One thing that I find very useful is to photograph my trees on a regular basis. This allows me to see how the trees progress over time and lets me photographically change the images to see if a better design emerges from the image manipulations.
A series of pictures to illustrate how the design might change after playing with image manipulations.
The Ficus benghalensis as it looked some years back, straight trunk and large leaves
Using some heavy wire the trunk was bent to create some movement in the trunk
The tree partially defoliated as it looks today
With Photoshop one section of the tree was removed. Is it a better desgn?
Yet, another piece is removed graphically. Is this one better?
With exposed root bonsai it is possible to create a taller tree. One can simply raise the tree up on its finer root system while keeping it supported with wire until the new roots harden sufficiently to make the trunk stable.
The new roots will need to be covered for some months until they harden off and become adapted to dry air. Once so adapted the alluminum foil can be removed.
Ficus in exposed root style but a bit too short
Root system elongated, wire used for temporary support
Foil is placed for some months until newly exposed roots are stable
When presented with material that is young and lacks interesting features I will search for ones that have twists and turns. Great bonsai can be created from this rather unexciting material. Using wire to shape long and limber pieces is another way to introduce interesting shapes. Another way is to use root cuttings that often have great shapes, The pictures below are all of Ficus ‘Mystery’, a fig that is not identified yet.
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There are many ways to handle a tree with little or no apparent taper. In this case a Ficus ‘Mystery’ was grown from a very straight and taperless cutting.
Fortunately there were several existing aerial roots that were brought down along the trunk and rooted into the ground. The aerial roots provide a visual thickening to the lower part of the trunk creating some taper that just does not exist. The roots coming off the aerials provide a nice surface flow that helps to visually stabilize the tree.
The area circled in red shows the straight cutting including a few aerial roots
The bonsai shows some nice taper provided by the aerial roots as well as nice surface rootage.
A fig commonly found in many garden centers used as a hanging basket plant is Ficus repens/pumila. Commonly called the Creeping fig. It is one of an assortment of figs that will climb up tree trunks, stone or brick walls and soon cover the surface with a very dense covering of leaves.
It is peculiar also in having two types of leaf. One is the very small heart shaped leaf that it grows as a small cutting and another much larger leaf that grows on sturdier branches that are often not supported on the wall to which most of the plant is clinging.
It an be used to shape small bonsai by allowing the green stems to get woody and to set shape and then to create a canopy from the branches. Getting a large trunk of this species is difficult and I have been looking for one for many years.
Creeping over a brick wall mostly small leaves are showing
Make sure to keep this plant moist as it does not recover from drying out.
Ficus pumila showing small and larger leaves
Ficus show lots of natural variations when grown from seed. Leaf shape, leaf size, bark color, vigor etc. can vary greatly from one seedling to the next. This can even occur with seed harvested from the same mother tree.
Ficus virens with a rounder leaf form
Some of the leaves are quite round
The same tree to show its branch structure after defoliation
Here is one of many Ficus virens that I have grown from seed. This individual has a rounder leaf than the normal virens. Its other characteristics are pretty typical for Ficus virens but if one were to just use the leaf shape as a major factor in the identification it might just lead you astray. This is one of the most frustrating features of Ficus, their variability. While making our lives miserable by confusing our identification it is a useful trait for the species as it enables them to modify themselves and perhaps find an environmental niche to exploit.
Sometimes it is desirable to have a heavier branch and the material is grown in a container, indoors or is just a slow growing variety. In this case the material is Ficus microcarpa ‘Melon Seed’. This is a slow growing, miniature leaf form of microcarpa.
In order to develop it as a bonsai I have a good sized right branch but the left side needs a heavier branch. Fortunately, there are several small branches coming out of the left side that can be fused and form a proper sized branch. The apex of the tree is also too thin but there are no other branches that I can use right now to thicken it up.
Ficus microcarpa ‘Melon Seed’ with a nice right branch but a very thin left branch
The left side has several small branches that are pulled together with electrical/cable ties and with time they will fuse
Appearance of the branch now allowed to grow strongly for some months to fuse
Roots, as with any other part of the bonsai’s design, must be compatible with the overall look and feel of the tree.
In this case, there are one or more roots that do not work with the upright design of the tree.
Non radial root detracts from the movement of the trunk
Close up of the root
The root is removed and the flow of the trunk is now enhanced
In this instance the roots are planted as this species will grow from roots
Ficus rumphii of very large size
Chinese garden is seen through decorative window
Ficus virens, just one of the many species on display
Pond with marvelous rock work
Main entrance at the resort hotel
Just a small part of the bonsai on display
Lovely bridges and pagodas accent the water features
For all my bonsai and non-bonsai friends traveling to Thailand, I would like to highly recommend a visit to The Bonsai Village, Ratchaburi. The Bonsai Village is named after a , a local tree. The bonsai village is a spectacular resort featuring Japanese and Chinese gardens and containing thousands of bonsai trees. The resort covers some 40 acres along the Pa Chee river!
In the gardens are beautifully displayed bonsai trees of museum quality; in fact it is one of the best tropical collections that I have seen anywhere. The bonsai were developed in Thailand as well as imported from many countries including China, Japan, Philippines, Taiwan, and Indonesia. And close to my heart are large numbers of Ficus trees including Benjamina, Microcarpa, Virens, Religiosa, Racemosa, and Rumphii – to name just a few. They are all displayed in wonderful matched containers.
It will take many hours to view even a portion of the bonsai and gardens but it will be well worth the time to see this international museum quality collection even if you have a few hours to spend.
There are also exquisite accommodations with well-appointed guest rooms, dining facilities, and a Japanese villa in which one can stay. I highly recommend staying at the resort and enjoying the gardens and bonsai.
To learn more about this world class garden click here. http://suanphungbonsaivillage.com/?lang=en