A mere two months later, time to remove wires, re-wire, and Cut It Back.

It was in this article from a few months ago.

Here’s how you saw it last, a Ficus microcarpa from a client’s back yard.

Got some good backbudding, excellent.

The wire is cutting in perfectly.

One of my aphorisms for developing ficus bonsai “If you don’t have wire marks, you’re not using enough wire.”. I say that because if you don’t leave the wire on long enough, the branch won’t hold shape. Especially on a ficus. Then you’re just wiring for wiring sake.

The rain was pretty heavy this summer here in the state of Florida, or at least in my backyard. And I think this is fungus.

It’s on many of the leaves, something I don’t see on F. microcarpa much. I will treat with BioAdvanced All-in-one Rose and Flower care, which has a systemic fungicide (tebuconazole), a systemic insecticide for Cuban laurel thrips (imidacloprid) and fertilizer (6-9-6). Just right for going into fall for a ficus in Florida.

I believe it’s a fungus because, not only the leaves but some of the stems are black too, as seen in the pic above

It could, of course, be photo-toxicity, from the imidacloprid I applied in the last session releasing too quickly because of all the rain we’ve had. But we are going into the dry season and that shouldn’t be a problem as we go forward (as I write this, though, the forecast is calling for a severe thunderstorm event that’s been sweeping East, across the Gulf States. It hit Louisiana pretty hard a day ago).

But the newest shoots are nice and green, so I’m not worried.

And it’s a ficus. It’ll be ok.

Defoliation, and cleaning up all the old leaves is, as always, the first step (which I began before the first pics at the top).

Then some wiring, very little.

And some tie-down wires (guy wires, so to say. funny name for them, though I do know some guys into bondage. I don’t understand it myself).

Let’s get back to the work at hand!

After defoliation, a good way to get rid of all those fallen leaves is to use your scissors like you are a maintenance worker policing a yard.

Jab the leaves…

Simple. It took me 18 years of picking them up by my fingertips to figure that one out.

It’s the next morning, and looking at the tree, you’ll notice that the branches have risen a bit and some of the movement has straightened out. Which is why I also teach that bonsai is “cutting, wiring, un-wiring, re-wiring, un-wiring, cutting, re-wiring, ad infinitum”.

And so you don’t have to scroll back up to compare the upward movement, the first pic again:

As the song at the beginning said, “the ficus has no taper so I gotta cut it back”

My students complain that they spend months growing ramification and I come in and cut it all off.

Trust the process. Taper, movement, proportion. And don’t worry. A tree grows. That’s its job.

Now a bit of wire, on the new branches and re-wire some of the old ones. (Wire, un-wire, re-wire, ad infinitum).

And, more importantly, I’m going to tie down many of the main branches.

Why do new branches grow up? Same reason teenagers rebel, hormones. They are forced by the action of hormones to grow towards the sun (auxin is the main one, and auxin doesn’t like sun, so it collects on the underside of the branches, in the shade, and cause those cells to elongate faster than the cells up top, pushing the branch up).

And that should be good, until next spring. Except some un-wiring, re-wiring, etc….

Now I get to enjoy the rest of the morning. Maybe…..

Hard to believe that the little ficus on the right is what our subject once looked like, just a few years ago. Growing-out in the ground (or a big pot) erases many sins. Such is life and is a truism for growth in general.

11 thoughts

    1. The wire marks, in most instances, will grow out. Where they won’t, one can mitigate the effect by selective sanding, carving etc.
      But, as I said in the post, the branch won’t set in place without letting the wire cut in a bit. Think about the story of King Canute (Knut) trying to order the tide from coming in.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Those wire scars are absolutely NOT necessary and in fact, will never go away. Many of us here in the United States, and countless other bonsai growers in Asia, have been achieving very good results wiring Ficus without the need to completely ruin the branches in the process.


    1. Maybe you just haven’t been doing bonsai long enough to have the branches grow out of wire scars, I don’t know?
      I once had a long discussion with Peter Warren, bonsai guy from England, apprenticed to Kunio Kobyashi, and he related his frustration he has with some clients he travels to removing the wire too early, before it cuts in, because of this need for perfect branches, and he has to rewire the tree because the branches never set and have all risen. And this is on deciduous trees, mind you, not ficus.
      I challenge you to look at high level, high performance trees from major exhibits, and zoom in on the branches (or better yet, go to real shows and look closely). You’ll see wire markings on those trees. Mostly on the younger branches of course. The older branches have grown out so the wire scarring isn’t as obvious, but you’ll see evidence.
      Now, you won’t see wire marks on the real old trees from Japan simply because wire, as we use it today, wasn’t around a hundred years ago for bonsai use. They used clip and grow and tie down methods.
      The methods and styles we train bonsai in today require extensive use of wire and yes, you will get wire marks on your trees. The idea is to do that when they are young, so that when they grow out, they disappear (in the case of this tree, the biggest branch should be about half again thicker before it’s ready for show, ideally, and if you think the wire mark will be there after that increase in thickness, then, like I said, you haven’t been growing trees long enough, or effectively enough, to see the wire marks disappear)


      1. I’ve been growing bonsai since the early 1980s so that may not be long enough to see wire scars like the above disappear. But then I can say that I have been enjoying good success wiring Ficus branches without getting deep cut-ins. I simply use a larger diameter wire and watch closely before any branches become irrevocably damaged. True, sometimes I need to reapply wire, but not at the expense of ruining the branch.

        As a side note, as a profession I have sculpted and/or trimmed Ficus hedges, enormous banyan trees and other large tropical trees for over 35 years. I have seen all sorts of injuries on trees that have eventually healed over. But deep scars will remain visible and a spiraling pattern made by wire will always be a dead giveaway that artificial manipulation has taken place.


  2. Hi Adam,
    I have noticed you using powered die grinders for work on deadwood and tree carving in general. Is there a name for the bit I often see you use that carves through hard wood fast and easy? They don’t seem like the common dremel burr bits. Is it a type of shank bit?


  3. Nice post mate, I’m in Australia and have been growing bonsai since 1980, I LOVE figs, I grow Macrophylla, Rubiginosa, Microcarpa,Obliqua,Coronata, and Virens, which are, Moreton Bay Fig or Australian Banyan, Port Jackson Fig, Green Island Fig, Queensland Small leaf Fig, Sandpaper Fig and White or Curtain Fig respectively
    I grow from seed and germinate all my seeds indoors in winter under led lights. I have a collection of over 500 trees,not all figs lol as when I prune I’m also taking and rooting cuttings. I also winter my larger figs overwinter under lights as well so I can get another crop of leaves per year. I like your no-nonsense approach.


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