Sometimes you’re presented with a tree that just needs the axe. Like this one:

Fukien tea. Or, in modern parlance, fujian tea (Ehretia microphylla or Fukien tea, as we like to call it in bonsai. The old binomial name is Carmona retusa, as many still call it. It gets its common name from the Fujian Province in China, but its range is from India to Southern Asia and Japan. I say Fujian tea instead of Fukien because those who are in charge of language are modernizing how we write non English words. The place it comes from is called Fujian, pronounced “/ˌfuːdʒiˈɛn/” in Chinese: 福建; alternately romanized as Fukien or Hokkien. But it’s just a common name. I prefer Fukien tea, because then I get to tell this joke: Two Chinese brothers are in their farm fields in the middle of summer, hoeing their rows and weeding the crop. One stops for a second to wipe his brow of sweat, and looks up at the blazing sun. He says to his brother “Man, I hate this Fukien province!” ).

Anyway, sorry for that, I know that was a lot just to get to a punchline.

Back to the tree.

The most interesting part of the trunk is the bottom.

The rest is just about the same thickness all the rest of the way to the top. Five.

There are curves, but they are contrived and predictable. Three.

And we could, just as the title says, just chop it. Three.

It will bud back from the top, as my finger (one) is pointing to.

But why waste all this above? It took many years to grow, and it would be a shame and maybe even just a little disrespectful to just throw it away. Four.

So, with a quick look at the back, let’s get to the real subject: airlayering.

I think right about there, what do you think? Btw, there are five fingers but you can only see one, my thumb.

You thought I was going crazy with the numbers, weren’t you? Someone once said that it shows my excitement by how many fingers I point with in the blog pics. I was just having fun.

Here’s what we will get if we airlayer:

Here’s the full tree.

Granted, we can make a decent-ish tree from using the whole thing, as we can see below:

But look how dynamic it’ll be if we just use the bottom:

Therefore, without further ado (actually, here’s just a bit more ado. And it is ado, by the way. Some people write it as the French word “adieu” which means “farewell”. In the case most people use the phrase “without further ado” ado means “fuss” “trouble” or “delay”. One could say “without further adieu” if, like my family, it takes a long time to say good bye when leaving a gathering, but in this case, I’m meaning, without further delay. So, blah blah blah, ado).

Let’s get out the knife and moss.

Only the best moss, beautiful New Zealand orchid moss straight from South America.

A vessel in which to hydrate said moss.

A sharp knife, and a tree to cut.

Make some cuts all around and start peeling.

On this Fukien, which is the first time I’ve air layered one by the way, I see it’s pretty thick bark, though it doesn’t look it from the outside.

Scrape down to the wood (I say “wood” to be non-technical, to be technical, you need to remove the layers past the phloem, usually the green, but leave the xylem, which is the woody part). The water will still flow up the woody part to keep the top alive, and the sugars will travel down the bark layers (and phloem) and make new roots. That’s basic air layering science.

I use aluminum foil to wrap the moss in.

Some use plastic wrap. Some use a pot. Some use aluminum and plastic. Whatever works for you my friend.

Pack in the moss. Use more than you think will fit.

Hey, who is that ragged looking dude?

That’s a tremendous beard he has. It’s almost epic, even biblical.

I use bonsai wire to secure the bottom.

But leave a cupped opening in top, so I can add water every day.

And that’s that. I don’t use so-called rooting hormone. But you can.

You do you. We aren’t judging today. Not with me and that beard.

The theme of todays blog post, beyond all the ado, is that “horticulture is a science, but the practice of horticulture is an art”

What works for you, may not work for me. Use the soil you’re comfortable with, and your climate and watering habits work with. Use fertilizer, whatever kind you want, just use it. And when propagating, if you insist on spitting on it, because that helps you, go right ahead.

10 thoughts

  1. Hey Adam,
    Question on Fukien Tree, how do you thicken the trunk, I have one which is 6-7 years old, but the trunk is still less than an inch thick.


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