a willow leaf ficus story

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a willow leaf ficus story

Post  kevin stoeveken on Thu Jan 29, 2015 6:13 pm

study once upon a time, way back in the winter of 2013 a little old lady from pasadena walks into the milwaukee bonsai society meeting with a willow leaf ficus that she only drove to church on sundays and has had for years and is the original owner, but just can't care for it anymore, so she sold it to me for $20...

here is how it looked then and it was absolutely crammed into that tiny little pot





there then ensued an argument between 2 bonsai vets (with this newbie stuck in the middle) as to whether i should save the nice little pot by sawing the tree off along the top of the pot and then hoping it would make more roots, or just smash the pot...  scratch

as i had already tried my hand at making a couple of bonsai pots that winter,
i wanted to use one of them and i thought it would suit the tree:





so of course i used that as an excuse to smash the pot  Twisted Evil



man !!! that pot was PACKED with roots !!! Shocked



here is how it then looked in spring of 2013





and summer of 2013



and then after just letting her cruise for a year, disaster struck in june of 2014 and i lost the pot i made, but not the tree...
i have already told that story in this thread: http://ibonsaiclub.forumotion.com/t15629-and-then-disaster-struck

so it ended up in a temporary and character-less pot, but at least the bothersome root was gone and she thrived...

here she is posing for her late summer portrait 2014





still though, as i learned more about design, i wasnt exactly pleased with the over-all design, and i had contemplated a trunk chop, but there were elements i liked, and i also wanted to honor the original owner's design somewhat because... well just because... maybe i'm sentimental that way   Sad  Razz  

so i had a better idea and went to work on it at the january arbor arts collective meeting...
one of my goals was to reduce the height and create a new apex,
but more importantly i wanted to bring that first branch down drastically...











over time, i want to work that branch down so that it almost mimics the line of the trunk and then have the branching sweep out almost parallel to the ground... maybe then i will make another pot for it... but so far this tree has a history of broken pots, so we will see.

i am also considering a rock under the exposed roots, and i think it would clasp on quickly and effectively, but unless it is the absolutely perfect rock, i am afraid it would look contrived...

and the jury is out on the most pleasing viewing angle, but that doesnt matter much unless i end up sticking it in the contest one of these years...

study the end. Sleep

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Re: a willow leaf ficus story

Post  JimLewis on Thu Jan 29, 2015 8:22 pm

I think the new height will suit it (although it was looking pretty good when in leaf earlier on, too).  Please do nothing more until you can see it in full leaf again.  

Also, I hope you rethink the rock idea.  Root-over-rock trees are created from scratch, while roots are small and flexible.  They are NEVER (I know, eschew absolutes) truly successful when you try to jam a rock under large, mature roots, and I doubt very much that  it would "clasp on."

That said, you truly need to do something about those roots.  The tree looks a bit like a brontosaurus now, with a long neck lifting off a stout body with short stubby legs.  I'd suggest planting it quite a bit deeper and tilting the entire tree to the right by about 5-10 degrees.

One lesson from this, however, is the kind of bonsai pot to avoid (the kind it was planted in when you got it).  There is no situation where a pot like that doesn't create repotting difficulties.   The "experts" in that initial discussion were right, however, you could have cut it just below ground level and potted it and it likely would have been fine.  And that would have solved the root problem too, in all likelihood.

For now, however, I wouldn't fret about a final bonsai pot.   If you have one a tad larger (deeper) that the one you have it in now, that will give you room to plant deeper and change the planting angle.  

I tilted this one 8 degrees, and it's almost unnoticeable.  Ten might be better.


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Re: a willow leaf ficus story

Post  kevin stoeveken on Fri Jan 30, 2015 12:21 pm

thanks for the input jim...

re: the rock, you are correct which is why i said it would have to be "absolutely perfect"...
which means stumbling upon one is highly unlikely.

and yeah, i was glad to learn that pot lesson early on... i have since avoided pots with an inward over-hang.

at the time, being a 1 year newbie i was appalled and terrified at the idea of slicing the tree off at ground level in order to save what to me was a, perhaps nice, but none-the-less common, and easily replaceable pot... the tree itself however, like every tree, was a one-of-a-kind.

re: the roots, i do not mind the look of the bronto analogy... if i ever find that hard on the eye, i can go a bit deeper to see what it looks like, but for now i sort of like it... i may however take your planting angle suggestion if doing so will increase the flow between trunk and lowest branch.

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Re: a willow leaf ficus story

Post  Precarious on Fri Jan 30, 2015 2:19 pm

I appreciate that you are honoring the original owner's idea. Perhaps that is the most beautiful aspect of the tree, and I don't mean that as a slight to the tree at all. It has a very feminine potential with that trunk and the leaves. Are you concerned about a possible reverse taper? I think a couple of branches may need to go to prevent that, and work with couple of new branches that hopefully sprout lower on the trunk. Also, I think you could fill in with soil, do some root splitting and spreading, and grow moss to frame the nebari.

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Re: a willow leaf ficus story

Post  kevin stoeveken on Fri Jan 30, 2015 2:31 pm

nah... not too worried about reverse taper yet... looking at the older pics vs the new ones it appears that the lower portion of the trunk is keeping pace with the upper portion...

root splitting is something i havent tried yet, but brontosaurususus only have 4 legs ! Wink

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Re: a willow leaf ficus story

Post  Precarious on Fri Jan 30, 2015 3:36 pm

It could be an octosaurus...

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Re: a willow leaf ficus story

Post  kevin stoeveken on Fri Jan 30, 2015 5:17 pm

Precarious wrote:It could be an octosaurus...
HELL YEAH !
then it could do battle with SHARKNADO !!! Twisted Evil

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Re: a willow leaf ficus story

Post  tmmason10 on Fri Jan 30, 2015 8:37 pm

I liked what you had going on in he picture below, minus the root base. The original owners design does not include that base I think that was just a result of cramming it in that pot then neglecting it. I do however like the new dropping branches but suggest you add similar movement to the branches near the top of the tree.

Http://i38.servimg.com/u/f38/17/42/91/79/image12.jOh


Last edited by tmmason10 on Fri Jan 30, 2015 8:40 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Picture)

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Re: a willow leaf ficus story

Post  kevin stoeveken on Fri Jan 30, 2015 8:55 pm

thanks T
and agreed

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Re: a willow leaf ficus story

Post  steveb on Sat Jan 31, 2015 3:34 am

I really like this tree when it is in leaf, though, I think I would like it more if the trunk were shorter.  Have you considered air layering it, say, about half way up the trunk?  Keep in mind that the only thing I've successfully air layered are maples and they are easy.  I'm not sure of the risks involved with figs.  

Jim is right about cramming a rock under a tree with mature roots.  I did this to a fig 4 years ago and it still doesn't look quite right.  Hopefully it will in another 5 or so.  


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Re: a willow leaf ficus story

Post  kevin stoeveken on Sat Jan 31, 2015 1:43 pm

in the words portion of my initial post i mentioned contemplating a trunk chop to shorten it, but decided against it.

re: your rock... thats what i meant about the rock having to be absolutely perfect or it will look contrived...  Wink

i doubt that another 5 years will do what 4 years didnt...

however, if i may suggest: at your next repotting, you should make a few wounds where you would like some roots to be, dust them with rooting hormone, stick it in a deeper pot and bury the rocks & roots all the way up to the root flare... then occasionally (yearly ?) expose the newly formed roots little by little... with a ficus, it might take considerably less than 5 years... especially where you live.

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Re: a willow leaf ficus story

Post  steveb on Sat Jan 31, 2015 1:58 pm

I must have misunderstood you - I always thought that a trunk chop meant discarding the upper part.

I'm hoping that 5 years will thicken the back root and close the small gap on my tree.

I really like your idea about creating root flare. The front root is dull and would look better tapering into smaller feeder roots. I'll do that next spring. I'll have to bury it in a pot because it comes inside October through May. Thanks for the advice.

Now, back to your tree. I really like how the crown was shortened. Please re-post when it leafs out.

Thanks for sharing.

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Re: a willow leaf ficus story

Post  JimLewis on Sat Jan 31, 2015 2:06 pm

A word or two about using rocks with bonsai.

1. The rock used should have real character. Like, maybe, just one tiny step below suiseki character. Just any rock won't do.

2. The rock should "fit" the tree. You wouldn't put a fig on a piece of granite, or quartz, or mica.

3. The rock should look like it belongs in the landscape; it should look like it has been there for a LONG time.

4. The tree MUST look like it GREW AROUND the rock from a seedling.

With no intended offense to Steve, his tree (above) fails on 3 of those 4 criteria.

1. There's nothing distinctive about the rock. It's just a rough, white stone. It is evocative of nothing in the natural world of the tree.

2. It is (probably) a limestone of some kind, which does "fit" the tropical tree (to a point).

3. It is just sitting on top of the soil. A natural stone with a tree that size growing around it would be half buried in the soil; the soil would be climbing up the sides. It would belong to the landscape, be a part of it -- a part that had been there forever, and long before the tree itself.

4. If the tree had grown up around the stone, those large roots would NOT be round. They would be flattened over the stone. The edges would merge with the stone's surface. There would NOT be any gaps between stone and tree (as at the base and on the other side.

I think, probably, that a Ficus would be one of the last trees I'd attempt to plant over a stone (though I know it has been done -- and very successfully, including the classic one of a ficus growing over what looks like a Buddhist temple), but I can offer one example of a root over rock tree of mine that seems to me to work:





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Re: a willow leaf ficus story

Post  kevin stoeveken on Sat Jan 31, 2015 5:46 pm

steveb wrote:I must have misunderstood you - I always thought that a trunk chop meant discarding the upper part.

you are correct, but with a trunk chop the next step of progression begins immediately, where-as with an air layer, one loses a growing season (or part of one) waiting to sever the top...

but in regards to this tree, whether or not the top was kept or discarded, the end result for the remainder tree would be the same...

jim - right on, man... sensible tips for using rocks...

and your example does work very convincingly

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Re: a willow leaf ficus story

Post  steveb on Sun Feb 01, 2015 3:54 am

No offense taken.  I knew it looked like !@#%^&$ but didn't know why, now I do.  I only disagree with you in that it fails on all four points, not just three.  Smile  This was my very first ror.  I used to spend 30 minutes looking for rocks and would find a half dozen propects.  Now, I spend hours looking and can't find one.  Funny.  Anyway, thanks for taking the time to explain staging a proper ror bonsai.  Also, your bonsai is very impressive.  The tree and rock blend perfectly together. By the way is that a privet?      


Thanks again
Steve

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Re: a willow leaf ficus story

Post  kevin stoeveken on Sun Feb 01, 2015 2:55 pm

hey steve... i find my best treasures when i am not actively looking for treasures...
just keeping my eyes open...

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dwarf schefflera over lava rock

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