Well now…..hmmmnnnn…. that’s a, uh…thing…

It’s alive too. A living thing.

I think it’s a tiger bark ficus. Or some people call it Golden Gate. Not after the San Francisco’s most famous bridge but after a place in China called the Kinmen Islands. Another name for this ficus is “Kinmen” which means golden gate or, blonde hair, depending on context. If you’re interested in the whole story, it’s in one of Min Hsuan Lo’s books, Bonsai Journey, unfortunately written in Chinese, but perfectly related in the blog “Bonsai, Penjing and more” from Hoe Chuah, a resident of Texas and a much better scholar than myself, read the blog entry here.

Anyhow, somehow I don’t think either Min Hsuan Lo or Hoe Chuah would look twice at this….. thing.

Let’s dig down, like we are looking for buried treasure, and try to untangle the mess.

Wow! It actually has a trunk and some root flare. I’m beginning to be hopeful.

I have no clue where the tree came from, If we can call it a tree yet, but from whomever, thank you. It had to have been a gift ‘cuz I wouldn’t have purchased it.

But, being that it’s in my nursery, it at least has some chance of…something. Maybe a tree.

It has roots, which is a good thing.

But that’s a nasty cut. One challenge to embrace.

Maybe some grafting? Y’all wanna see some redneck grafting, right?

That’s a promising root for that purpose.

After about three minutes of serious study, I’ve decided that this is the front.

I know, I spent way too long looking at it. I was sipping a beer and trying to discern the subtle citrus bouquet from the cascade hops used in the brew. And is that crystal malt? Was it aged in bourbon barrels, why, yes, it was. Interesting.

Let’s clean the tree up, before I wax poetic about the clean spring water and mountain snowmelt used by the brewmaster because it reminds him of his grandad and trips to the Rockies, searching out fennel and juniper berries for homemade game sausage.

As you see below, I chose a top, saving the right hand branch as the new leader, removed the middle branch and saved the small one on the left, which was hidden until I just saw it (how strong is this beer? 9% abv? Dayum!)

I cleaned up some of the aerial roots but I saved that one we talked about earlier to use in a graft across that bad cut and help close it faster.

Kinda like that. But with more….fasteners.

I’ll also graft it below to give me more root spread, as well as using the other aerial roots for the same thing.

Wait, fasteners?


Where’s my staple gun?

The staples purpose is to hold the root tight to the cambium and bark, forcing it to fuse as it grows. Otherwise it just pushes away and no fusion.

On the other side..

Now I’ll put it into a more shallow and wider pot to spread out those roots…

Making sure I’ve tied it down tight and in place….

The tie down wire also helping with holding some of the roots into place.

Then, of course, I hide it all below the soil line. As the grafts take I’ll expose them more, but now, we want some protection.

It’ll stay that way for a few years.

Now, some attention to the top, as little as there is to give attention to, I suppose.

I could let it all grow unchecked but I’ll give it a little direction.

This will be wired down.

The total height I’m guessing it should be about here.

With this, probably, as the “apex”.

But I’ll be conservative. Let’s start higher up.

This goes…

Cut back this…

And here….


Which will not only hold the (above) branch but will also hold this root (below) tight to the trunk….

And the other root I’m grafting across the scar.

That’s that.

And, of course, fertilizer, water, and sunshine.


Let’s see what happens.

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