, trying to sell trees and keep cool, when Reggie asks, “Hey, where’s Rob? He’s supposed to be doing a demo right now.” Well, this is what Rob was doing:He posted that on his Facebook about a half hour before he was to go on. Rob is very creative and he’s been pushing the envelope as far as bonsai display is concerned. You’ll remember his display from the two blogposts I wrote on the 2015 Winter Silhouette show (Here and Here). His display at the zoo this weekend  was no less creative, it featured a forced perspective shadow box. 

That’s an elm in there and he built/painted everything else. Pretty cool. I believe it will be on display at the 2016 Winter Silhouette show as well. It’s on the 3rd and 4th of December this year, in Kannapolis, North Carolina. Go to the official Website for all the details. I’ll be there again.

Anyway, like I said, it was day two of the Zoo Show and I had already done a demo the day before on a jaboticaba: 

What it looked like before I wired it out.  

And I was sittin’, sippin’some Jin and juice (see what I did there?) enjoying the a/c inside the exhibit room: 

Here are some trees I liked:

A ficus Benjamina 

Brazilian raintree. 


Dwarf jadeAnother Brazilian raintree. 

And some winners: 

A sea grape 

A buttonwood. 

But then, because I looked bored I guess, Reggie asks me to do the demo. Of course I said yes, I’m an attention whore, don’t you know (aren’t we all?). Here’s the tree. A ficus philippinensis, which means it’s native to the Philippines. It was the last tree and probably the least developed. 

The first thing I did, for my enormous audience…… …..was to straighten out the roots. 

If you are paying attention, the pics aren’t in order of the work done. I was giving a demo so I couldn’t really take to many pics. Example, in the above pic, you’ll see, in the back/left, where I stuck the top of the tree into the pot. I chopped it here: 

And stuck it in the pot to create a second trunk. 

But I did that first and wired it second. You get the idea. 
The finished tree after the demo. The one feature of the philippinensis, that makes it great for bonsai, is its ability to self graft. So the smaller, back “trunk” (the cutting ) will fuse with the trunk and make for a bigger tree, faster. After it roots, of course. Which it should. I think. 

Many people would have just chopped the tree about eight inches above the soil line, and that would have been a perfectly correct thing to do. But what would I have taught to my audience (all three of them) then? In fact, I was so impressed with myself and liked the idea I came up with at the demo so much, I purchased the tree afterwards, so I could continue the lesson for ya’ll. 

To reiterate this lesson, here’s one of my famous yellow legal pad drawings. 

Maybe seven years. I hope I make it that long. 

I took the tree home and fertilized it and added a bit more soil. 

I had thought about putting it into a bonsai pot but I didn’t want to disturb the “cutting” 

I’ll probably shorten it by another 4-5 inches but, right now, I have that aerial root on the left (which originates way up high in the top) secured in an approach graft with the first branch. It shouldn’t take too long to fuse and then I’ll chop the top again about here: 

 …and maybe even stick it into the pot as well here:

And hopefully it’ll grow up like so: 

Look for an update next year in the spring.

Oh, two more lessons for you. One: this is the correct posture when taking a pic of a tree….…..even though it looks ….ummm….funny. You should get the pic with the point of view about 1/3rd up the trunk. That’s the proper viewing angle. 

The last lesson? Make sure I’m not behind you to get a pic of you taking a pic because I will put it in the blog. Sorry Donnie. 

10 thoughts

  1. Great post. The shove-the-chopped-top-into-the-soil-to-create-a-second-trunk idea is intriguing. What other species do you think that might work on? And Donnie sure has some tan calves.


      1. Love your work, Adam. Do you use any rooting hormone when you stick the cutting in the ground? Also, I notice you’re selling Roshi stainless tools. Do you sell full sets or just a la carte?



  2. That’s a good idea, using the cutting to make a second trunk. Great post, as usual. I recently finished reading through the blog archives, I really enjoyed it, and hope to read many more like it! Your posts on ficus are my favorites. Speaking of ficus, I recently got a little variegated ficus (looks like a benjamina) at home depot. It’s kindof a stick-in-a pot kinda thing, so not really suitable for bonsai at this point in it’s life. I didn’t get it to train as a bonsai, I just got it because it looked pretty. Aint nothin’ wrong with that! Though… I guess I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about the possibility of making it into a bonsai sometime in the future. (Don’t get ahead of yourself Sarr, that’ll be years in the future, lol) Do you have any experience with the variegated form? I hear it grows more slowly than the green leafed one.


    1. I have a three tree planting of the variegated Benjamina that I inherited from somewhere. It’s growing pretty well this year. I think any ficus, if you fertilize well, will grow fast enough for you to have something in a few years.


  3. All the woodworking snobs and old craftsmen say that the joinery must be laid out with the tip of a single beveled, flat backed, absurdly sharp marking knife to get the +-1/1000 of an inch precision fit (not that I do that or my joints fit like that). I am just curious what he was making with those Japanese chisels. Also, in your drawing, I noticed that in the final picture, you drew the trunk about 2x thicker all the way up. Does this mean that you plan to let the branches run until it reaches this thickness? It looked liked you wired them out to develop the tree mostly as it is (after the trunks fuse of course).


    1. You will have to wait until Rob releases pictures on Facebook to see what he did. I’m not going to the National Show this year.
      The drawing was just a quick one. In time the tree may get that size, ficus are trees that get thicker in bonsai pots.


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