Tree number one: Bougainvillea. Needs repotting, wiring….

……and some carving. The nubs above…..

…..and above…..

…..and above……

But below, we have a willow leaf in need of some bondage. There is, amazingly, a YouTube video on this tree here

I do apologize to my YouTube watchers on the infrequency of my videos. I’ll get back into the groove with them soon. I just don’t like being on camera. I prefer for the trees to be the star. But…..

…..I’m just the dork… do the work!Don’t you wish you were as dorky as me?

Let’s get to the point.

The trunk is pretty nice. It was purchased from Wigert’s nursery by my client.

it’s in an Italian bonsai pot, believe it or not.

Your ten cent trick of the day is this: when carving, its best to cover the soil surface. Raw sawdust isn’t good for the soil. Since I’m repotting, I won’t be doing it today. The reason you cover the surface is, the sawdust will cover the soil, and, as the wood is breaking down, the microbes that facilitate the breakdown process, bind nitrogen and, therefore, the tree can’t access it. If you want to use an organic component, it’s best to use one that’s been composted.

Dod you notice I used the word “bind” instead of “use”? Those same microbes will release the nitrogen after the first year of decomposition. That’s why composting is important, it gives you a very high quality soil component (used sparingly of course, we want slow, healthy growth) that reduces the need for excessive fertilizer applications (which are polluting our waterways and aquifers). But what do I know? Let me get back to carving.

First pass done.

Some fire work.

More fire work.

At this point I realize I didn’t take the “before fire work” pic so here is the “before fire work” pic.

My flame thrower I use for fire work.

After burning I use a wire brush to clean up the fire work. I burn the wood to help remove the tool marks and the pithy fibers that happen carving raw wood.

The wire brush is to bring out the grooves in the grain. It helps to “age” the newly carved wood.

Bougainvillea wood takes to carving well, in my opinion.

My tip on carving deadwood is to make hollows and cavities that create light and dark lines on the piece, as opposed to carving lines as though you’re drawing them (this comes from my twenty years plus of wood carving in general. I’m an artist first and bonsai is just one of my mediums. I’ve been a sculptor in wood longer than I’ve done bonsai. You can “draw” a nose or a mouth onto a chunk of wood, or you can create three dimensional eyes and noses and mouths, without lines, and let the interplay of light and dark on the piece create the lines our eyes need to distinguish form)

Now I just need lime sulphur. But that’s later.

Let’s repot and style this baby first.

As you see, the sawdust is as thick as a politicians dandruff on the back of a lobbyists suit. You’ll have to think about that one for a bit.

This is a client’s tree and we’ve been trying to increase the branches for the last year. And except for the top, which needs lower branching on the apical shoot, there are enough to make a nice canopy with which to hang the blossoms on.

Next is the YouTube famous willow leaf. As you can see, it needs repotting.

As per custom, a quick defoliation (denuding, if you’d like. I stole that from a Brit-words like that makes one feel oh so posh)

A length of wire.

Held above the tree.

The anticipation is palpable.

Sinuously coiled around the ficus’s limbs. Gentle.

You’ll notice the attitude and bends the limbs are in. Makes for an exciting image. Don’t scroll down……

I warned you. Not sexy at all. It looks to me to be algae.

The pot the ficus has been in is made of glass. Glass, in this case, is translucent, and let’s the sun hit the soil. I think that’s why it’s there at least. I’ve said many times, anthropomorphic logic and horticultural facts don’t always agree.

The tree is healthy enough so I’m not worrying about it much.

The pot is just too cool.

Really well made.

I got it from Emrys Berkower, a glass artist ( who works very rarely making bonsai pots. He will post some on the Bonsai Auction pages on Facebook, if we are lucky.

I could call the dirt “patina”. But I won’t insult you all that way.

Don’t judge me for the red drainage hole screen. “Any port in a storm” as they say.

Old soil raked away like last autumn’s leaves and regrets.

Root work and improvement.

In the pot. Fertilizer and all that.

And now I’m ready for the detail work. This is where I have fun.

Well, right after I go on a rant (I have fun with rants too….)

I am what one could call a mild anarchist. I don’t like rules, and hate arbitrary ones less.

But, if I were king for a day, I would outlaw the selling of one millimeter bonsai wire (or similar sizes) in one kilogram rolls. It looks pretty and all when you first buy them but all it takes is a slight bump and bam, a rats nest of metallic annoyance and wasted time trying to find the end (or beginning) of the roll.

What I do is to take the roll and wind it into smaller rolls……

…….I totally recommend this. Bonsai, as they say, is supposed to be relaxing.

Alright, sorry.

Back to the tree.

I told you there’d be bondage.

This is technically the second styling, and I’m surprised by the ramification I have already.

I can only say, “Bob’s yer Uncle”

From different angles….

To everything, turn turn turn….

Wait, I have a video. Just tilt your head a little….

I like the melon flavored Powerade best, by the way. It mixes well with tequila.

And that’s all the damage all I can do today.

I think I’ll try something different and work on a willow leaf ficus for the next post……

Posted in Art

5 thoughts

  1. One who knows me well. Understands My love of bougainvillea. But my eyes are drawn to the ficus as well now. The scars…the wrinkles at the base and such. Both were a joy to see progression photos of. Thanks for another good blog to read. Now off to see the video.


  2. This willow leaf ficus is really a great tree. It is so elegant, feminine and wonderful that it really steal the show and put the Bougainville in shadows, although it is a really great work too. Adam you have a special touch for elegance, and it’s not a skill so common in bonsai. Thanks for sharing your works


  3. Adam,
    The technique used on Ben’s ficus, will a Buttonwood branch survive that type of cutting to bend? The sealing sap of a ficus will allow for all kinds of abuse as we know but Buttonwood?

    Nervous bender :-):-)


    1. It would survive but I’m not sure if it would heal. Buttonwood is pretty adaptable and you could literally break the branch and, as long as a vein of live wood is intact, the branch would still be viable


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