Select Page
Ficus Benjamina Variegata – one season stilling

Ficus Benjamina Variegata – one season stilling

In January 2016 I bough from a supermarket a Ficus Benjamina Variegata that looked more like a bush at that moment. The choice was based on its multiple trunks and the final idea was to fuse them into one think trunk. I took good care of it, keeping it over the winter on a sunny window sill, fertilize it every second week, never prune it and let it elongate as wild as it felt to do so. By late Spring 2016 it grew quite a lot and probably doubled its height. I considered it is time to start working on it, motivated also by the ambient temperatures that were already increasing. Longer days with an abundance of sunlight were at my disposal now, so I had all the necessary ingredients to start the process of fusing the trunks.

Preliminary I pruned back the Ficus, and removed closely all the leaves from the branches.At that time I did not have at my disposal natural raffia so I used instead of it used hemp cord. As you can see in the picture below, after finalizing  pruning and warping the tree. Using hemp cord proved to be a bad idea. At the lower side of the trunks, due to higher humidity as the cord is close to the soil, this rotted fast. Even this was no problem, but it promoted rotting of the trunks.

By early spring 2017, only one trunk remained. The rest of the rotted away and I removed them as deep as possible from the soil. One interesting thing is that one trunk fused to this remaining one. Its base rotted and now it is still there sicked to the main trunk. Details about this are depicted later in this post, just roll it down.

I was not too satisfied with the progression of the tree over an entire year. In early summer 2017 the tree looked more like a stick with some branches and leaves here and there. Far away from any of the initial ideas that I had with this tree. I knew at the moment what I had to do in order to thicken the main trunk and the side branches. I had to place the tree outside and expose it to continuously changing weather conditions such as rain, wind, sunshine, warm and colder rays. Especially wind, because it moves the trunk and the branches helps a lot in a fast thickening of the wood as it tries to repose to bending.

I wired with copper wire the branches into the desired positions and covered the soil with natural fertilizer and then with moss to make sure that humidity is kept constant when keeping the tree in full sun. This process started in May 2017. The tree was watered every other day, excepting rainy days when it was not necessary.

Wiring the branches into their correct position gave a nice distribution of the leaves both to ensure forming levels of branches with leaves and also making sure that sunlight penetrates and reaches the trunk and the leaves from all sides. A top view of the tree proves this. Too long branches were pruned to keep a nice harmonic overall shape of the tree.

Thicker branches required doubling the wire to make sure that those will stay in the desired position. In the picture below one can observe that the top branches were bent to form lateral pads. To create the force and the tension in the wire required to bend them and to make sure that aggressive windy days will not move the branches in other position, doubling the wire has to start from the trunk creating few spirals around it and only after that to be wired around a specific branch.

As expected, by early fall (September 2017) the tree had a serious evolution. The trunk and the branches thickened a lot. The base of the trunk actually doubled its diameter. As it can be seen in the picture below, the process was so aggressive that the wires cut inside the wood, in some regions of the tree they were so deep that the actual bark of the tree was maybe 1mm higher than the wire. I know, the wires should have been removed much earlier to avoid scars in the bark. My experience with Ficus species proved that such scars are many times advantageous.

On Ficus species, such scars will heal in less than 6 months completely. The nice thing when healing is that on the surface of the bark a texture remains uneven due to those former scars and this by all means adds to the value of the tree and proves to compensate the simple bark present of Ficus species. So, to be honest, I left intentionally the wire there to bite in and create those scars. I always do so!

I was writing earlier about the fusion of a former complete trunk with the main trunk of the tree. In the picture below one can see where the old trunk was cut of as it was dead and rotting. It is fused to the main trunk, it has branches and leaves and lives very well. Even more, when I wrapped it for the first time with hemp cord, I passed between the two trunks a branch and now it is growing from that fusion point, as it can be seen in the picture below.

As the temperatures outside are quite low now, the tree was moved inside. I have removed all the wires of the tree in order to start the healing of the scars. However, branches that still were not in the desired position were rewired making sure the new wire is not inside the scars created by the former wires that held the branch through Summer. In the picture below, the pads formed are already visible on the Ficus tree. Of course there is much more work to do, but comparing the overall design of the tree now, with the moment at the beginning of Summer, one can say that a big step forward was made.

From the roots there are two new trunks that I intend to use to create a new lower level of the tree. I wired these too into the right position and trimmed some of the branches that were growing strait up. All that it remains now is to winter the tree inside, keep it warm, in sunny  window sill and fertilize it with liquid fertilizer every two weeks. In 2018 I will move again the tree outside and repeat the experience from this year. Doing this, I think that in 2 or 3 years I will have a quite nice tree ready to be called bonsai by all means.

Yamadori progression – spring to fall 2017

Yamadori progression – spring to fall 2017

In spring 2017 I collected an abundance of species from the surrounding of Cluj Napoca. Nearly all the collected material survived and some of them grew quite vigorously through the 2017 season.  I have lost an Oak, one Carpinus and one Field Maple. The remaining ones suffered some sunburn in mid August due to extremely high temperatures.

In the pictures below there is a huge Carpinus that I have found on a top of a rocky hill. After pruning it back heavily I was amazed by the structure of the tree. That was the moment when I decided that even if it is a big stub, I have to take it home, against my habit of orienting my developments in the region of shohin style. The pictures were taken just few minutes before starting to dig around it. Collecting the tree was a very time and effort consuming job to save as much root-ball as possible.

After potting the tree, it bud out quite slow. However, after it did, I applied a light dosage of fertilizer and it started to grow extremely fast and vigorously. The picture below was taken few days ago (October 2017). The tree was left to grow wild for the entire year to stabilize a new root-ball. It did and I know that because the drainage tray under it, in mid summer, was already full of feeder roots. I cut them back to motivate the tree to replace those with new ones inside the plastic pot that was placed into.

Another Carpinus collected in Spring 2017 is in the pictures below. This tree proved to be the most vigorous tree of all. Immediately after collecting and potting it, it started growing very vigorously. By end of spring, it had shoots with 5-10 leaves. Only because I realized that the tree is strong, I pushed the limits and pruned back the new shoots to two leaves. Normally, in the first year it is not recommended to do so because the tree needs the leaves to create sugars and carbohydrates to grow new roots and to prepare for winter dormancy. However, I new that this tree will be able to take a new pruning. It did, and now, in fall, it has new growth that is more than enough to prepare the tree for dormancy.

Still in the Carpinus Yamadori universe, I collected in Spring a shohin tree that was already “styled” by the sheep that feed with its leaves year after year. It has a nice short and quite thick trunk, movement in the branches and a dense ramification from thick to thin to thinnest. It grew very nicely over the spring and summer. In August however, it suffered sun burn, still visible in the last pictures. At that moment I thought that only the Sun was responsible for the burn. I know now as a fact that I had 50% of the quilt because I did not reduce the fertilizer quantity in the hot days. This made impossible the uptake of sufficient water by the roots to serve the transpiration at the leaves surface.

Still in Spring 2017, I collected two Fagus (Beech) Yamadori. Both are in the range of shohin stye with nice movement in the trunks and quite dense ramification. One of them (visible in the last picture) has a tendency of reverse taper. This did not stopped me to collect it. The plan is to work on the ramification of the tree for the next one or two years. In this time the tree will stabilize well in the pot and I will perform an airlayering in the area where the reverse taper stars. Using a thick copper wire around the cutting performed for the airlayer, I will promote a nice nebari that will complete the structure of the tree.

I am a fan of Acacia bonsai. I just love the trunks of Acacia trees how they look extremely aged due to the rugged bark. I collected a tree and potted it in a taller container as it had quite long thick roots. From the original structure (first picture) I had a die back of of one branch, and somehow I lost half of the canopy. At the moment I was disappointed. The problem was solved one evening when I tilted the tree and saw a new very nice angle that I was getting in this new position. So, when I will repot the tree, I will fix the new angle by the tree’s new position in shallow pot. I will probably repot this tree in the spring of 2019. The deadwood on the lower side of the trunk comes in addition to the tree’s overall value.

Walking the woods, I found a very nice Fern (Asplenium trichomanes) with small leaves. It already grows now for two years in this pot. I collected it with soil from around it, taking even some rocks and rotting leaves with this soil. It seems to be liking it in this pot. I keep the fern out of direct sunlight and I give it once in a while liquid fertilizer.

Starting spring I will continue such series with progression of these trees and also others that were not included in this post. Pruning, wiring, carving and repotting stories will continue the one I have started today.

Keep close!