As autumn is now already here for some time now, the leaves of my carpinus shohin trees got brown marking the end of this season and telling me that they went dormant till spring. Because I like to take my time when I prune my trees, I start pruning them from autumn gaining also space inside my cold shelter where I house the trees till temperatures are above freezing in spring.
Methodically I started this year with my smallest trees. These were all collected in March 2017. One season growth already established the trees in the pots and also gave me quite impressive elongation of the thin branches.
The tools that I use are classical bonsai pruners such as concave, knob, scissors and classical garden pruning scissors for very thick branches.
The first tree that I pruned is a multiple trunk with a very nice taper. This tree was extremely vigorous this year and it was mandatory to prune it in the summer too, even if this a habit that should be avoided in the first year after collecting from the wild. In the first picture is the tree before pruning and the next ones are after pruning, a front and bird’s eye view.
The real shohin carpinus trees that I have are quite small, they have a height of about 12-15cm and a diameter after pruning of about 20cm.
The next tree is my favorite one. I found it close to a field that often was visited by sheep and I thing its size is given by these continuously eating its new fresh growth year after year.I had to use thick wire to move thick branches into their final position. It was very challenging because carpinus wood is very hard to bent and I ha to put a lot of effort into it. But finally the branches reached their right position.
The last carpinus shogin is the smallest of all. I pruned it back quite hard to try and create dense ramification close to the main trunk. Hope that next year it will bud back on the remaining branches as expected.
I apply to all the cut wounds healing and callusing paste by this ensuring that water with diseases will not enter in the cut places and also this will increase the callusing process.
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.
I will open my blog presenting a project that I have worked on for about half a year or more. Its a Ficus Benjamina trunk fusion project. I have bought from a nursery 6 ficus trees about 30cm high each and using natural raffia I tied them to fuse in one trunk. I had an unpleasant surprise, that after about 2-3 months, the trunk from the center of the fusion died and this did not allow the rest of the living ones to reach each other in order to start the fusing process. Hence, the only solution was to cut the raffia, remove the dead trunk and tie it again with new raffia. This was done somewhere in the beginning of April 2017.
In the picture above you can see the tree after removing the dead trunk from the center. I left it to develop leaves, roots and to thicken with the remaining trunks and start fusing them together. Even if ficus trees are kept inside as these are tropical species, I have observed that during late autumn and winter, these are slowly progressing due to lack of strong sunlight. However, from late spring till late summer are growing quite fast. I keep my ficus trees on a windowsill where they avoid direct sunlight at midday but from afternoon till evening the light reaches their leaves. This proved to be a good position for them and by their development, I would say that they like it and combined with proper fertilizing and watering, at least for my flat, this is the optimal position.
In July 2017 watching the progression of the tree, I have decided that it is time to remove the raffia, wire the branches into the right position and trim those where it is needed and repot the tree working a little to place the roots into proper position. At the moment of decision, the tree looked like in the image below.
In just a few months it developed many new leaves and the trunks fused together. The raffia ties already started cutting in the fused trunk so I decided that there is no more time to wait and I have removed it. In the closeup picture below you can see the marks caused by the raffia ties. However, a nice thing is that with ficus, these heal quite fast and what remains is some nice texture on the bark. To be honest, I have left on purpose the raffia on for reaching these future textures.
The next step was to wire each branch in the proper position and in the same time giving them a little bit of movement as ficus branches tend many times to grow perfectly strait. Where I had thicker branches I wired around it and moved it into the correct position. With thin branches, wounding the wire around it is more than difficult and also dangerous as these branches can break quite fast. So what I do is I pre-wound the copper wire on a thin screwdriver to obtain a coil with the inner diameter larger than the branch. To place this coil on the branch is very simple, you just have to rotate it like a screw around the branch. After the wire is in place, you can now twist and shape it to move the branch where you desire. The outcome of my wiring process can be seen in the picture below. It is important to mention that from now on I have to pay serious attention as the tree will grow and the wire can cut into the branches. So where it will be the case, it has to be removed and replaced with a loosen one.
As said earlier, the plan was to also repot the tree. First I prepared a new soil composition. What I use is lava, clay (fine mixed with course) and nursery planting soil. The mix I use is 4-4-2. In the image below, from left to right is the lava, the fine clay and the course clay. Mixing 4 parts of each with 2 parts of soil proved to be a lucrative solution for my trees.
I live in Romania and here, bonsai art is not too evolved so it is more than difficult to find tools, pots, soil or any other stuff that you would need. So many times I need to improvise and find solutions with what I have at my disposal. As pot for my tree, I bought a ceramic tray used probably for cooking, but I liked it and considered to suit quite nice my tree. I have drilled holes in it and covered those with draining screens as it is usually done.
Here is a closeup of one hole that I have drilled in the bottom of the tray. It came out quite nice. Two such holes are more than enough to ensure good draining of the soil.
Next, I removed the tree from the old pot and started working around the roots, combing out the old soil and trying to untangle the twisted roots. Before starting this entire repotting process, I did not water the tree for a few days to be able to work the roots easier. If the soil is wet, it sticks to the roots and forcing to comb out the roots can break them and loss of too many roots can endanger the survival of the tree. I use as a comb an old fork that I have bent a little each spike’s end. Seems to be a helpful and very cheap tool.
After removing all the old soil, I washed the roots of all the remaining dust and combed again gently the feeder roots in a radial shape, untangling them all. I also cut some roots that were growing directly under the tree, as I want all of them to grow only to the sides and not under it.
On the bottom of the pot I evenly distributed a layer of the new soil and placed the combed roots over it, making sure that these are in the proper position. Even if it is against my way of fixing trees to the pot, as this one is quite tall, about 55cm high, I passed a wire through the drainage holes and tied the tree to the pot making sure it will not trip over. I will remove this wire then the new roots will bound the pot and will be able to keep the tree in position.
Finally I filled the pot with the new soil, and worked it around the roots with a chopping stick to make sure that no air pockets remain to damage the roots. A heavy watering to ensure that all the soil is wet was the last step. Now I have placed the tree back on the windowsill and wait for it to see how it reacts to the new changes. Hopefully on my update on this tree I will show improvement and growth compared to this moment. The result of today’s work is in the picture below.