Bonsai doesn’t alway have to be about the drama (unless, it seems, you’re on any of the bonsai forums, or on Facebook, or at the bar, after hours at a bonsai show……). What I mean is, this tree is amazing: It’s old, gnarled, beaten down but still strong and proud. You can see the struggles and hardship this dignified old tree has endured. But sometimes, just sometimes, a calm, simple composition is just as satisfying. The tree above from the last post, showing all the amazing trees at the Bonsai and Penjing Museum in Washington DC. So, as a counterbalance those trees, I give you…..

Up in the winding foothills of Pennsylvania I had the pleasure to work on a little mountain ficus twin trunk. Well, it’s not really from the mountains. But it sounded cool. 

Doesn’t look like much but I think it can be interesting. 

It was a three trunk planting in the past but one died..……but that’s ok, two is fine. 

Let’s talk about twin trunks, as I begin playing with the roots. They look good by the way. It’s mid-August in Pennsylvania now. Hot and humid. The roots are growing. It’s not a bad soil mix, much better than some I’ve seen up here. 

Now, a twin trunk can be just that, two trees. Or, if we are feeling allegorical and poetical, if the prose runs in us in romantic rivulets of word, we can say that a twin trunk is symbolical (heh) of a man/woman, husband/wife, father/son or daughter, or even mother/son or daughter (Being as bonsai was kinda formalized in a patriarchal society, it’s usually not the case though, because the artist, emotionally, can’t imagine it, more on that in a bit. Let me mess with the roots some more). 

A benjamina (this is a named cultivar, once patented even, called “Too Little”) will store sugars in the roots in these tuber-like constructs. 

Most ficus do this though. That’s where we get the so-called ginseng ficus from. 

I’ve always said that a benjamina will make the best root spread of any ficus, naturally, with not much help.  I’m going to help it though. A little.  With what I’ll be doing and with just a bit of time, it’ll be amazing. 

Getting back to the philosophy of a twin trunk tree (you thought bonsai was easy, didn’t you? You didn’t know we’d get into gender studies and crap like that) the concept I’ll be going for is a husband/wife composition. Kinda. The problem (here’s where that male/female thing comes into play) is the trunks are almost the same thickness. Now (I’ll get roasted for this one) one is more curvy than the other, and, therefore, more feminine…..but…..…’s taller. We can’t have the female be taller, can we? That’d be against nature now, wouldn’t it? I can fix that. Hmmmmmnnn. I’m confusing myself. Should the male be thicker or the lady? Damn, now I’m assuming gender and messing up sexes and yin yang roles…..damn, I’ll burn that bridge when I cross it. You know what, let’s try to make this composition more interesting and I’ll leave the anthropology and sociology to the eggheads…..

The trees need to be closer together. Like lovers.  And the best way to do that is to tear them apart and then push them together. Just like in real life.  

Now they can go into a pot. A smaller pot. More cozy that way. Like a small bed. It has been said that there’s a correlation with how big a society’s beds get, and a drop in the birth rate. 

The green fertilizer is from Wigert’s Bonsai. Works wonders on ficus. I’m sure it’s available on their website. 

I worked on several trees while I was their. Here are a few more: Two tiger bark S-curves and what you can do with them. I was working on Cheryl’s trees, I was her guest and I stayed in an amazing rental property that she and her husband run, called Kinder Hawk Schoolhouse. Click on the link to see the schoolhouse, here are a few pics I took. 

It was very relaxing. 

The whole place was surrounded by sorghum fields. 

We had a spirited time. I wish I could’ve stayed. 

Anyway, getting back to our tree, here’s how we started….. 

And the finish. Just one bit of wire. The trees are closer, both moving in the same general direction but with individual movement too. One is slightly taller than the other but both about the same size (importance). The taller one (on the left) is slightly in front of the shorter one, but it’s more of an embrace from behind than a position of dominance or subservience (depending on the culture, that’s where a man or woman should be). With all that said, one could argue that this is a modern husband/wife composition. Which is the male and which is the female? I don’t think it matters. They are both different and the same. And a true partnership should be that way. Or, who cares about all that anthropomorphic bull. It’s two trees in a harmonic bonsai composition that is calming and natural looking. I like it. 

Thank you Cheryl, maybe I’ll see you and your family next year, I’ll be back in August  again. 

7 thoughts

  1. Hey! This getting a bit weird now!! Been following your blog for ages know and there has been quite a few trippy times when ive tried to do something and then you do a blog about the exact thing. Weird!! My dad recently passed and have been slowly sorting out his trees. Theres one left at his house and its the exact ficus planting as this. right down to the one dead one. Not knowing what to do with it ive now been inspired. Thankyou adam. Keep up the great work! Dave!


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