Tag Archives: reduction

One way to create a bonsai

There are many ways to shape raw material into a bonsai. In this case the bonsai was created from a Ficus rubiginosa cutting. At first it was allowed to grow long and healthy in a large container. It was then chopped down to a short segment and it was allowed to grow for several years. Next stage is to select branches and apex.

In the last stages it was moved to a smaller container to develop secondary branches and reduce leaf size. This process has taken 7 years but can be accomplished in a shorter time if grown outdoors in a tropical or sub-tropical area and kept in a large container or the ground until the refinement stage of development.

Even raw materials can be transformed into nice bonsai with this sequence of development.

Large healthy cutting of Ficus rubiginosa has been grown with no trimming to develop trunk size

The plant was chopped back(reduction cut) and allowed to sprout out. 

All new growth is allowed to grow to regain vigor. Tree is kept in a large development pot and not a small bonsai container during this phase.



Seven years after starting the cutting was beginning its transition to a bonsai. Further development will involve more secondary branches and leaf size control. Pot is about 8′ long.                                                                                                                                   


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Starting with less than wonderful material


2011, at the start not looking too promising

This is a pretty typical plant. Ficus rubiginosa, that one can purchase in a nursery. It has had little or no training and seems unlikely to develop into a bonsai tree.

First step a chop to reduce the height

First step a chop to reduce the height

Allowing growth

Allowing growth

More growth, some trimming to shape

More growth, some trimming to shape, and wiring

2016, partially defoliated to encourage more twigging

2016, partially defoliated to encourage more twigging  

At last one begin to see the potential bonsai emerging from its rather humble beginnings.

Not behaving for me

Ficus burtt-davyi can be a difficult bonsai subject. Sometimes it just won’t grow properly. This tree has been a problem for me over many years.

It has just not been vigorous and I have had to consider discarding it or perhaps re-styling it. My decision was to get radical and to cut the tree in half. One part will become a slant or windswept while the top portion with only one root was secured on a rock to justify its poor root system. Time will tell if I can bring these two to a satisfactory bonsai design.

The overall vigor of the tree may respond to less water, coarser soil and allowing it to rest during the shorter days of winter. Time will tell.


Several years back the tree was not looking its best

Several years back the tree was not looking its best and I just did not care for the design


The tree was cut in half

The bottom half was planted as a separate tree

The bottom half was planted as a separate tree



The top half was totally fine living just on its one aerial root. This was planted on the rock to deal with the one-sided root of this tree.

The evolution of a large Ficus microcarpa – Part One

This Ficus microcarpa, Chinese Banyan, was a gift from bonsai friend, bonsai grower and dealer Bonsai Jack of Florida –  http://www.bonsaijack.com

Jack sent me this tree after initially styling it in 2010. In the first few shots you can see how the top of the tree was totally removed and all the China grafted branches were removed leaving the wild form of Ficus microcarpa to sprout back and provide the new branches for the future structure of the tree.



The imported tree showing the small leaf cultivar grafted-in foliage


Trunk detail, with a very large and bulky aerial on the left


Jack removed all the grafts and the native larger leaf foliage has re-sprouted


The tree in my plant room showing robust growth of foliage


An approach graft was done on the right to create the first low right side branch


Overview showing the right sided graft and the apex undergoing fusion grafts to thicken it up


The first set of fusions to bulk up the apex

The apex was so thin and not believable that I brought up two or three additional branches from the trunk and used electrical ties to force fusion and thickening of the apex. This worked very well and by October of 2014 I felt that even more thickening would be needed

The apex fusions did very well and were completely fused but the apex was still too thin to be believable as a good transition of the topped trunk so about 6 rooted cuttings previously taken of this same tree were attached with electrical ties to the apex and their roots inserted into a plastic baggie of soil also attached to the top of the trunk.


Close up view of the second set of fusions to bulk up the apex, 2015


The baggie contains soil to allow the roots of the rooted cuttings to survive and fuse with the apex

In the process of doing this second fusion set to the apex my assistant accidentally bumped the previously grafted right main branch and it was broken off.


Close up of the right sided graft on its own


To replace this another previously rooted cutting was inserted into a hole drilled into the trunk. The root was draped out of the drill hole and into its own pot of soil and covered with sphagnum moss.


Hole being drilled to accept rooted cutting to become right lowest branch


Close up of the rooted cutting in place


Roots mossed and led into a container of soil

The new right sided branch graft soon failed and I made a third attemp to get a right sided branch by doing an approach graft from the thin back branch brought forward and inserted into a fresh groove in the trunk. The graft was secured with staples as you can see below.


This is the 3rd attempt to get a right sided branch – approach graft from the back

Time will tell how this all will turn out. So far I am quite happy with about 2.5 years of work and progress on this huge fig. Bonsai is a never ending process of refinement and change necessitated by how the plant grows.