Wednesday, 6 January 2016

A Group of Ficuses

I've already written about my first failed efforts at growing bonsai in around the year 2000. One of my first trees was a beautiful variegated Ficus Benjamina which I killed due to excessive defoliation because, to be honest, I didn't have a clue what I was doing.

I was really sad to lose that tree and immediately started searching for one like it without success. For some reason those trees seemed to be in short supply at the time, and after a long search the closest I could find was a group of thin trees growing in one pot.

I didn't have the courage to separate them and had no idea back then that a bonsai planting could consist of more than one tree, so I kept them in my lounge as a house plant and set about growing my own bonsai from a cutting.

Over time the thicker trunks grew long and straggly with a fair amount of delicate foliage while the thinner trunks were so weak that they needed support to keep them upright.

Shortly after I joined my bonsai club I realised that they'd be better off outside. I wasn't too happy when all the sickly foliage got burnt by their first exposure to strong sunlight, but happily they soon put out stronger new leaves and have been growing vigorously ever since.

Eventually they grew so tall that the wind kept blowing them over, so I moved them into my little greenhouse, where they still reside.

As they grew the larger trunks thickened a lot but the lower branches started dying off and by the time I realised that I could turn them into a bonsai group planting, reducing the height left them looking pretty bare.

It's been a while now since their first chop and they've started back-budding in a few places, but they were getting pretty top heavy again, so last week I decided to reduce the top growth. Apologies for the missing photo showing them before pruning, but for some reason I forgot to take one. This is how they look right now.

A Ficus Benjamina group in early stages of training

It's been suggested that I keep them tall, but I'm undecided about their future height. Generally speaking I prefer shorter trees, so I'm hoping that they'll eventually give me some decent leaders lower down. Besides the current leader on the tallest tree looks horrible. Unfortunately it's all I have to work with right now.

My only plan for the immediate future is to get them into a bigger pot, and then all I can do is wait and see what new options they offer me when they start growing again.

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