by Heike van Gunst
Heike writes, “I live in a small village about 10 miles from Hamburg and there are fields and forests all around; about 600 people and 200 horses here. In Germany many people live in flats without a garden or balcony, so they are limited to indoor bonsai. And Ficus is the most popular indoor bonsai because it grows very well inside the house.
I removed the lowest branch on the right side and let a shoot grow to graft in a higher position.
In March 2007, then in August 2007 the donator branch was cut off and where the new branch sits.
Another of my favorites, Ficus religiosa is challenging. But I saw them for years only in pictures and this species fascinated me. When I had the opportunity to get an older specimen for a good price in 2008 I had to try it.
It was not a bonsai then but sort of a bush in a pot. It needs to mature much more but it seems promising.Before I had a heating mat under the pot in winter the tree nearly died, it always had spider mites and dropped its leaves. Ficus religiosa is hardly ever seen here in Germany because it is quite difficult to keep healthy.
My indoor bonsai are placed at picture windows facing south. During winter I have a plant lamp ("Megaman plantlamp" energy saver 15 W, 20 - 40 cm distance to the trees) above each of them shining 13 hours a day. The Ficus religiosa also needs a heating mat (Romberg, 17 W) under the pot during winter! The temperature in my house is between 18° and 20° C in winter (about 62 - 68° F, if I got it right!).
I used to place the two Ficus and the Carmona outside during summer, but although I tried to expose them to sunlight gradually the leaves got sunburnt. We sometimes have quite cool and rainy summers and then those tropical trees don't grow well. One summer we had a hailstorm in July! It tore up all the leaves.
So I prefer to keep the Ficus and Carmona inside at their south-facing windows all year long. I put the Bougainvillea in the greenhouse most of the summer, but my husband needs a lot of room in there for his tomato and cucumber plants.
The more delicate of my outdoor bonsai are kept in the greenhouse during winter.
In 2009 I was in Florida on vacation with my family. My husband has relatives in Boca Raton and Ocala where we visited them, we stayed in Fort Lauderdale. I loved the tropical trees there, the first thing was to go into a book shop and buy a book because I didn't know most of them.