Friday, 4 December 2015

Look before you leap

One of the benefits of attending bonsai workshops is that it gives me the opportunity to exchange cuttings with my fellow club members. Lately I've been giving away a lot more than I've been taking though as I really don't have enough space for more trees. However sometimes I still get tempted.

The tree I'm discussing today is a Ficus which started out life as a large cutting I acquired at a workshop two years ago.

I don't remember the tree it came from, nor whether the cutting was a branch or the original apex, but clearly it was not the first major cut that the owner had made because there was a big bulging piece of deadwood near the base where a large branch had previously been removed. I chose to ignore that though because to cut that section off would have given me a much thinner tree.

So I planted it in a small pot of bonsai soil and waited for it to develop roots. After that I simply fed and watered it and did nothing further until today. I'm pretty sure that when I first planted it, the trunk was upright, but at some stage it had toppled over and was now growing pretty close to horizontal.

Ficus before

The first thing I did was remove the deadwood bulge.

Dead wood where old branch was removed

In its place there is now a deep hollow which I hope will become a feature on the trunk in time to come.

Hollow where dead wood has been removed - before sealing

Once that was done, I had planned to do a little pruning, but when I looked at the horrible angle that the tree had adopted, I realised that I could not get away with propping the pot up to view the trunk at a suitable angle. I would have to repot it first.

I'm really glad I did.

When I started combing out the roots I discovered that there was a substantial piece of trunk buried below the level of the soil. Fortunately most of the roots were right at the bottom and, after removing the two thin roots and potting the tree higher in the pot, it now has a much fatter base. As it's now in a wider pot, it also has lots of space to develop more roots, and hopefully good nebari.

When the repotting was finally done I decided to give it a quick haircut to promote back-budding.

Ficus after repotting and minor pruning

I'll leave major styling decisions until later, but suspect I may reduce the height of the tree to where the arrow is in this photo.

Arrow shows possible future chop

I'm so glad I didn't rush into anything here because, had I gone ahead with pruning before I repotted the tree, I may have cut off something that I'd have regretted later.