Category Archives: Twists and Turns, shaping trunks

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

 

Demonstration and lecture – Exposed Root Style

At the recent American Bonsai Society learning symposium in Grand Rapids Michigan I presented a number of programs. One program was a lecture demonstration of the exposed root style bonsai. This happens to be one of my favorite bonsai styles and is little used and discussed.

In this style the exposed roots are the focal point and the rest of the bonsai is used to enhance the beauty of the exposed root formation. The exposed roots become the natural extension of the trunk.

For this lecture and demonstration I received a 10-12 year old Schefflera arboricola that was grown by David Fukumoto of Fuku-Bonsai. David has devoted most of his career to investigating the vast potential of the Schefflera and the incredible range of styles possible with this material.

During the demonstration we selected branches and trimmed out over-grown and un-necessary material. The tree was also transplanted to a larger dish after elevating the trunk of the tree about 4 inches. I love how this bonsai looks.

More people should use Schefflera for indoor bonsai as it tolerates growing in most brightly lit rooms in the home or office.

The tree after elevating it about 4 inches in a larger pot

The tree after elevating it about 4 inches in a larger pot

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Discussing the branching and trimming of Schefflera

 

Identifying a fig’s proper name

One of the real difficulties that I deal with every day is how to identify a fig in someone’s collection.

Simply put this is frequently a very difficult task. There are many plant characteristics that botanists use to ID a plant. One of the really important characteristics would be  the syconia or figs of that plant. The problem is that many of our bonsai figs rarely if ever have syconia.

One factor that is often mentioned is the color of the petiole as a plant identifying feature. In my experience the color of the petiole can vary greatly in seedlings of the same species. In fact the color of the petiole can vary even on the same plant.

In the pictures you can see one plant of Ficus macrophylla. The close ups reveal a normal yellow/green petiole on some of the leaves and a red petiole on other leaves of the same plant. Conclusion is that the leaf petiole color is not a reliable chracteristic to ID your figs.

Ficus macrophylla plant in training as a bonsai

Ficus macrophylla plant in training as a bonsai

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Yellow petioles on this plant

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On another part of this same plant the petioles are red


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.

Ficus ‘Green Island’, cultivar names

Ficus ‘Green Island’ is one of the cultivars of Ficus microcarpa. Its main distinguishing characteristics are thick, rubbery leaves that are nearly round. This round leaf character is not unique to ‘Green Island’ but can be found in seedling Ficus microcarpa.

I have one seedling with very round leaves that is not ‘Green Island’ since it is not grown from cuttings of ‘Green Island’ but is genetically distinct as it is seed grown.

One can only call a plant a varietal name if the parent from which the cutting is obtained is the specific variety.

Ficus microcarpa 'Green Island' from a cutting from a mother plant that is 'Green Island'

Ficus microcarpa ‘Green Island’ – a cutting from a mother plant that is ‘Green Island’

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Seedling that has almost round leaves that should not be called ‘Green Island’ as it is genetically distinct. I call it Ficus microcarpa ‘Dwarf Blue’

Ficus natalensis exposed root style

Ficus natalensis is one of my favorite species for bonsai. It has many characteristics making it suitable for bonsai. One, of these is how easily it is grown from root cuttings.

The images show one of mine that is only 2 years from a root cutting.

Root cutting in 2013

Root cutting in 2013

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Same cutting in 2015

Ficus ‘Mexicana’

The scientific name for this plant is unknown. I am calling it Ficus ‘Mexicana’ since the plant originated in Mexico.

Mexican has many similarities to the Willow Leaf fig, Ficus salicaria, but it has much larger leaves. The plant responds very well to bonsai culture and should be a welcome addition to the bonsai world.

 

Ficus 'Mexicana' given to me in 2008

Ficus ‘Mexicana’ given to me in 2008

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Same tree in 2009

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In full leaf, 2015

Ficus ‘Exotica’

Ficus ‘Exotica’ is a fig found in the bonsai trade but its real scientific name is unknown. It has many characteristics in common with Willow Leaf fig, Ficus salicaria. Exotica has a more robust growth with wider leaves but it is a strong grower and can shape very pretty bonsai in not too many years of training.

Ficus 'Exotica' from pre-bonsai stock

Ficus ‘Exotica’ from pre-bonsai stock

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A very pretty and mature tree donated by Dr. Melvin Goldstein to the bonsai collection at the Univeristy of Michigan.


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