Well, I’ve exhausted my research and I can’t find the name. It’s the subject of today’s post. Some of Florida’s best and brightest can’t find out the species so I think I’ll call it ficus “jim smithii”
Since I can’t find the answers on the interwebd, let me find some more profound answers by working on the tree instead. Its ficus from the late, great Jim Smith, the quiet giant of Florida bonsai, who never spoke ill of anyone, followed his own path, stayed true to himself, and accepted others for their strengths and weaknesses. He was generous to a fault and had no jealousy. He wasn’t a saint, by any chance. He had enemies and rivalries, of course. But what he did, his actions, his generosity, the time he gave to others, that’s what people remember.
And, of course, his bonsai are legendary. Not just the quality but the trees he introduced and made popular. There’s the portulacaria, the many ficus species, the propagation techniques and the styling. I’m probably laying it on thick but, well, he is still a big influence in Florida and tropical bonsai. Heck, there’s even a plaque in a museum in China commemorating his achievements in bonsai.
Well, it’s a species he brought into the bonsai scene in the USA and yet, he didn’t have an exact ID on it. He called it “ficus exotica”. Of course, we all know that the name “exotica” is already being used for a variety of Benjamina. This is clearly not a benjamina. Though it has dieback like one. But so does the salicaria. And, though it’s a similar leaf, it’s not a one or the “89” variety of the salicaria (willow leaf).
Let’s take it out of the pot and…….whoops!
Now, for some handy dandy tools, my trusty, homemade wire hook……
Good and fat! You know what that means? Right, it’s gonna be dinner.
No, not mine silly……watch!
Borers are a big problem more south of me and on the coasts, but this winter was kinda warm and a lot of bugs that should have been killed by the cold, weren’t killed by the cold. So I’m seeing more aphids, thrips, and now, I guess, borers. Gotta be vigilant.
Enough blood sport, back to work……
That’s the best I can do for the roots. It, like many ficus, doesn’t have many roots to work with. It’ll survive but it’s going to take a few years to really develop a nebari. And ficus do that best in a bonsai pot.
Here’s the tree after pruning. One thing (or two, if you’re counting it that way) I’m leaving is the double branch on the bottom left. It’s generally taught to beginners to have only one branch coming from one spot. But I need some visual weight there. It is the first branch and should usually be the heaviest. So sometimes two is better than one.
And finished, just about.
TA DAA!!Not bad. I think the tree has a good start and a pretty good future. It has flaws, don’t we all, and scars…..and some history. And a tale that needs to be told over some beers. I’ll buy the first round……..see you at the bar.