Ficus microcarpa. A seedling grown one, looks like it, or what the trade calls, a “ginseng” ficus. Which isn’t a variety, but just a marketing thing. Like calling American style Chinese food “Chinese Food”. I got the tree from Nick, over at American Bonsai Tools. He got it from a closing sale at Japan Nursery. It’s an ugly mofo of a tree, ain’t it? I’ve had it too long and, since I’m cleaning up the nursery and all, well, it’s probably time I got to it, huh?
Onto the operating table:
Maybe but probably not. Let me explain the idea of a front, for those that don’t know. First, even though a bonsai is a three dimensional art, you’ll hear most seasoned bonsai people talk about “The Front” all the time as though that’s the one and only true vision for viewing a tree. They are kind of, mostly, right, as many of the design principles and tricks for making a small tree look big work best when viewed from one angle. And often the pruning scars or evidence of certain growing techniques are hidden when viewed from that fixed angle. But the “front” tends to be a little more complex than that one chopstick stuck in the soil by the master du jour at your local clubs byot workshop. In my view, the front is about a 45 degree angle, starting from one corner and continuing to the other. As though, amazingly, you are walking past it and you begin looking at the tree as you approach it. Now, what does that mean when selecting the front? It means it’s your job to have something interesting, a focal point or a certain feature, like the root base or a hollow trunk or Jin, anything that will arrest that dude walking by your tree, in that 45 degree arc of sight. The idea is to have your tree, your art, be looked at, talked about, praised or criticized (I usually go for criticism “what was he thinking of? Putting that on his tree!”). Anywho, let’s get back to our “pot of spaghetti”. Gotta get out the full set of tools for this job….I’ll need them.
First, let’s chop off some of these long shoots, to see what we have.
Plus, I promised some cuttings to a friend, Sonny Boggs (who happens to be a very talented potter by the way, you can find him on Facebook and the Facebook bonsai auctions from time to time). I’ll be seeing him in Kannapolis, which means I need to root these by the beginning of December.
But first! Remember those worksheets that our teachers used to give us with the scrambled up lines?
I often feel that those activities were training for my ficus bonsai work.
At least the roots on the bottom aren’t so messed up. In fact, I think it’s the poor soil it’s been sitting in that might have caused the over abundance of aerial roots on top, to compensate for the terrible roots in the dirt. But, what do I know, right?
Let’s expound on the subject of aerial roots for a bit. There is an orthodoxy, a, dare I say it, even a conservative segment of the bonsai world, that believe that aerial roots have no place on a bonsai tree.
No, seriously. Even though a full grown ficus will have the various types of aerial roots (those that come down from the branches, those that parallel the trunk, and those that shoot off the trunk in a 45 degree angle, downward, from the trunk), it’s not considered “proper” for a bonsai to have them. Even though a bonsai is supposed to be a semi realistic representation of a tree, in miniature. And even though they look cool.
Anyway, those reactionary elements will point to the work of the Taiwanese bonsai masters and say “Well, you never see aerial roots on their ficus trees, do you?”, or, “….in Japanese bonsai, which is the end all, be all of the state of the art, you would never see aerial roots, because they are grotesque!”
You know what I say? I say, ” Fellas, it’s my tree, they happen in nature, I like them and it’s My Bonsai World”.
That said, even though I like aerial roots, I insist they follow my design rules. And are in good taste of course, because “Good Taste” is what really drives bonsai design. Uh huh. You know, to a lion, we all have good taste, can I get a holla?
My rules for tasteful aerial roots:
I’m sure I can come up with a few more. Give me a minute while I untangle the bottom roots. Freaking dirt. No, dirt isn’t good for root development, even on ficus or tropicals. Dirt is good in the ground. And for flinging at your enemies reputations.
Not in a bonsai pot.
This mica training pot will be perfect. Mica pots, in case you didn’t know, are great for developing bonsai. The material they are made out of, mica, helps to keep the roots cool in the summer but warm in the winter.
I don’t use rooting hormone on ficus when I’m taking cuttings. I use my nursery mix, which is half perlite and half standard potting soil. I usually remove the leaves, or cut them in half, but this time I didn’t. Lazy I guess. I put the pots in the shade, keep the soil moist and the humidity up on it. Let’s all hope they take for our friend Sonny.
Make sure to bookmark this post. Starting next year, I plan on showing how hard I can push this tree, using my techniques, my knowledge of hormones and how they affect growth, and I am predicting by this time next year I’ll be at the tertiary stage of branch development. Anyone wanna bet me?