A "Rainforest" Ficus Evolves: Part 3
 By Jerry Meislik


A rainforest Ficus, Hilo. Notice the long distance to the first branches.

To quickly summarize, in May 2004 David Fukumoto presented me with a 30 year old Ficus microcarpa bonsai. David removed the tree from its growing container and sheared the top back as well as reduced the roots to a much more compact shape. It was shipped to me from Hawaii and it was planted immediately upon arrival in my home in Montana in a specially created deep container. The tree was planted into this extremely deep "container" to allow the roots to lengthen. The plan was that over time the tree will gro roots deep into the container while remaining at its current height above container! In this way it will resemble a very tall tree with long, hanging aerial and pillar roots propping it up.

The tree potted after arrival in Montana, side one.

Side two after arrival.

"Front" of the tree after trimming, 2005.

A virtual image projecting the rainforest tree in 5-6 years.

Reality check time arrived in April 2007. Over the last few years the tree had been allowed fairly rampant growth and this was cut back once or twice each year. This was necessary to keep inner branches and twigs alive which would otherwise die out from lack of light from the overgrowing thick canopy.

Other than the usual care and these periodic trimmings and wiring there was no inspection of the roots or repotting. As the picture below demonstrates there was little in the way of substantial heavy caliper root growth. Only a fine mat of roots had grown over 3 years.

2007, roots are numerous but very small and fine after 3 years growth!

My hopes for a tall rainforest tree were dashed!

I had the option of continuing to allow the same process to go on for another 3-10 years to attempt getting heavy root growth and putting the tree in an exceptionally large pot as suggested by David Fukumoto. Or changing my design to one that could be accomplished in my growing room over a more realistic time period. I chose the latter alternative and potted the tree up in a "normal" depth pot. My new goal for the tree is a squat broad banyan style not much taller than the current tree's height but allowed to form a more dense canopy and developing more secondary and tertiary branching to give the tree a more aged look. It will be a squat rainforest style but not the tall design that I projected years ago.

Tree potted to its new soil level and trimmed, 2009.

The moral of the story is that a bonsai designer may have some ideas of where he would like the tree to go. This idea must always be tempered with reality. The tree also has ideas about how it will grow and mature. A realistic bonsai design must find a compromise between desire and reality. I look forward to the next stage in the tree's development. Perhaps time and the tree will dictate more design changes.

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