Ficus retusa (?) for bonsai?

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Ficus retusa (?) for bonsai?

Post  leatherback on Fri Feb 15, 2013 8:15 pm

Dear all,

This week I received a little ficus bought over the internet from someone who had cared it to death. When it arrived it did look as bad as I expected, so I was not disappointed. I mainly baught it because of the solid trunk, which is hard {read: Expensive} to get in cold northern Europe. And if you do get one in a ship, typically it needs a lot of work to loose the typical retuse look anyway Very Happy.

This ficus has smaller thick leaves grafted on a trunk with somewhat largeer, thinner leaves. After replanting, and letting it get settled, there is a choice to be made. Which direction to take this. The grafts are particularly ugly; Would it make sense to remove all grafted material and continue with only the rootstock foliage? Anybody ideas for a future direction, a visual perhaps?

Some images:




Last edited by leatherback on Sat Feb 16, 2013 4:25 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Ficus Microcarpa

Post  bonsaisr on Sat Feb 16, 2013 1:15 am

I suppose younger people don't know what I mean when I say I sound like a broken record. In the old days of 78 rpm, if a record was damaged, it kept playing the same short segment over & over again because it couldn't continue tracking. Here goes the broken record. The correct name is Ficus microcarpa. Mind you, I got this with help from the late Professor Berg himself. Ficus retusa is not in the bonsai trade at all. There is only one known specimen in cultivation, in Indonesia. Everything you see labeled Ficus retusa is actually F. microcarpa.
If I were you, I would ditch the grafted branches. You can probably root them & get some nice little trees. Your tree has some awkward sections, branches on an inside curve, two branches in one place, etc. Thin out a few of the bunchy places. However, don't do much until spring, just prune & pinch lightly, a little at a time, until you can put it outdoors. Watch closely for scale. Watch for deposits of nectar on the leaves. That means there are insects around.
Don't worry about the size of the leaves. Ficus reduce very well with constant pinching.
Iris

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Re: Ficus retusa (?) for bonsai?

Post  leatherback on Sat Feb 16, 2013 7:44 am

Hi Iris,

Thank you for your input. I am sure you do not refer to me when you say that younger people don't know broken records. I am still very much from the {last} record generation Very Happy.

When it comes to microcarpa / retusa I suppose marketing of swollenb-root-bonsai-figs all around has made the retusa name stick with many many people and sites. Even though I know the discussion, the retusa still pops in my head, rather than the microcarpa. I suppose a good middle ground would be to use Ficus microcarpa var. Retusa for the smaller leaved variety?

I know there are a lot of problems; The main this I grabbed it for was the trunk and build from there. This would be my first attempt at ficus for bonsai, and it has at the moment my biggest trunk. So you would just use thew original foliage (Which I was hanging towards, as grafts are dificult to get nice, especially when unexperienced), and get rid of all the grafted stock. Considering the poor health this tree is in, I am going to put it back in a container, as currently is has none. Nurse it back to health, which should be fairly easy considering spring is around the corner. And only then will I do major work on it.

Probably best route:
- Get it back to health
- Airlayer / trim grafted foliage
- In the middle of summer: keeping the plant in a moist 'greenhouse' environment with lots of filtered light, stimulating vigourous growth
- Trim back drasticallly, Maybe even removing the top 20-30%, back to one or two inches above the last big trunk cut.
- Let grow out during the second half of summer

Anyone suggestions for a style? I was thinking banyan style, a broad canopy with lots of aerial roots coming from the branches. I am not sure whether this is realistic to attempt in northen Europe?

?


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Re: Ficus retusa (?) for bonsai?

Post  Leo Schordje on Sat Feb 16, 2013 4:07 pm

I would vote for removing the grafted branches, if they are ugly, and not in the places you want there is no reason to keep them. As Iris mentioned, the leaves of the understock will reduce nicely in time.

I would just nurse it to health this winter, in late spring cut off the grafts and root them as cuttings. In spring/summer it is easy to root even fairly thick diameter cuttings, as long as it is warm and humid. I would not waste the time air layering them off. Besides smaller cutting grown F. microcarpa are available and inexpensive anywhere that sells house plants.

For what it is worth, botanical nomenclature is a mess where it comes in contact with 'horticultural nomenclature' and trade names. Trade names are the worst, very often are decades out of date, or completely misleading. Once a marketing effort has made a name stick, vendors don't want to loose the name recognition. Botanically speaking using the name Ficus microcarpa var retusa is even less correct than calling it by the 'trade name' Ficus retusa. I would either call it Ficus microcarpa, with no further notation, or call it Ficus, without pointing out what species it is, as most people recognize the leaf. Or just say that it is the "Ficus retusa of the trade".

Regardless, nice trunk. There is some movement in the trunk. I wouldn't worry about what style to put on it. First get it healthy and see where back buds start sprouting. It may take 2 growing seasons to get it back to health. Remember, you are pretty far north and the warm weather where you will get rapid growth is only 2 or 3 months long. In Taiwan the warm growing season is at least 7 to 8 months. And their cool winter is not very cold. So "a season to get healthy" in Taiwan might be one summer, but in Germany, might need 2 summers to get the same growing time.

Hope this helps. Enjoy

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Re: Ficus retusa (?) for bonsai?

Post  leatherback on Sat Feb 23, 2013 12:00 pm

Thanks Leo.

Meanwhile, the tree is responding well to being moved: it is dropping a few leaves every day, getting over the shock of being moved into a bright airy spot, I am sure. It is also already popping leaves on many branches; The biggest new leaves are already 1cm (1/3 inch) long... So hopefully the tree was not as sick as initially thought. Some spots of the bark have started to throw out buds as well, and there is a clear increase in stem thickness, as shown by little lines showing all over where the bark has expanded. I think it has just been sitting too close to a radiator for a few months, combined with irregular watering, leading to an all-over drying out of the plant. I have good hope that this tree will throw out an abundance of new growth before the end of March, allowing me to start considering layering some of the big sections (Thinking about reducing the height by almost 1/3).

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Re: Ficus retusa (?) for bonsai?

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