Somehow, somewhere, somewhen, I came into possession of this tree.

Not sure from whence it came, but hence it is….Wait, not hence….here-ence? Herce?

Ah, hither.

I think that’s correct tense.

So…..I’m not sure from whence it came, but hither it is.

Or ’tis…..I think.

Not that I’m doubting its existence. Or that it’s sitting in front of me. I’m just still stuck on the Shakespearean English.

Of course, Shakespeare made up words, soooo…..

As you’ve been looking at the pics and not reading my incoherent ramblings, you should be seeing all the flaws apparent in this ugly tree.

Reverse taper, awkward scars, puny branches, wire marks, flat and predictable movement.

Basically, the worst S-curve one could possibly acquire.

Should you come across something like this, don’t blame the nursery or vendor you got it from.

If they imported it, they have no choice, the trees get packed randomly into a box, put on a truck, loaded onto a ship, arrival at the port, unloaded, put on another truck, and delivered to the nursery.

If the vendor got it from one of those nurseries, it’s the same thing. Minus the ocean voyage. Or…the importer sent it to the secondary middleman on purpose. Passive aggressive style.

I can’t imagine anyone actually picking this hacked-up slug worm of a tree out of a line up.

So now, what can I do with it?

Let’s examine it from all the angles.

Just because it’s potted one way in a container, doesn’t mean it has to stay that way.

In case you couldn’t tell, the species is a ficus microcarpa “tigerbark”. Some call it “golden gate” or “kinmen”. Hmmmmmmnnnnn…..

I prefer tiger bark myself. More sexy.

The purpose of turning the tree upside down and left wise right and inside out is to try to find the angle that best shows off the movement but also mitigates the obvious fabricated nature of an S-curve.

But I’ll figure it out, that’s why they pay me the big bucks. (And cheap at half the price even). ….is it me or is the tree is giving me a smart ass smirk? I do think it doesn’t believe I’m up to the job.

Let’s get it out of the training pot.

All of the angle changes don’t matter if we don’t have the roots to support it.

It’s not a bad root mass. I’ve seen better on a tree, and much worse, especially on these mass produced pre-bonsai. They ship them bareroot and sometimes they suffer, losing roots in the process.

I’d like to have some thicker roots, but that’ll do.

Wait, it’s a hint, a promise of something. I can use that little clingy thing below.

Though they may be humble, or poor, or thin, but maybe, just maybe, roots will not only show us beginnings, but they can guide the way forward.

Not much on this side. Looks like the first beard growth on a teenage boy’s chin.

And here’s that one thin root I’m hinging the whole design on.

You’ll see.

Let’s check The Wall of Pots to see if I have a good pot………

Here’s one, concrete pot made by a friend, Johnathan.

He did an amazing job. It’s thin, delicate, and well made.

But not yet for this tree. Maybe in the future.

Here’s an amazing pot by my friend and student Peter.

It fits, and it’s big enough and has room to grow. It could also be a future pot.

The glaze is from a raku technique.

But you all know, from the title, this is a post about making a root over rock.

Here’s the rock. The other side…..wait for it…..

And The Roll, aha!

You know what they say,

” …a rolling stone gathers no moss”.

I think they like each otherThey’re cuddling. Maybe just a bit more than cuddling. I think its time. I need to marry them.

I don’t have any grafting tape (or a ring) but this marking tape will work just as well. You can use anything to bind it really, but the blue shows up well on camera. You’ll see what I mean lower on the page.

No fancy pot yet, black plastic is the prescription of the day.

No special (insert famous bonsai professional’s name here) soil mix. Sorry, substrate. just a regular soilless potting mix, and I added in the stuff I raked off the roots about 25 pics ago,…

…..and the pot is ready.

Let’s get the tree and rock ready.

That’s a good fit. And of course, the important root and all.

It fits on both sides. If you need to, and the tree doesn’t fit, you can always chisel out the rock to get good contact with the tree.

Some sphagnum moss (be careful saying sphagnum in this time of the covid-19. It requires a certain amount of spittle spray to say sffffagnum).

The purpose of the moss is to help to grow roots. At least that’s the theory. There are certain passed down theories that are only “suppositional” theories and one of them is that a certain chemical, present in sphagnum moss, and very similar to the hormone that helps to grow roots, will help grow roots.

No one has done real science on it, as far as I can tell, but the anecdotal evidence is that sphagnum grows roots. So we shall wrap up the tree and rock with sphagnum.

Wrap it up well. Don’t be skimpy.

Especially that bald spot.

And wrap it up tight.

See? I told you that the blue tape would pop.

It’s almost like a soft drink commercial!

Plunk the tree into the pot.

Tie it down tight.

Backfill it with the soil.

Some fertilizer.

Now to do some cuttin’

This needs shortening.

I can help the taper a little.

There we go.

That looks better.

Now just let it grow for a year or two or four.

I’ll cut it back maybe, maybe, at the end of summer.

What you can’t see is my hope for a good tree, that root. It’s buried.

That, I’m afraid, is the end of the lesson.

Should you follow my procedures, and it works, make sure you understand that it was my tutelage that’s made it work.

If you kill your tree, though, it’s all your fault and I take no responsibility.

Maybe a little. But don’t forget to water it. If you forget to water it, it’s your fault.


5 thoughts

  1. Adam, thank you again for your vision, knowledge and personality; you’re the best.
    I also have a “Tiger Bark” rooted cutting with a unique “aesthetic charm”, and I think the root over rock idea might work with it. Thanks!



    On Sun, May 3, 2020 at 11:21 AM Adam’s Art and Bonsai Blog wrote:

    > adamaskwhy posted: “Somehow, somewhere, somewhen, I came into possession > of this tree. Not sure from whence it came, but hence it is….Wait, not > hence….here-ence? Herce? Ah, hither. I think that’s correct tense. > So…..I’m not sure from whence it came, but hither it ” >


  3. Adam, a question or actually an observation on portulacaria. I’ve been growing them for years and i’ve Done exactly the opposite lately and found awesome results. I take cuttings and pot them in soil conditioner ( pine bark) & water daily from day one. They root very quickly to my surprise & I get 90 % start rate. Another bit: I was in the Keys last year and “ borrowed “ a bunch of Limestone nuggets. When I put jade over the limestone they “ took off” after about a month. The pace of growth is unreal. So now I load them all up on Agricultural limestone. What a difference/ I say WOW


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