Ficus benjamina, an old friend

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Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Markus on Wed Dec 08, 2010 2:33 am

This is an old friend. It was purchased as a houseplant around 30 years ago in a 140mm (6”) pot , repotted into a large ceramic pot and lived and grew for all those years in the same pot, never repotted. It was around 180cms (6ft) and very sparse on foliage but had a great root flare. These trees are not known for their ability to back bud, but I chopped it off and hoped for the best after wrestling with it for 2 days trying to get the solid mass of root out of the pot, which curved inwards ever so slightly at the top.
Most of the root mass below ground level was sawn off and the stump potted into a Styrofoam box.
It sat and sulked for almost 6 months when it eventually began to send forth a few new shoots, mostly low down on the trunk.
This pic was taken in January 2007 after it finally showed signs of being alive.

And here it is today nearly 4 years later. There is much to be done to tighten up and reduce the canopy, but it’s getting there slowly. My greatest fear is that by cutting back too far, the tree may not back bud.
These are not the best species of Ficus for bonsai culture, but I love it for it’s history with me.
Height 61cms (2ft) from the pot rim.
With apologies for the busy background, it’s too windy to put up a back drop.
Comments and criticisms are always welcome.

Markus
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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Jerry Meislik on Wed Dec 08, 2010 3:41 am

Markus,
You have brought this material along in splendid fashion. Quite an achievement from a pretty basic start.
Jerry
www.bonsaihunk.us

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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Ravi Kiran on Wed Dec 08, 2010 5:16 am

Hi,

Very interesting to see the progression. The tree has come along very nicely and full credit to you. Yes I do agree that Ficus Benjamina does not back bud easily and share the agony as I have quiet a few of Ficus trees with me. However they do take to grafting pretty good. So incase you are missing a branch here and there, go ahead and do an approach which is the most failure proof of grafts. I have done so on one of my trees with good results. However do remember to do so in the growth season. You being in Oz makes now a good time to do so. Wishing you the best.

Regards
Ravi

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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Guest on Wed Dec 08, 2010 8:18 am

Hi Markus

I like what you have made out of the material, it will become a beatyfull tree when agening.
I do not know about your specie of ficus. But a Natasha will bud back many places on a helthy tree, as soon as the branch have some age. Al branches, also new, must have 2 leaves with new buds left on it. I grow 4 or 5 leaves, and then cut back to 2...this is safe.

Kind regards Yvonne

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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Dustin Mann on Wed Dec 08, 2010 12:44 pm

To repeat Jerry and Ravi, excellent job on development of tree that easily will get branch dieback. I killed one trying same technique of chopback. I also understand sentimental value of keeping history of tree. Have one I call my 'shopping mall' fig. Beside Jerry Meislik's site on Benjamina huge chops, there are a couple other sites such as www.Siambonsai dot.com. Also www.bonsaitip.com/images/gallery/4/bonsai%201-24.JPG, and http://sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak. Can also try www.atelierdobonsai.com Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Dustin Mann

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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Tom Simonyi on Wed Dec 08, 2010 1:01 pm

Well done, indeed....I echo Jerry's and Dustin's thoughts as well. Please keep us posted.

Best regards,
Tom

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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Markus on Wed Dec 08, 2010 7:38 pm

Thank you all for your encouraging comments. Another of the problems with weeping figs is that they tend to have rather long internodes, which results in branches growing out longer than one may have intended. The dilemna I'm facing with the tree right now is that I feel the need to reduce most of the branches by almost half their length to tighten things up, but knowing that some branches may die back scares the pants off me.
The tree also suffered the indignity of having a large palm frond fall onto it while it was still in the grow box and developing. You can see the scar at the point where the branches radiate from. So once again it was just a stump, but nature works in weird ways and it sent forth a number of shoots from around the break.

Markus
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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Jerry Meislik on Wed Dec 08, 2010 7:49 pm

Markus,
They won't die back if the tree is healthy, growing and you leave some green leaves on branches.
Jerry
www.bonsaihunk.us

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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Markus on Wed Dec 08, 2010 8:19 pm

Thanks Jerry, when you say some green leaves on the branches, do you mean that the leaves need to be before the cut or at the growing tips of the branch. Forgive my ignorance, I have none of this worry with any of my other trees, but this tree is almost like a member of the family and I'd hate to experiment on it and have the exercise go all pear shaped.

Markus
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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Jerry Meislik on Wed Dec 08, 2010 8:22 pm

Markus,
Safest to leave green leaves on the branches that remain. Try not to cut back beyond the leaves and then leave no leaves.
Jerry

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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Markus on Wed Dec 08, 2010 9:54 pm

Ok, thanks Jerry, I thought that must have been the case.

Markus
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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Pola on Thu Dec 09, 2010 1:45 am

Looking good! How good is benjamina when it comes to reducing leaf size? Does it reduce at all? I'm working on a shohin and it's coming along nice. Just hope the leaves can be reduced...

Pola
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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Ravi Kiran on Thu Dec 09, 2010 5:33 am

Hi Markus,

One of the things that I have painfully realised over the years is the harm that we inadvertently do to the tree by not defoliating the tree regularly. This is applicable to all the ficus species. Besides bringing a fresh and vigorous round of new foliage to the tree it also reduces the leaf size.

Here I'd echo what Jerry has been saying about leaving leaves on the tree. This is a precaution that one takes at the time of defoliation. When I delofiate, I leave the last leaf in a branch and remove all the other ones including the buds. This ensures that the branch does not dieback and also makes the tree put forth new growth. The removal of the buds ensures that the new leaves that come are smaller then the old ones which were removed. One the tree starts back budding then I'd cut that last leaf from each branch. Doing so also reduces the inter-nodal distance of the new growth and compacts the growth.

Here in India I defoliate twice a year firstly in spring (Feb) and secondly in the peak of our rainy season (July). Being in Oz you need to reverse the months for Spring and Late summer. Let me assure that you will not kill the tree but rather have a healthy one. I am sure that you feed the tree regularly with the usual fertilisers which take care of the growth nutrients required.

When I was not defoliating the trees, the growth was uneven and the ramification was poor and overall tree did not have the healthy look, despite regular feeding and everything else that could be done. However once I have started defoliating the trees, the turnaround is dramatic.

My comments above are ONLY for FICUS species.

Wishing you the best of luck Smile

Ravi

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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Guest on Thu Dec 09, 2010 9:15 am

Hi Ravi Kiran
Thanks for sharing....Kind regards Yvonne

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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Markus on Thu Dec 09, 2010 7:30 pm

Ravi, very good information and thank you for sharing it with us. The tree has only been defoliated once and that was in early summer, December here in Oz, last year. It responded very well. I was only thinking a few days ago about doing it again, so your post is very timely. When you mention removing all leaves, including the buds, do you mean the dormant buds at the base of the leaf stem, or any new buds/shoots that may be appearing on the branch? Many thanks in advance.

Markus
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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Ravi Kiran on Fri Dec 10, 2010 4:39 am

Hi Markus,

When I meant the buds I did not mean the dormant buds but the ones that are fairly prominent on the tree. Also when you defoliate, cut the leaf and leave the stalk of the leaf on the tree. That way the dormant buds spring back. If you defoliate including the stalk of the leaf, then you might be damaging the dormant buds.

Here are two pics of one of my ficus Retusa (or is it Chinensis). The first is that of the entire tree. Yes the leaves are large and need to be reduced and it is a matter of a few years (defoliation cycles) when the size of the leaves get reduced. Here is the pic


The second pic is a closeup of the branches. the red lines indicate where the buds (curved red lines) and the leaves need to be cut. You will notice the the last leaf on each branch is not cut for reasons previously discussed.The pic....



Hope I have clearly communicated.

Warm Regards
Ravi

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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Markus on Fri Dec 10, 2010 7:45 am

Hi Ravi, I thought this was what you meant, last year I simply cut the leaves, leaving a a small portion of the leaf attached to the petiole and leaving all emergent shoots intact. Could that explain why I have such long internodes between the leaves? I'm sure now.
Thank you for taking the time to share with us Ravi.
Mark

Markus
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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Ravi Kiran on Sat Dec 11, 2010 5:01 am

Markus,

I too am not very certain about the long internodes but here is a suggestion. You might want to hard prune the branches to the first 2 leaves. That way atleast two branches would emerge from each branch if not more. Repeating this process over a few years will give you good branch ramification and also hopefully shorter internodes. All the best of luck with your wonderful tree.

Ravi

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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Sat Dec 11, 2010 11:20 am

Markus,

here is one of my few ficus anythings. I don't find ficus to be the easiest tree to work with design wise. Easy to grow and keep healthy, yes. This one is a cutting from my very first Ficus benjamina, and that makes it special. It has been defoliated many times, but only once a year and has been fertilized one month before the defoliation.

Placement is full sun, and shoots keep popping out wherever they feel like.
About 13 inches tall [ 33 cm ] x 22 inches [56 cm ] wide and with a 3 inch [7.5 cm] trunk. Clip and Grow [ Lingnan]

Ravi, sent me a few images privately, of some beautiful work with Ficus and another tree, perhaps we can encourage him to make a topic for showing?

After seeing Yvonne's and having contact with Jerry, I have decided to do some work on these Ficus trees of mine.
So after New Years, it will be lifted and looked at seriously.
Khaimraj




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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Rob Kempinski on Sat Dec 11, 2010 11:59 am

F. Benjamina is tricky for bonsai for the problems you all have been describing. I'd recommend making larger bonsai out of them to accommodate the large leaves and long internodes and grow a umbrella canopy. Don't try to make it look like a pine tree.

Rob Kempinski
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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Sat Dec 11, 2010 2:28 pm

Well Rob,

as you always show very impressive miniature Ficus, I thought I would look for other examples of such ficus -

http://www.bonsaihunk.us/ficusforum/FriendsBonsai20.html

The benjamina, here is impressive and perhaps I can try for leaves of this size, but with many more branches at 15 inches [ 38 cm ].
I love a challenge and an experiment.
Khaimraj

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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Guest on Sat Dec 11, 2010 4:51 pm

Hi Khaimraj

Your tree look healthy, this is a good beginning, now you have decided to work more with your ficus...I will look forward to pictures in the future.
I look at your tree, and think..how about remove the top to the left, and the two small ones to the right, tilt the tree to te left, and plant it much deeper in the soil, make a layering in the groundlevel.....and make it a twintrunk- tree.
I can not know if it is possible in the real life. What do you think.

Kind regards Yvonne

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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Markus on Sat Dec 11, 2010 8:01 pm

Ravi, thanks for the suggesion about reducing the long internodes, I defoliated the tree yesterday, so after it has recovered and is growing strongly again, I will try your pruning tip. The weather has finally turned quite hot here now and unbearably humid after all the rain we've had for the past few weeks, I'm not a fan of hot humid weather, but the Ficus seem to love it. and I can almost see the tree trembling with it's anticipated growth spurt.
And yes, I'm sure we would all enjoy seeing more of your Ficus trees. Very Happy

Khaimraj, I tend to feed my ficus quite heavily during the warm parts of the year, topdressing with Dynamic Lifter (pelletised chook poo), and applying fish emulsion and soluble chemical fertiliser mixed with Seasol alternatively, this produces great results for me. The trees are also in full sun for most of the day.

I will post another photo of the tree in a few weeks time after it has leafed out again, I'll show the back of the tree as well this time. I have been torn about which is the better front, so hopefully will get some opinions for you all about that.


Markus
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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Sun Dec 12, 2010 1:48 am

Yvonne,

it is a very flat tree, with an umbrella of foliage, and when I lift it we will both know what can be. Stay tuned, January 2nd is when I start to repot.

I also have a second cutting and an image of the mother tree, which if Markus, doesn't mind I will show so we can have a great laugh.
Stay tuned to this channel.
Khaimraj

* p.s. in this mild island climate, ficus thickens branches and branchlets rapidly.

Khaimraj Seepersad
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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Sun Dec 12, 2010 2:00 am

Markus,

on this side - chook - is the word for - stick - as in a needle or thorn chook you [ yuh ]. So I ask what is chook ?

With ficus, I use only home made compost, as the ficus root seems to have the ability to dissolve or destroy brick particles and silca based gravel. Soil tends to lose it's structure and go to mud - like quality, I see this with elms and attribute it to alkaline properties. Where with tamarinds, the soil tends to clump and I look at that as acidic properties.

In the dry season say end of December to April / May [ varies ] I use a weak lawn fertilizer once a week into moist soil and for the rainy season an osmocote type fertilizer called Nutricote [ 8 to 10 months at 30 deg.c ], by July, most of my trees will have root bound the soil in their respective pots, so the rains cannot harm them.

I will dig up some old images of ficus trees in my yard and we can have a good chuckle.
Until.
Khaimraj


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Re: Ficus benjamina, an old friend

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