Ficus nebari development

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Re: Ficus nebari development

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Sat Aug 22, 2009 11:22 pm

Rob Kempinski wrote:Hi Jay, I am not being mean. I am trying to pass on some advice that I have learned the hard way.
First, zone envy is a difficult thing to over come. By that I mean growing trees outside their natural zone is very difficult. I know many people grow tropical trees in temperate zones so that they have something to do in the winter. However, unless one is going to make a major commitment to growing tropical trees, they will never really thrive in temperate zones. And even with expensive lights, large fuel bills to keep the trees warm, and attention to bugs and mildew/fungus they just sort of exist. Since bonsai entails placing human's will on a plant to make a design, the best designs will require the tree to thrive and respond vigorously to the work of the artist. Hence grow trees that thrive in your zone.

Second the best bonsai start with the best material. Assuming you can't get over zone envy, then work with material that will make a difference as a bonsai. As far as bonsai material goes, Ficus Benjaminna is far down the scale of adaptability to bonsai. It has large leaves, does not respond well to pruning, long internodes, and is subject to a host of insects and fungi. With great growing conditions it can be made into a nice bonsai, but it really needs tropical conditions and needs to be a very large bonsai (hard to grow indoors due to space limitations.) For examples look at Southeast Asia - many nice big ones in Thailand.

If I were to grow a Ficus indoors I would first opt for Ficus Salicaria, then Ficus microcarpa Nitida, Kinmen, and then Green Island. The rest I wouldn't even attempt (in fact I don't even attempt the rest in Florida with one exception for a very large Ficus Benjamina I started before I knew any better and is now in our zoo exhibit.)

Finally when sharing ideas its good to be open to discussion. That's how I learn and hopefully you will too. Frankly the nebari on the Ficus B. trees you show is pretty poor. Whatever techniques you are using are not working very well even considering the zone handicap you have placed on yourself. Jose has some great techniques he learned from the masters in Puerto Rico and Taiwan. I learned mine from the Florida masters. Also growing the multi-trunk styles is not a very good idea. The skinny trees will always look juvenile. Sure if you grew these in the ground for 5 years in a tropical zone the trunks will merge but indoor culture you are looking at lots of work and time. Hence why bother? Put that effort into a Trident maple and get a much better tree in the same period.


Too Funny!

I learn everything the hard way, it's a curse my mother put on me when I was young.

I didn't notice a degree in Cyber Psychotherapy in your bio. Zone Envy some indicates I wish I was where you are (or maybe in your zone.)

Sorry, over my 52 years I've lived in Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia, Vermont, Alabama, Florida, Texas and California. All before settling down in Central Illinois. Don't mean to disappoint you, but I'm quite happy where I'm at. As for growing plants, trees, pets, etc; that don't normally grow where I currently live... people do it every day. I don't grow Ficus because I need something to do in the winter, I grow Ficus, because I like Ficus. Funny, Wal-Mart keeps selling those tropical plants, there should be a law against it!

OH NO! You mean I have to give back my Chihuahua and my Yorkie, because I'm suffering from ZONE ENVY. Don't think so.

Whether you like my choice of Ficus or not, or whether you like my nebari or not...I have 10 to 12 Ficus that I've managed to keep alive for the past 6 or 8 years. I've enjoyed chopping on them, messing with their growth patterns and when I'm not working with them they are either wintering over in my home or my office quite nicely.

As for my choice of trees,,, Since I am still learning (and have no intention of stopping learning) I choose to invest my money on sellect trees and periodically take a stab at buying something CHEAP & AVAILABLE to practice on instead of buying $200 to $500 dollar (or more) trees to practice on.

I have no problem asking for advise, I don't even have any problem accepting advise not asked for, but offered anyway. I can even learn from questions asked by others.

I'll even revisit your comments above so I can take some notes for the future.

As a last note, All of you bonsai'ers out there growing tropical and sub-tropical trees outside their native zone...

Rob wants you to IMMEDIATELY ship them back to their home zone so some poor tree grower can raise them in a healthy, happy environment! (That was being mean!)

Darn, I was hoping to get a Ponderosa Pine, but they don't grow naturally in Illinois!

Well, its back to the trees,

Jay

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Re: Ficus nebari development

Post  Henrik Stubelius on Sun Aug 23, 2009 12:41 am

I'm glad I didn't have this attitude towards nice people giving me good advice for free... I would probably still be growing F. Benjaminas...
I didn't really want to interfere, but I think it's a bit sad when people react like they're getting insulted, when they are actually getting helped. I wasted at least three years on inferior material before I was led to the right path, what great trees I could have started in those years... There's nothing wrong whith playing around with sticks in pots, I still do that but I dont expect others to like it, and if I for some reason would show them in a forum I would certainly be prepared for critics! Listen, learn and read on!

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Re: Ficus nebari development

Post  Norma on Sun Aug 23, 2009 10:51 pm

I 've worked on many kinds of ficus and the "willow leaf" neriifolia is my favorite. They produce small leaves, are very forgiving and produce fantastic surface roots [nebari]. However it is a struggle to keep the roots from being too fat and not crossing. I took some end of the summer photos of my tropicals and here are the two neriifolia and a "too little" forest which has had to be wired every year and seems to be finally taking the shape I want.




I had this tree since 2001 and it has been reduced in size by 1/2 and is now 14 inches tall.








This won the Best of Shohin in 1997 ....it is no longer a shohin at 11inches tall and needs to be wired !!






This is the "too little" ficus forest that I worked on for 5 or 6 years. It is 18 inches tall in a 14 " wide pot and all the pots are by Sara Rayner.

As I have mentioned in another thread I am "zone challenged" but why not ?

Norma

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Re: Ficus nebari development

Post  Rob Kempinski on Mon Aug 24, 2009 1:03 am

Hi Norma,

As I mentioned earlier, Willow Leaf ficus are perhaps the best ficus, outdoors or indoors, for bonsai. Yours looks good. It's one of my favorite species, especially as a shohin.

It's time to cut those roots to get some taper and to keep them from curving under.

I personally don't care for Ficus Too Little as a bonsai in any growing environment. I have only seen a couple (actually only 1 in Florida) that I would consider a good bonsai.

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Re: Ficus nebari development

Post  jrodriguez on Mon Aug 24, 2009 1:48 pm

Iris,

Sorry for the late reply. There is a reason behind my questionaire. Ficus is one of my favorite species, being Ficus microcarpa the only sub-species i currently work on.

As i have trained many ficus over the years and have learned many cultivation techniques from my teacher. I will share some of my experience. In an optimal environment, ficus has speedy growth and errant growth. This characteristic is optimal when you grow it as a house plant and is not adept to bonsai. When ficus grow too quickly, they tend to have a potato or tuberculous appearance. This fact detracts from the ancient characteristics we appreciate so much in bonsai cultivation. In order to achieve a pleasant and rugged appearance, certain technical tricks must be followed. Let's see:

1) the ideal planting medium for ficus is 100% mountain or river sand.
2) Organic material promotes root rot and the increase in soil humidity resullts in the development of tubular rootage (potato look).
3) When repotting a ficus, make sure to use sharp scissors. If large roots are removed, once the tree is properly placed in its container and the propermedium is added, the plant must be devoid of watering for at least 24 hours. The reason for this is that water contact with latex from the fresh cuts make an excellent recipe for root fungus. By leaving it unwatered for the aforementioned period of time, we ensure that the latex has properly dried. In fact, i sometimes leave my trees standing in my work table, unprooted, until the next morning.
4) Considering your climate, I wouldn't place the tree in shade after an operation like this. The tree will need all the heat it can get.

Per your description, I am positive that the tip are swelling up by now. As the shade location induced transplant shock, you might see new growth in the next few days.

Kind regards,
Jose Luis


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Re: Ficus nebari development

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Mon Aug 24, 2009 4:09 pm

OK, the lessons keep coming in, mostly after the fact. (The story of my life).

So, at this point do I stop watering for a day or two, or is it too late? And, do I move the ficus into the light?

Jay

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Re: Ficus nebari development

Post  Norma on Mon Aug 24, 2009 4:28 pm

Jose,

Thank you for the excellent tutorial on the rootage for ficus. Of course Iris and I live in quite different climates than you but the growth of my neriifolia while slower is the same with tubular rootage. I've repotted the first neriifolia but need to do the second this week. It will be interesting to compare the effects of different soil mixes.
A few questions:
1. You recommend using "100% mountain or river sand" but would this mean a sharp sand/gravel such as crushed granite or lava ?
2. I'm a bit confused by the handling of the fat/tubular root that grows from the base of the trunk. You mentioned cutting the root vertically to promote new roots. How close to the trunk is this cut and does it split the entire root?
3. Some of the surface roots do appear to be going down into the soil, must I cut off this end to stimulate the outward growth?

Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us!

Best regards,
Norma

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Re: Ficus nebari development

Post  jrodriguez on Mon Aug 24, 2009 5:17 pm

Norma,

Lava cynder works well with ficus. It promotes multiple fine roots instead of the tuber-shaped ones. the other 'sand-like' mixes you mentioned work well also.

As my influence in ficus styling comes from the Taiwan School, all my reolys come from what i've learned. From experience and personal observation, Ficus microcarpa tends to develop air roots closer to the trunk than most other ficus. In time, these melt and blend with the trunk to for a muscular and solid tree. Other ficus, like benjamina, Aurea and Phillipinensis tend to have air roots far away from the trunk. Depending on the image you want to portray, different approaches in root techniques or like Lao Tze Cheng calls it 'Root Art' must be applied.

As my preference mirrors the Ficus microcarpa i've seen in nature, I will explain, in detail, the techniques for developing a well balanced, mature looking root structure.

If you have a ficus tree with a bell shaped root structure, an image of a mature ficus is not well achieved. Take a look at the image presented below (model tree) and note the muscular three dimensional rootage.




(example of bell root structure and tube roots) Note: it looks very inmature. Reason: few roots and the appearance is not muscular

Rather than a bell shaped, solid triangular basal structure, this tree presente a stereo type rootage. Stereo type rootage is one that presents all kinds of ficus root types. Most ficus tree we see in commercial nurseries and some of the ones sold by reputed bonsai nurseries around the U.S. display a tuberculous (potato like) root structure. Their rootage is formed by several thick rootsthat flare outwards from the main trunk, giving the impression of a bell or pyramid. This is not a mature root structure, but rather the image of a young tree that has bee forced to grow quickly to increase its trunk size. In order to create well balanced rootage, the following steps must be followed. Let's see:

1) If you purchase commercial grown material like the aforementioned, don't be discouraged; it can be fixed!!
2) First, saw off, vertically all roots that flare outwards. In other climates you might want to do them one at a time.
3) After perfoming the aforementioned operation, wait two or three weeks. From the cuts, hundreds of small roots will emerge. Let then grow until they acquire the appearance of cat whiskers.
4) If the whiskers are flexible, braid them and with the help of wire, attach themclose to the trunk. Do not worry about scarring. Once the roots mature, they will heal over. Also, the braided whiskers will fuse and 'melt' with the trunk, thus achieving the muscular structure shown by our model bonsai (see above picture)
5) Some trees might actually present another problem. As seen in some trees in nurseries, you might often observe roots that resemble a pvc tube of a hose. These do not contribute anythink to the design and therefore must be rectified. By splitting them in half and separating the two pieces with the aid of a small bamboo stick, instead of having a hose type root we now have two roots. From the cut point, hundreds or tiny roots will emerge and when braided and properly hel together with the developing trunk mass, further contribution towards the trunks muscular features will be accomplished.

If you have any further inquiries, feel free to ask. I am here to help!!

Kind regards,
Jose Luis

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Mountain Sand vs. River Sand

Post  jrodriguez on Mon Aug 24, 2009 7:14 pm

Norma,

I will explain the fundamentals of both river sand and mountain sand. Having used both, in can state that mountain sand is superior for many reasons, let's see...

A sustrate composed of coarse granules will promote good air circulation. Like most of you know, with aireation comes the development of fine roots, thus ensuring a healthy container plant. Formerly, i used river sand as the main component of my bonsai mix. I noticed that plant grew poorly and that no significant develpment resulted from its use. There was a reason. As river sand is continually washed by passing currents, all beneficial minerals and nutrients are eroded, leaving only the core of the rock particles. Mountain sand, on the other hand, has not been subject to water erosion and has many nutrients, has better water retention capacity and, like river sand, promotes healthy root development because of its great aireation qualities.

As i know that not everyone has a reliable mountain sand source, the same can be achieved by using lava cynder. Although lava cynder has no stored nutrients, because of its great capillary capacity, nutirition can be supplied artificially through fertilization. Lava cyder and other pumice 'soil conditioners' have hundreds, if not thousands of tiny holes in a single grain. These retain nutrients for a longer period of time and cotribute extensively to the health of the root mass. Because river sand is composed of rock cores, the capacity of retaining nutrients is considerably diminished. For this reason, i stray from its use.

Kind regards,
Jose Luis

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Ficus Nebari Development

Post  bonsaisr on Wed Sep 02, 2009 5:23 pm

I have been perusing Jerry Meislik's Ficus, the Exotic Bonsai, and Master Kwong's book, Ficus Bonsai in the Temperate Climate. I was thrown by the title. The book is about how to grow Ficus in Sydney, Australia, which is in the same hardiness zone as southern Florida. If you really want to get the total picture about figs, start with Condit's The Exotic Ficus. I have also looked at Ficus bonsai from Taiwan on the Internet & elsewhere, & read all these comments here.
The conclusion about Ficus nebari is, like the old song: "Goodness knows, anything goes." Not only spaghetti, you can find rigatoni, cannelloni, fusilli, and ramen noodles. There are various approaches using storage roots, aerial roots, and just plain roots. Some artists like the bell-shaped trunk base. There are a couple of pictures in Kwong's book that look like sweet potatoes lo mein. There are regional fashions, like anything else. In Taiwan, one of the styles is to have the canopy directly over the roots, with no trunk at all. Some of these Ficus masterpieces don't look like real trees any more than one of those sumo trunk trident maples looks like a real tree. Who am I to argue? "Guernica" is an eternal masterpiece, even though you will never see a horse yelling at a bull under a light bulb in real life. One problem with these Ficus masterpieces, especially from Taiwan, is that after you look at a dozen of them they get to be much of a muchness. Probably true of other bonsai & other art forms anywhere.

Here are my tiger bark figs.
First one is my workshop tree, with a side view. I cut it back about a week ago. It is just starting to recover from that and repotting. It needs to be cut back more, but I will wait. When it is really growing, perhaps next spring, I will repot it again & follow some of the nebari advice. That piece of root next to the trunk is not nebari. It sticks up from the bottom.


Iris

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Ficus Nebari Development

Post  bonsaisr on Wed Sep 02, 2009 5:27 pm

Next is a little tiger bark I bought last year at an auction. No nebari on this one either. It is for my granddaughter's other grandmother and I am trying to get my granddaughter to work on it. It also needs to be cut back & wired. Next spring we will think about nebari.


Here is the side view.

Iris

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Ficus Nebari Development

Post  bonsaisr on Wed Sep 02, 2009 7:17 pm

Correction. Condit's book is Ficus, the Exotic Species. It excludes F. carica.
Interesting thing about potting mixes. José Luis swears by 100% "mountain sand," whatever that is, or crushed lava rock ("volcanic cinders"), which I have not seen for sale around here. Perfect for warm, humid Puerto Rico. For hot, sunny Sydney, Kwong insists on something like 100% Turface. My plants would rot in it. For Whitefish, Montana, in a conservatory with HID lamps, Jerry Meislik uses 50% gravel & 50% bark. Not for Central NY either.
My regular mix is one third crushed granite chicken grit, one third Turface or equivalent, and one third or less pine bark mulch. To that I add about 10% crushed charcoal. Since my F. 'TooLittle' regularly produces carrots & yams that don't fit in the pot very well, next time I repot I will add another portion of chicken grit.
I never use Perlite, pumice granules, in a bonsai mix because they float to the surface.
More later,
Iris

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Re: Ficus nebari development

Post  jrodriguez on Wed Sep 02, 2009 8:19 pm

Iris,

From all replies to my threads i can tell that you don't think much about my expertise on the subject of tropical bonsai or bonsai in general. To me, that's fine. I have tried to explain the fuundamentals behind all my posts. Both, pictorial evidence and written essays augment the validity of my limited knowledge on the subject. I have also cultivated bonsai for more than 25 years, am still a student and i always have something to learn.

By the way, so far i have NEVER seen the style of Ficus you mention that is popular in Taiwan. I can tell you that it is not a style at all and having seen every bonsai region in Taiwan, they must be somewhere else. I have checked my library (i have all Taiwan Longsu Association books since they began publishing them in 1995) and have not come accross such trees. By the way, the Taiwanese are the true masters in cultivating ficus. You can ask any serious bonsai professional and amateurs as well.

I thank you for teaching me one thing. Taste has to do a lot with the subjectivity of the bonsai world. The same principle applies to a particular style or precise training methods. To me, your ficus might be insignificant, nonetheless, they bring you lots of satisfaction. Learning from the value of your comments, it's all a matter of perspective.

One last thing, just because something is written in a book that doesn't immediately give it validity. Also, regarding the weak comment you made about mountain sand, if you don't have it in your area, that does not mean it doesn't work. With adversity comes opportunity!!!

Also, you should abide by the foot not in all of your threads: The trouble with people is not that they don't know, but they know so much that ain't so.
Josh Billings

Good luck,

Jose Luis


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Re: Ficus nebari development

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Thu Sep 03, 2009 2:55 pm

jrodriguez wrote:I thank you for teaching me one thing. Taste has to do a lot with the subjectivity of the bonsai world. The same principle applies to a particular style or precise training methods. To me, your ficus might be insignificant, nonetheless, they bring you lots of satisfaction. Learning from the value of your comments, it's all a matter of perspective...

One last thing, just because something is written in a book that doesn't immediately give it validity...

Also, regarding the weak comment you made about mountain sand, if you don't have it in your area, that does not mean it doesn't work...

Jose Luis

I'll apologise now for only quoting specific items in Jose's post, my comments pertain only to these comments so I concluded the rest was not germaine to this post. I will openly admit that I've learned a bunch about Ficus' just by sitting back and watching the discussion progress.

Everything with bonsai is subjective, after all, it is the human eye and mind that pictures the adjustments (potting, pruning wiring, etc.) for each and every tree. Even the "malsai" has to be developed by a person. When placed for sale it will be purchased by someone who determines they either like what was done to reach that point, or they can see themselves working with it.

Jose stated, "... just because something is written in a book that doesn't immediately give it validity..." That same statement can be made by changing the statement to read "on the internet" of "said by an expert". I didn't include that to attack anyone, just that for every problem, bonsai or otherwise, there are 100s of opinions. Some belong to experts or masters and some run the entire distance all the way to the absolute novice. Each one of those opinions contains the potential for improving the art (or the tree.)

Lastly, Jose included "...if you don't have it in your area, that does not mean it doesn't work...". Well that is not entirely true. If I can't get it in my area, it definitely won't work in my area. Sure I can probably get someone in an area that has it, but I might not be able to afford all the extra time, work and cost to get it to may area. However, a suitable alternative is most likely available in my area. I believe the necessity exists for colaboration on the qualities that make one product work so well for one such that the other has the guidance to find a suitable replacement if available.

Jay

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Re: Ficus nebari development

Post  jrodriguez on Thu Sep 03, 2009 3:31 pm

Jay,

This will be my last post on this site. I feel i have contributed my bonsai experience with everyone and for the benefit of all. Like i said on another thread, years ago people didn't have the benefit of the internet and the huge amount of information contained in specialized sites like this one. Instead of benefitting from the informations neophytes choose to challenge and detract he validity of years of experience with weak commentary.

Goodbye and happy bonsai!!!

Jose L. Rodriguez Macias

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Re: Ficus nebari development

Post  Jay Gaydosh on Thu Sep 03, 2009 4:09 pm

Jose,

I am sorry that you fee that way. I have learned a great deal about Ficus' from you.

My comments were made to clarify statements made by you that I see from a different "angle", not as opinions of you personally. If you find that offensive, it was not intended to do so and I apologize.

Regarding your decision to leave, that remains your decision.

Jay

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Re: Ficus nebari development

Post  Kev Bailey on Thu Sep 03, 2009 7:56 pm

Some disappointing responses have been made in this thread and I would be devastated if it caused the loss of one of our members whose expertise with tropicals is obvious. Please folks think twice before you hit send. Sometimes it is better to start a seperate thread, if you wish to introduce a new topic.

This thread is now locked.

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“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” - Charles Darwin.

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