I got this sweet tree from an honest man named Fred, from Mobile, Alabama. I was visiting Joe Day, one of the best trident maple growers and natural rock slab makers in the country. Joe has studied all the variations of seedling grown tridents and has the information collected and notated. If you want to learn how a rough bark trident branches and ramifies, he’s the man to talk to. He’s also of the older generation like Mary Madison or Ed Trout, which means he’s a good guy.

When I got the tree from Fred, it looked like this:There is blog post on it back a hundred posts or so.

But for tonight…..I know, I know, it’s time to weed.

I hate this particular weed. I can’t identify it for some reason.

If you try to pull it, most likely you’ll just break the stem off. Underground, hiding with malicious intent like the troll under the bridge (or on the internet) is a little tuber that, if you don’t get it out, will just grow again.

That’s where the tweezers come into play.

It took some serious digging, like a 4 year old searching for gold in his left nostril, but I got it. But it’s not the only one. You’ll see. The closest I can come to identifying it is a weed called pusley. I don’t think it is though. I broke off a bunch of stems, you’ll see all the tubers when I repot.

This one is easy to ID, it’s artillery fern. So called because when it’s ripe, the plant shoots its seed all over the place like a….well, you can fill in that blank.

Now that the weeds are gone, let’s see what we have tonight. Why, it’s a ficus salicaria (willow leaf ficus), that I think may have started out as a big root cutting.

It has an animalistic look to it (hence the title of this post. Can anyone get the reference?)

I think I wired it at the beginning of spring and the wire is cutting in a little. Not too bad, but not too good.

It’ll grow out quickly, not to worry my friends.

With the weeds gone, you can see the animal shaped trunk.

I like it. It doesn’t fit the normal trunk shape. Right up my alley.

It’s old looking though, and that’s good enough for me.

You know what’s gonna happen next, right?

I’m gonna denude the tree.

Funny that word, denude. It sounds as though you’re making it not nude, and yet, that’s the whole idea. Denude means defoliate.

Now is the best time to defoliate, I mean, the tree is doing it on its own….a good many tropicals, in areas like mine, have two real growth spurts. One in the spring and one in the fall. When that happens you’ll get yellowing leaves like this one.

I can hear the whining of the traditionalists now, “Aww Man, it’s, like, fall, you can’t be doing no work on a tree now! That’s some crazy stuff. Not how I learned it!”

A ficus knows no need to go dormant. If you allow it to, it will and can grow all year long. And that holds true for me in Florida and for you all in the Frozen North where you take the tropicals in for the winter. All you need are nighttime temps of 60f (15.5c) to allow for root growth.

But, the traditionalist refrain goes, the yellowing leaf is evidence of it going dormant.

But it’s not.

The tree is shedding older leaves to make way for new leaves adapted for the reduced daylight intensity and duration of autumn. If you take a gander below, the tree is growing. Let the denudification begin.

My mobile set up. Have Bonsai, Will Travel, as the saying goes. Snip snip snip……

Well now, I guess I look hungry or something…or perhaps he thinks bonsai is a performance art…..…..or maybe he’s been on Facebook and is contributing to the cause.

Damn, twenty bucks!That’ll help. I need more wire….

Almost done with the defoliation. Here’s an interesting fact. If I were to leave the leaves on the soil surface, as they decompose, they’ll give off a gaseous hormone called ethylene, which is responsible for new root growth, fruit ripening (on fruit trees) and the setting of next year’s buds (on deciduous trees). This is one argument for not raking up the fallen leaves from under your landscape trees in autumn (for you English, we call it Fall because the leaves fall. Don’t judge us for language foibles, for it was, after all, you Brits that gave us the word “Soccer” for what the whole world calls football. How, you ask? I’ll point you to A Wikipedia story on the famous Oxford “er” phenomenon. So there. Association football my arse).

All done removing the leaves, and my mess, which I’ll need to sweep. You can see where my wife helped me clean up…..the twenty is gone.

Add a little wire to the ficus…..

And now a word from our sponsor….

Not really, I’m doing a favor for a Facebook friend, Vern, from the Houston Bonsai Society.

They, along with the American Bonsai Society, are hosting a big show next year and Vern, as a part of the HBS, asked me to mention it in the blog. Check out the Facebook event link, the Houston Bonsai Society website or go to absbonsai.org for all the details. With this endorsement, I must add an explanation to everyone scratching their heads wondering why I would promote an ABS event after all the drama in the months of June and July.

I’ll just say that I believe in bonsai. But some people like the blood before the bonsai. I shall rise above all that though and say that, if you’re in the neighborhood, or want to go to a show with many first class bonsai people, go see this one. And say “Hi!” To Vern for me. ‘Nuff said.

Now for a new pot.

I can’t remember where I got this one…..

…..but it’s nice.

If you recognize the signature, let me know.

Beautiful texture.

I love all the tie down holes.

Although I will say that it’s odd that there are nine tie down holes…….

A soil mound (yes, you see some organic in there. I’m experimenting with fir bark, from American Bonsai Tools, to see how it works).

Well, I guess I needed to repot.

This was in my normal mix by the way. Seems to work well.

WAIT! Do you see it?! Some more of those tubers! Told you there’d be more. Too bad they’re not edible, or I’d be making soup right now.

Whenever I repot a ficus, I always try to spread out the surface roots, continually improving them.

…….in the pot, fertilized heavy with some Harrell’s for Florida.And that fir bark.

And that’s that.

Thank you Fred, I’m hoping you’re doing well. I think of you often. And I’ll keep up on the development a little better this next year. It’s in a more prominent place on the benches so I’ll have a better eye on it.

The wider pot will do wonders for the growth. Ficus are shallow rooted and like their roots to spread horizontally, so often a wide pot is better than a deep pot for development. Which makes a ficus almost an ideal bonsai subject, almost.

And that’s all I have to say about that.


Posted in Art

6 thoughts

  1. Hi there! I am new to your blog and I’m loving it! I do have a question- I have been told to not fertilize right after a repotting, that I need to wait 6-8 weeks for the plant to adjust. Here I see the you fertilized immediately. Have you found that to be advantageous? Thank you!


    1. It is advantageous. After a repot, the tree needs that boost to help grow new roots and leaves.
      The only reason you wouldn’t fertilize after repot is for deciduous trees and that’s so you don’t get long spaces between the sets of leaves (called internodes).
      If you follow the logic of not fertilizing after repot because the new roots will be burned, you can’t ever fertilize because the tree is always creating new roots.


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