Love that trunk, love the tree.


You remember it from April, right? This post? And like that post, it seems I have a beer at my right hand again, funny that. It’s been several months and the tree is ready for round two. 

Here’s the tree, denuded. Fancy new word for y’all to add to your repertoire of horticulture terminology. Use it often, it means to remove a trees leaves. Hurricanes do this, as well insects. And cocky bonsai artists like myself. 

Here’s the tree in April, after the initial styling. We’ve got tertiary branches. We have sufficient wire scarring too. This, as I keep saying and am still getting flack for, is what is needed to keep that branch in place. 

It looks bad but, it is a ficus, it will grow out. The whole theory of wiring is that, by wrapping a wire around a branch, be it copper or aluminum, we can then place the branch in an aesthetically pleasing attitude and position (evoking age, gnarly-ness, etc) and then, as the branch grows, it stays in that position. But the branch has to grow, and, especially with ficus and some other strong and fast upright growers like elms or maples, if the branch doesn’t grow around the wire (“cut in” as we usually say, though it’s the tree and not the wire doing something) , it won’t stay in place, and all that time and wire will have been wasted. I can see all the old timers just squirming in their seats at these wire marks. Makes me smile. Where’s my beer? 

Here’s another fancy word I learned the other day: inosculation. In botany, inosculation is when a tree’s limbs/roots/trunks, self-graft and become one. Like on this ficus’ trunk and aerial roots. 

Close up:I’m full of it today. Information, that is. Im full of bull most days. 

How about this, I’m feeling cheap, ummm, green and environmentally aware today and everything. I think I’m going to re-use some old wire. If you’ve been reading the blog of late (instead of just looking at the pics and ogling my manly hands) you’ll recall that I’ve been making a big deal about teaching you respect for the branch and unwinding wire instead of cutting it off (contrary to what all good wire salesmen teach). One plus to unwinding is you have intact wire, instead those half circles of sharp, twisted torture devices (which are easy to kneel on and can pierce one of the 11 bursa of the knee) and you can re-use it. (For those that must cut it off, there is an opportunity to recycle it as well, American Bonsai Tools, one of my sponsors, has a deal called the Re-Wire™ Recycling Program. For every ten pounds of aluminum wire you send them, you get $50 in American Bonsai wire.)

The problem with re-using wire is this:it’s all twisted and kinked, like my soul. As you may know, when you bend metal, it becomes what the metallurgists call “work hardened”. When it’s bent and moved it becomes harder to bend. Copper is especially susceptible to this, which is why you have to generally cut it off a tree and can only reuse it if you anneal it (heat it to a particular temperature) to soften it up again. Aluminum is less prone to work hardening, but it still happens. But that’s not so bad, it’s the kinks and twisted parts we have to deal with. What you need is a pole and two pair of pliers. I know. Sounds like a set up to a joke…. 

Twisted wire. 

A pole. In this case the legs of my workbench (for you longtime readers, I used to use a stripper pole, because it worked so well. But I had to give it up. The pole, not the stripping…..) You see the two pliers. Now, just pull the wire back and forth against the pole until it’s straight. 

And there you go. 

Now you just need to straighten the ends. 

And we have enough for the next step, re-wire. 

First, some wire on the scarred branches. I don’t need to place these branches, it’s just to let the wire cut in a second time. I’ll leave it on to scar it in the other direction. 

And then the rest of the tree. I know, it’s a little motley with three different colored wires but, hey, it works. 

But! Before I finish, I have to cook dinner. So I will be back in a few hours. 

What’s for dinner? Hand cut pork loin chops. It’s a whole lot cheaper to buy the full loin and cut the chops yourself, you just need a good sharp knife. Look at those grill marks! And you can make them as thick as you want. There’s the added benefit of less hands on the food and less steps to your home. That makes a big difference in food safety. I prefer to cut up whole chickens too. 

It was a meal that couldn’t be beat, but I have work to finish.

 Back to The Nook!

It’s dark so the flood lights are on. 

And that means drama!

That didn’t take long. All wired up and ready for Florida’s “second spring”. I’ve been getting this question a lot, “Is it time to be defoliating and working ficus (it’s the middle of September in Florida). The answer is, for me, yes it is. For you, maybe not. You need to have at least 4 weeks of above 60f (15c) nighttime temps. That’s a good rule of thumb for tropical and broadleaf evergreen trees. Don’t touch your deciduous now, they need to go dormant and you’ll throw them off their schedule by causing growth now and then, not only losing tender new growth at the first frost, but, you’re using energy that the tree stored for springtime. 

 Time I put it to bed, after fertilizer and all, of course. 

I’ll get one more shot in the morning. Make sure I didn’t make any mistakes. Except for that back branch on the right, I just might declare that Robert is your mother’s brother (Bob’s your uncle, that is). 


11 thoughts

  1. Thank you for the bit about letting the wire cut in. I always thought this was something to avoid, didn’t realize it was borderline necessary with a Ficus. I’m having a hell of a time keeping branches in place on my too little.

    Keep up the good work


  2. I am really liking the development of this one. I am hoping to develop the green island that I have in a similar way. I have an unrelated question about willow leaf ficus. I have two: one is an older tree in a bonsai pot and the other a stock plant in a nursery pot, but both have a small number of yellow leaves on them now, and last winter they dropped a lot of leaves. I think the leaf drop last winter was due to overwatering, but now I am sure to let them become dry to the touch before watering and I am not sure what the issue is. The soil is a mix of lava rock and bark, and they have been fertilized well. I am wondering if it could be hard water, but that does not seem to be affecting any of my other trees. I thought I would ask you.


  3. Really good work
    I have the same problem with the wire biting in to my F. microcarpa ‘Green Island’ — I rewire it often to help avoid this.


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