Ya’ll remember this tree, right? From the post in November, 2020, called “Provenance”.

Here’s how it looked then:

It’s grown leaves since, but I never got to repot it, as I promised, all of 2021. Todays the day the tree gets new shoes!

In the first post, I pondered whether this branch should go:

I’m still pondering. But I do think I’ll lose this secondary branch.

You can’t see it anyway and it’ll poke your eye out after the repot and I change the potting angle.

“Orf wiv its ‘ead! “

Now that that’s done, here’s a funny thing: the wire I put on, a year and a half ago, on a ficus, mind you, is not cutting in.

At all.

The tree has grown leaves, and I topiary pruned it a bit throughout last year, but it hasn’t grown. Weird, right?

I have a feeling it’s root issues, probably pot bound.

And it is almost wedged into the pot. Let’s see what we can find when I take it out.

The new pot (below) is a sweet Taiko Earth container made by Rob Addonizio, a Florida potter, one of the best, and a good friend.

The new pot will help the tree to grow, stretch its legs so to speak.

And new shoes are always a good thing. Like my new shoes…

I’ll be dancing like a teenager again. They’re Jazz shoes even, how do they look? I know, ridiculous, but imagine we sauntering into the room, pointing my toes all posh and jazzy, that’s an entrance.

Before we look at the roots under the pot, I’ll need to clean up those above.

They’re crossing, some are out of scale, too big or too small, and really just a mess. Looks like my first net repair when I spent that season shrimp boat fishing in the Gulf. They all called me Bubba. We would have leisurely shrimp boils, drinking Turbodog, as the sun set over the warm Louisiana waters, telling lies to each other about past lives and women loved. Like the time I once dated (or dated once) a tall opera singer from my hometown, Brockton, and we had local, handmade ice cream, from a famous creamery in those parts, and we kissed in the shade of an oak as the cows mooed in the summer air. Part of that story is a lie.


Like below: the roots are going backwards and up the root base, a shrimp could escape that easily.

And these are too fat. Just as we want taper going up the tree, we want taper going into the soil.

Let’s start cutting.

There’s a big root:

That’s better.

Not sure of this one yet.

But I am sure of this one. Needs work.

Kinda looks like when the stool folds itself as it drops into the bowl…….sorry. My mother once wrote a poem about the brown stool in the corner of the bathroom that someone had draped a pink towel over, to match the walls. I get my love of colorful prose from her…..

Let’s take it out of the pot…see what we have going on.

Well, it’s not root bound.

But, here we go, this explains the “no” growth: Akadama, or, as I call it, “aquadama”.

It’s turned to mush. As I talked about in the last few posts, wet roots don’t make for good root growth. It’s a fact. And this akadama, in this case, just didn’t work. Not saying in the right environment, with the ideal cultural requirements, that akadama can’t work. But here in the FLA, with the “heat, wet, dry, heat, wet, dry” cycle, akadama just doesn’t last all that long. Like my first teacher said, looking over his shoulder, giving me the side eye, “It just don’t work..”. He was a hillbilly from Kentucky that worked his way up to being the assistant superintendent of the Orange County school system here in Orlando, before he retired. Good man. He used to drink moonshine, as a young man, in a roadside saloon that was built up on stilts, 4 feet off the ground, with no steps. They layer mattresses outside the front door because, well, the moonshine.

When you can ball up a soil mix and it keeps its shape, that’s good for making bricks, not growing roots. Now, as you saw in this Post on Japanese black pine, I did use akadama. But pines like it best (my mom liked me best too, but that doesn’t mean I was the best out of the four of us), but I’ll make sure to not use more than 20% in a mix. Pines like that it breaks down, turns into a brick, pine roots need that texture to grow into.

Not so much willow leaf ficus roots, it seems.

Let’s start cleaning out that mush.

Aha! Lookie here:

Oxalis roots. One of the most satisfying things about repotting a tree is getting to remove all those recalcitrant root structures that makes weeds so difficult to eradicate.

And, just damn. I found a grub. That’s probably a borer, ready to eat my tree from the inside out.

Juicy little bugger. Wonder what it tastes like….

When I repot, if I can, I remove any roots from the middle/bottom that are just unnecessary. We want small feeder roots, those are the only ones that do anything. Big roots are there to hold a tree in the ground. We have wire for that.

That done, let’s address the piled up root.

A bend like that, on such a big root, just messes up the scale and illusion of the bonsai being a big tree in the ground and makes it look like a little tree growing in a pot that’s too small. It also brings to mind a story I read about Elvis Presley’s megacolon, and why fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches are not conducive to regularity. I guess Elvis wasn’t a fan of the veggies.

Let’s cut it out.

See the saw? We will saw with the saw so we don’t have to see the root. See what I’m seeing? Or saying? Let’s get to sawing so you can see what I see.

Saw saw saw!

Does this give you pause? Like “Damn, he’s cutting out a big root there!”

Well, I did.

And that’s a big cut.

Let’s shape it a bit more.

There we go, did I miss anything?

Here it is in the new pot. The tree is saying “Ahhhhhh, I can stretch my feet out!”

New soil.

Sit it in the pot and shake it’s butt, settle it down.

Before I fill it in, let’s talk about that cut. Because I know you have questions.

I won’t seal it, and I’d usually cut a “V” into it.

But this time I’ll let the new roots emerge from that cut, and in a few months, I’ll choose the roots I want, and then cut the “V”.

And since I asked if that was enough, and you told me yes, let’s get rid of a few more roots.

This was the one I wasn’t sure of, of which I am now sure of, in which I’ve decided to remove. Man, all those which’s make we want a sandwich. No, not the Elvis special. I like ham and cheese.


Some quick pruning….

Tie it down…(fertilize etc).

And Bob’s yer uncle.

From the left:

From the right:

And the glamour shot!

Notice I favored the left side when positioning. The reason is because the “first” branch is on the right, and the “apex” is more centered by pushing the tree to the left. If balance is what you want (which you may not want balance), and with the style of the tree (an informal upright), it needs balance , then, always try to center the apex over the middle of the pot. I also didn’t defoliate this time. Sometimes I do, but this time I’m seeing what will happen. I’m always trying to see what works best.

So, now, let’s see what works best .

3 thoughts

  1. The straight trunk on the left is really distracting and looks like it could be removed. Guess its fused to the main trunk at the back?


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