Category Archives: Twists and Turns, shaping trunks

Willow Leaf fig has small leaves suitible for small trees

Willow leaf fig is a terrific species to use for smaller bonsai since its leaves are already small and will be in good proportion for smaller bonsai.

An assortment of Willow Leaf figs is shown that are all grown from cuttings and are less than 10″._23a3922 _23a3914 _23a3906 _23a3883 _23a3877


The definitive reference work on Ficus
for bonsai. The book is a softcover, 8 by 10 inch volume, with 144 color pages, containing detailed information for the beginner as well as the advanced hobbyist.

The “Too Heavy” root

In dealing with a fig that has too heavy a root there are several ways to handle the situation. One, is to simply use soil and moss to partially or completely cover the thick root.

Another solution is to cut the large root completely off. After removing the root seal the cut with cut paste and cover lightly with some soil or sphagnum moss. Usually the cut root will sprout and replace the heavy part with a new and thinner root in much better scale than the original. Cutting off one large root on a healthy tree should not prove to be harmful to the bonsai tree.

 

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Heavy root on the left is not in scale with the rest of the tree

 

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Heavy root on the left has been totally removed and smeared with cut paste

The removed portion of the root is sprouting and will become another bonsai

The cut end of the root on the tree shows new finer roots taking over and once a bit thicker will be in good scale to the size of the bonsai

Yet other ways to handle the heavy root is to split the root or cut the root in half lenghtwise.

All of these will result in a root that is proper scale to the trunk and design of the tree.

 

Ficus burtt-davyi cutting after 5 years

Ficus burtt-davyi is a very useful plant for bonsai. It can form nice bonsai in even small size due to its leaves that can become quite small under proper cultivation. There are also several clones that vary from normal to very small leaves.

The photos below show a larger BD fig that was cut into pieces and the one circled in red is a very small piece that was potted up.

The last shot shows the small tree after about 5 years of growth.

 

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Original mother tree cut into several pieces.

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The pieces potted up individually, 2011

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The same plant in 2016

Some recent bonsai work

Spending a few hours in the growing room and changed and updated a few of my figs.

  1. Ficus natalensis grown from a root cutting. Aluminum foil was used to protect the new root cutting from dehydration. Soon it will be removed.
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    Root cutting taken a few months back

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    Trunk shape achieved with wiring. Next step to form the branches and canopy to suit the trunk shape

     

     

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    Ficus virens has grown out of shape and needs a haircut

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    Ficus virens after trimming

How to thicken a branch

On this bonsai Ficus natalensis the lowest branch on the right side is not thick enough. Most often the lowest branch should be the thickest on the tree. In order to achieve proper thickness the branch is allowed to grow longer than the style dictates. Note the leaves are also larger than the rest of the tree which is being trimmed regularly.

In a year or two the branch will thicken because of its continued growth and then it will be appropriately shortened. The next step will be to continue the process of shaping the branch properly.

The area in red is allowed to grow without trimming to thicken the branch

The area in red is allowed to grow without trimming to thicken the branch

Slave branches

Slave branches are used to thicken a part of the trunk or branch that needs to be heavier. Slave branches are allowed to grow wildly without trimming and when the thickening has been achieved they are removed.

This Ficus natalensis has a slim trunk that would be improved by thickening it to introduce some more taper. The branch outlined in red was allowed to grow for a year or two to thicken the trunk.

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Slave branch on this Ficus natalensis to thicken the lower trunk of the tree

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Lower trunk has been thickened sufficiently so the slave branch has been removed

 

Aerial roots

This clump of Ficus virens/infectoria is seed grown and by being kept in a small container the individual trees now are fused and live on a common root system and lower trunk.

Of interest is the somewhat peculiar formation seen in the red outline. It is an aerial root that has existed for quite a few years. The aerial initially formed as a small thread-like structure but because the ambient humidity is low it has never reached the soil to form a pillar trunk. Each year when humidity is high new aerials try to sprout from it  but as the high humidity is only temporary the aerials never succeed in elongating and reaching to the ground. It gets thicker each year and the “ball” is enlarging year by year.

The appearance now is of a solid wood ball on which spikes that are aborted aerials jut out. Perhaps one day I will cut it off and see if I can root it as a cutting.

Ficus virens/infectoria showing the aborted aerial root growing off the trunk

Ficus virens/infectoria showing the aborted aerial root growing off the trunk

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Closer view of the aerial and the spikes growing from it

 

 


The definitive reference work on Ficus
for bonsai. The book is a softcover, 8 by 10 inch volume, with 144 color pages, containing detailed information for the beginner as well as the advanced hobbyist.

Moving an aerial root

Aerial roots are one of the very useful and impressive features of some fig trees. As with other design elements of a bonsai the aerials must augment the overall design scheme.

In this Ficus virens the aerial root crosses across the trunk and in addition it gives the appearance of a reverse taper to the trunk of this tree. It could be removed or a better option is to move it to the other side of the trunk and use it to improve the taper of the trunk.

The aerial crosses the trunk

The aerial crosses the trunk

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Closer view of the crossing aerial

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A chisel is used to separate the root from its adherence to the trunk

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The aerial is repositioned to the right side of the trunk

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Close view showing moss added to the base of the aerial to help promote new hair roots to form

The moved aerial is wrapped with sphagnum moss and placed into the soil. Within several weeks new hair roots will form on this aerial and make it a permanent fixture of the design.


The definitive reference work on Ficus
for bonsai. The book is a softcover, 8 by 10 inch volume, with 144 color pages, containing detailed information for the beginner as well as the advanced hobbyist.

 Click here for more information

Ficus cuttings, a great way to get more trees

Over the years I have taken many hundreds of cuttings. Most Ficus can be started easily from cuttings and even large size cuttings can be rooted with success.

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Ficus cutting about 8-9 years ago

This is a Ficus microcarpa cutting taken from one of my very large bonsai.

It was allowed to grow without trimming to recover strength and over time branches were selected to keep, other branches were removed and other branches were grafted into areas needing a branch. The bonsai after 9 years of training. Still not completed but it has come a long way from the start.

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Years later the same cutting is beginning to be an attractive bonsai

Consider rooting your extra cuttings to use for future bonsai.

 


The definitive reference work on Ficus
for bonsai. The book is a softcover, 8 by 10 inch volume, with 144 color pages, containing detailed information for the beginner as well as the advanced hobbyist.

Working with bonsai artist Hank Miller

I had the great pleasure of spending a few days with Hank Miller. He is a bonsai grower, artist and bonsai teacher. Hank grows mainly species in his greenhouse but he loves working with Ficus natalensis and Ficus burtt-davyi. These clones of Ficus were selected by him for strong growth, small leaf size and responding really well to bonsai culture.

First, Hank took this fused Ficus natalensis and shortened it back. He felt this was necessary since the middle of the tree had a long straight segment with little or no branching. By shortening the tree he improved its overall flow and design. It will take a year or two for the new apex to mature but it will then be a really wonderful bonsai tree. Hank will root the removed top  as another tree!

A Ficus natalensis that is about 7 years old, developed from a fusion of many rooted cuttings

Hank beside Ficus natalensis that is about 7 years old, developed from a fusion of many rooted cuttings

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Top of the bonsai has been cut away

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A new apex has been brought up and will be developed over the next two years to complete the design

Tree two is another of Hank’s fused Ficus natalensis that is a completed bonsai and requires mainly maintenance work. I think you will agree that it is a lovely and naturalistic deciduous tree design.

 

 

A fused Ficus natalensis that is a completed design and has a naturalistic design

A fused Ficus natalensis that is a naturalistic design

To see more of Hank’s work visit his website. He has a number of trees for sale as well as lovely wood bonsai stands. See www.tandamiti.com