First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

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First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  EpicusMaximus on Fri Jan 04, 2013 3:20 pm

Hello,

I am super limited in finding trees to work with in my area, but I've been trying to boost my "indoor" collection. I was searching for a Ficus Retusa for the longest time. I own an "S" shaped one which I got around christmas, first I found locally, and everything else I had ever seen was all pretty much in the same exaggerated shape. Yesterday I was super excited to stumble across this non "S" shaped retusa. I thought the tree looked good and could be promising down the road. I especially like the base of the trunk and the overall look of the tree.

The main issue right now for me is that the tree is not in a proper bonsai pot, but this will be solved come spring. In the meantime, I haven't touched the tree yet besides cleaning up some dead leaves, snapping back some broken branch tips and getting rid of any glue on the rocks.

My questions:

There is a branch I am not too fond of. Maybe it is hard to see in the pictures below. But it's the smaller branch protruding from the front of the tree (dead center) and kind of cutting across at an angle. I am interested in removing this branch and was wondering if I should wait until growing season to do so.

Secondly, when I got the tree, the base of the trunk was surrounded by sphagnum moss (I think). I removed this moss. But maybe it's wise to keep it on this type of tree to encourage roots like the small aerial root already present? What would you suggest?






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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  Just Mike on Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:01 pm

ill try to reply in a bit more detail later if someone doesnt beat me to it first...

but, i just wanted to ask why are you having trouble finding material to work with?? he best material to work on is usually not marked as "bonsai" (unless you are talking about pre-bonsai specifically grown for that purpose, or finished trees)...

also, this is just my opinion, but if you are planning on developing the tree further as far as trunk girth, or growing out (or new) branches, or trunk chopping or anything like that...i wouldnt be so eager to put it in a bonsai pot as that will gratly slow down any of those things...matter of fact, i would look into doing the exact opposite and growing it in a larger pot during developement, and then work on root reduction...

just my opinion

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  EpicusMaximus on Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:41 pm

I live about 4-5 hours from the closest bonsai nurseries. Most local garden centres in my area don't carry much selection. Lots of juniper's but that pretty much sums it up.

I'd love to have this tree in a growing pot and make the trunk bigger and encourage new growth. What would I use as soil mix then? Is it still the same type mix I'd be using in a bonsai pot? Also, when moving the tree to a growing pot, should I also make the move in spring before growing season, or is this a non-issue since I wouldn't be doing any root work.

I have turface available as the main ingredient, and also pine bark mulch, coarse sand and access to some other materials if need be. Should I be considering something more organic?

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  DreadyKGB on Fri Jan 04, 2013 5:42 pm

Epicus,
I use turface and some sphagnum moss(10-15%) and it works well for me. As Mike said if you want to gain some size to the trunk then plant in a larger pot and put it outside in full sun when the weather is warm and fertilize like crazy. I have gotten very good growth through the summers where I am using this regime. I leave mine outside until the temps are dropping below 40F at night and then they only come inside overnight. You can prune that branch now if you'd like, as the tree goes outside I would also reduce the branches in the top section to what you see as the future trunkline. These bud from the trunk easily and new branches will grow quickly in the summer. You can root the branch cuttings pretty easily and that should give you something to experiment with. These are pretty tough trees and can take some abuse.

Todd

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  EpicusMaximus on Fri Jan 04, 2013 6:43 pm

I just got back from the only local "bonsai store" (if you can call it that). The owner was an old chinese lady and she gave me a "crash course" on what to do, and it's pretty much opposite to everything I have read online so far. Suspect

First of all, she says I should re-pot as soon as possible, that there is no point in waiting until growing season. I don't see why I should repot the tree now, especially since it was possibly just potted before going to the store. Also, it's showing new buds and growth... I thought I would keep it in it's pot until spring/summer.

Secondly, she says I should use a 50/50 soil mix. 50% haydite and 50% potting soil. This is also contrary to everything I've read (the potting soil part).

Thirdly, she says to put it in an oversized bonsai pot now so that I will start to obtain the root structure I want in the future. She prefers this method to sever root pruning down the road. In other words she thinks a larger bonsai pot for growth is better than a "grow pot". Is it OK to use a larger bonsai pot as a grow pot?

Lastly, I showed her a picture of my tree and she said my tree right now isn't a bonsai, that it's basically a stump with branches growing upwards. (I can't argue with that). At best it's pre-bonsai, but I knew this, and it's the only material I can find. The owner said I should greatly reduce the number of branches rather than wasting energy growing these branches I won't need in the future. She said maybe keep 3. Two should be wired downwards and one should be left to grow more upwards.

OK... so where do I go from here.

I'm thinking:

- Keep the tree alive in it's current pot for the remainder of winter (2 to 3.5 months)
- Repot in late spring/early summer using a mix with a base of Turface and whatever people will recommend
- Use a grow pot (perhaps some sort of not so deep terra cota pot? Or larger bonsai pot if people recommend) - Any suggestions?
- Prune branches before growing season. Unless it's 100% OK to do now? Tree is receiving as much daylight as I can give it during winter.

Thanks in advance for the advice.

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  Just Mike on Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:28 pm

ok...so....where to start.

her advice isnt "wrong" per se...but may be a bit "old school" in many respects, and in my opinion counter-productive in others...

lets start with the pot...the tree doesnt care what you call the pot...large bonsai pot, wodden grow box, or plastic cat litter pan with holes drilled in the bottem...it makes no difference to the tree what so ever as long as it holds soil and offers good drainage...if you are looking at growing out bonsai i would suggest looking into anderson flats and pond baskets...search the forums for those im sure they have been discussed in detail as to their bennifits...

moving on to re-potting...well...she is right with the timing considering ficus are tropical...if you are keeping it indoors you can repot it whenever you want and then move it outside in spring...but, YOU are right in assuming the tree may have just been repotted recently, and if it is just now started to push new buds, then you are most likely right in assuming this...really, you can usually tell by the soil weather it has been repotted recently...especially with a ficus since they grow roots so quickly it doesnt take long before drainage slows...but, you dont really have anything as a reference or to compare it to, so maybe its not so easy for you to say for sure...which brings me to the point where i employ you to ask yourself a question that you should probably always ask before doing anything in bonsai anway...what could be gained by doing (fill in the blank), and what are the risks? this tree was just moved to a new enviornment, is just starting to show new growth, and seems to be just fine how it is...so really, what could you gain from re-potting it now instead of the spring (when you know for sure it will be safer for the tree)...

as for soil...hear me when i say this...i blame "potting soil" for the deaths of thousands upon thousands of trees and plants every year...i see no good reason to use it unless you are running a nursery, and cost is a significant factor...haydite on the other hand is good stuff and will work just fine...since you dont have a bunch of trees to care for, i would suggest picking up a bag of orchid bark (fir bark) and using 70% haydite, and 30% bark...everyone has the mix they prefer for their climate and certain species and all that, but the 70/30 inorganic-organic mix is a no brainer that will work with anything while you are figuring out what works best for you and your situation...here is another secret though, im pretty sure we care more about the mix than the trees do...i spent a few years chasing butterflies trying to find out the bestes super duperest mix...and i think maybe one year my trees grew an extra milimeter or so...it needs to drain, hold water and nutrients, never get soggy, and be slightly acidic for most species, and not break down quickly...thats really about all there is to it unless you get into the aethetics of it all...

in this case, mixing haydite with potting soil really just gives you "airy potting soil" at best in my opinion...for the old chinese lady, it probably works for her because a)thats pobably what she has done for years, b)she is commercial and cost is a factor c)she is commercial and has many trees to moniter, so a mixture that holds a ton of water might be a good "insurance policy"...

and, finally, as far as your tree being a bonsai or not...she is right...and you already know this...but, i disagree with her approach as to how to train it...firstly, lets ask ourself that very important question "what could be gained from chopping most of the beanches right now"...as far as i can tell, nothing...and it would cause more harm than good...the less foliage, the less energy, the slower it grows...let it gain some strength before doing anything like that...during that time, decide where you want to take it...this is a mistake we have all been guilty of and usually have to find out the hard way, but the tendancy is to get really involved in the pruning and chopping aspect of bonsai while ignoring the growing and planning part (which are more important in the long run)...so what happens? we get out some shears and start to hacking thinking "oh, this branch has to go...and this one is no good...oh, and this one is pointing at a weird angle...et etc etc...pretty soon we look up and realize that we are left with a stick that has 2 branches and we never really even gave thought as to what we wanted the bonsai to look like in several years...so, we spend the next 5 years trying to re-grow it...

here is my advice...leave the tree alone for a bit...look at it...talk to it when nobody is around to question your sanity, and decide where you want to go with it...by the time spring comes wyou will have probably changed your mind a couple times and have a good idea of what you are trying to accomplish...at that time we can re-pot it into a larger pot (shallow and wide is good, especially for ficus as the roots will grow like mad and increas flare at the base)...i would then just let it grow with a good amount of fertilizer for an entire season before doing anything to it...especially if you want to trunk chop or hevily reduce the branches...the tree should be very vigorous when you do this if you want to get the full bennifit of back budding...

just my opinion...

oh...and about your lack of material issue...man, i would love to have a nursery full of junipers around me...im sure you can atleast find a couple in there to play with...and, trust me when i say this...there is material all around you, you just havnt noticed yet...they dont always have to come from a nursery, and the kind that are most fun and most rewarding usually dont...food for thought.

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  EpicusMaximus on Sat Jan 05, 2013 2:33 am

Thanks for the awesome reply.

So helpful.

Can I use turface instead of haydite and obtain the same results? Or does haydite do something more? I'm asking because I already have turface and I've sifted it to the right size and all.

Thanks again!

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  Just Mike on Sat Jan 05, 2013 6:00 am

EpicusMaximus wrote:Thanks for the awesome reply.

So helpful.

Can I use turface instead of haydite and obtain the same results? Or does haydite do something more? I'm asking because I already have turface and I've sifted it to the right size and all.

Thanks again!

you are welcome...glad i could help.

yup...turface works great...like i said, the tree doesnt care too much as long as it meets certain requirements...there are all kinds of substrate you can use.


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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  nickalpin on Thu Jan 10, 2013 6:05 pm

Just a brief note... you'll often hear/read strong opinions regarding styling, pots, soil, etc. Some voices are louder than others and those opinions are sometimes adopted as fact or gospel. I've learned that the best solution is what works best for you. The advice she gave may work for her, but may be more difficult for someone else to incorporate. Keep in mind the variables in your particular situation, and general principles can be applied to resolve any needs/issues. Hopefully that makes sense and may help when experiencing difficulty.

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  EpicusMaximus on Thu Jan 10, 2013 7:56 pm

Thanks everybody.

The tree is doing great so far. It's lost 2 larger leaves only, and has put out about 20 new leaves already. It's enjoying it's time near the window with my 2 other ficus

Very Happy

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  Twisted Trees on Thu Jan 10, 2013 8:09 pm

I would first decide what style of tree it will be. Right now it has the look of an unconventional broom style. If you want an informal upright then you need to decide on a trunk line and decide which branches to keep and wire them down.

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  MikeG on Thu Jan 10, 2013 10:50 pm

Got some good potential for sure. I hear ya on finding good material in regular nurseries. Canada is seriously lacking in anything catering to bonsai compared to the states and europe. Only a couple around here and most of their stock is chinese imports. Have you checked out Bonsai Gros-Bec just outside of Montreal? I have some family there so if the nursery is worth the drive up there I could kill two birds with one stone. Smile

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  EpicusMaximus on Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:01 pm

Funny you mention bonsai gros-bec.

I also have family there! About 25 minutes away in St-Jean-de-Matha near joliette.

I am planning on visiting that nursery in the spring/summer for the first time.

Very Happy

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  MikeG on Fri Jan 11, 2013 10:12 pm

Great! I'd be very interested in hearing about it if you do make there. Their website isn't very good, and with a 5 hour drive to get there I'd love to know if it's worth the drive.

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First ficus retusa microcarpa tiger bark

Post  moyogijohn on Sun Jan 13, 2013 10:20 pm

FIRST You have a nice looking tree to work with.. this is a question for someone,,, with all the branches (trunks) at the top,,will that not make more inverse taper with what is there already ???? i would chose the branches i wanted to keep,,chose a new trunk line,,wire those branches down some..then i would prune the rest off.. only my opion .. see what every one thinks. nice tree !! take care john

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  augustine on Mon Jan 14, 2013 4:03 am

EpiMax,

I think you've been given good advice and, in my opinion, 70% turface and 30% bark will be a great soil mix.

Keep ficus on the dry side when growing indoors. Place a bamboo skewer in the soil and only water when completely dry. The plants will, of course, require more water if kept outside during the summer. (Touch the skewers to the sensitive skin on your inner wrist, if it's cool don't water.)

Barring unusual problems and assuming a proper environment, improper soil and watering are the main tree killers.

Best to all,

Augustine
Central MD - 7a

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Ficus Microcarpa

Post  bonsaisr on Mon Jan 21, 2013 3:21 am

Let's get the name straight. There is no Ficus retusa in the bonsai trade. Period. In fact there is only one specimen known in cultivation anywhere, in Indonesia. Anything you see labeled retusa is Ficus microcarpa. Tiger bark fig is Ficus microcarpa 'Kinmen.' Note species are in italics when available. Cultivars are in roman type with single quotes.
I have an obstinate tiger bark that looks like yours. It is very difficult to get back budding on the trunk in the North. If you want branches lower down try thread grafting. I wouldn't do anything drastic right now. Watch the watering very carefully and repot later in the spring. You can wire the branches down now. Keep pinching the ends frequently to get smaller leaves & better ramification.
In nature Ficus microcarpa has a broad mushroom canopy with a very short trunk.
Iris

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  Ryan on Mon Jan 21, 2013 3:39 am

bonsaisr wrote:Let's get the name straight. There is no Ficus retusa in the bonsai trade. Period. In fact there is only one specimen known in cultivation anywhere, in Indonesia.


This is very interesting Iris, do you have any more information on this?

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  Just Mike on Mon Jan 21, 2013 6:05 pm

moyogijohn wrote:FIRST You have a nice looking tree to work with.. this is a question for someone,,, with all the branches (trunks) at the top,,will that not make more inverse taper with what is there already ???? i would chose the branches i wanted to keep,,chose a new trunk line,,wire those branches down some..then i would prune the rest off.. only my opion .. see what every one thinks. nice tree !! take care john

i guess when i was responding about letting the tree grow and not chopping off too many branches yet, i was already taking into account the reverse taper, and assumed that a future chop would elimanate that area, so letting it grow and get more reverse taper in that section wouldnt be a concern to me since i would chop all the way down to the branch right under that section, and let that branch become the new leader...

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  EpicusMaximus on Mon Jan 21, 2013 9:15 pm

well... the tree was doing good, and producing a lot of new growth, so I chose to chop the taper off now so I can re-pot in the growing season. I didn't touch the branches up top yet but will do so later. Removing the taper and the small branch growing on the front was enough for now.

This is a learning tree for me. It was actually my first time using concave cutters.

Here it is now:


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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  Just Mike on Tue Jan 22, 2013 3:31 pm

just a couple suggestions...first, that cut on the front where you removed a branch...i would go deeper next time...you will see what i mean when it starts healing over...that scar is going to bulge out quite a bit...this isnt something you did "wrong", its just one of those things you learn to get a feel for after making a few cuts and seeing how they heal...and second, i would suggest whenever possible, wiring 2 branches with the same length of wire...i find it to be easier, and the wire is more secure...it may not seem like that big of a deal, but loose wire, or wire that isnt anchored well leads to all kinds of curse words and banging your head against hard objects...i think of it like this, and maybe it will help...a branch comes off a trunk, so i wire from trunk to branch, and the trunk acts as my anchor point...and a secondary branch comes off a branch and the primary branch acts like my anchor point, so i wire from branch to secondary branch...


this link has a couple illustrations that may help

http://www.bonsaiempire.com/train/wiring


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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  MikeG on Tue Jan 22, 2013 3:42 pm

I got alot from Graham Potters youtube video 'bonsai wiring-not for dummies' when I started out. Good overview of wiring basics and well shot.

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  Just Mike on Tue Jan 22, 2013 4:01 pm

MikeG wrote:I got alot from Graham Potters youtube video 'bonsai wiring-not for dummies' when I started out. Good overview of wiring basics and well shot.

and while you are done watching that video, just go ahead and watch all of Graham's videos...he has done everyone a big favor by uploading all kinds of good stuff

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  EpicusMaximus on Tue Jan 22, 2013 5:18 pm

Thanks for the tips. I will look into this. If in the future the scar on the front is too thick and bulging, can I cut it again, or would you advise that I should address this problem now, while my original cut is only 2 days old?

Also for wiring I was told by others I should use the trunk Smile I'll rewire shortly.

This was my first time doing any type of work. I had fun

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

Post  Just Mike on Tue Jan 22, 2013 7:15 pm

EpicusMaximus wrote:Thanks for the tips. I will look into this. If in the future the scar on the front is too thick and bulging, can I cut it again, or would you advise that I should address this problem now, while my original cut is only 2 days old?

Also for wiring I was told by others I should use the trunk Smile I'll rewire shortly.

This was my first time doing any type of work. I had fun

you can cut it again now if you want, or you can wait...might be best to just wait until spring, and then go back and clean that area up...matter of fact, in some cases, like a trunk chop for example, you may find it helpfull to not make the cut flush with where you eventually want it...leave like a 1/2"-1" stub, then wait for that area to die back naturally...then go back and clean that area up...this is especially helpfull for large chops, heavy bleeders, or species prone to die back...


i wouldnt re-wire right now...wiring causes little micro breaks...i would just leave it how it is for awhile to make sure that the tree has some time to heal those micro fractures...honestly, its a ficus and you didnt do any major bending so it probably wouldnt matter much in this case if you decided to re-wire, but with some species it does matter and you can end up loosing branches or worse, so its good to start developing the right habbits early...

just my opinion

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Re: First ficus retusa (microcarpa) - tiger bark

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