Sunday, 20 September 2015

Three Trees Become One

At a recent meeting of my bonsai club one of our senior members spoke about grafting, discussing a variety of different ways in which it could be used to improve our trees.

Although I've seen several of these methods used at workshops in the past, traditional grafting isn't something I've tried doing myself and to be honest I'd probably need a man's help if I chose to try some of the things he demonstrated.

Among the methods he showed us was how fusing several trees together can help to create fat trunks quickly. I used that method to create the tree being discussed here, although my reason for doing so was slightly different.

Tree created by fusing three different varieties of Ficus Benjamina

Many years ago, before I ever joined the club, I dreamed about creating a ficus bonsai with three different colours of foliage - different colour leaves on different branches. I'd seen braided ficus trees for sale on many occasions so that seemed like the obvious way to go. I didn't realise at the time that braiding is not the recommended method of fusing trunks as it can give a rather knobbly effect which never really goes away. You can see that effect in this photo of a tree which  was already braided when I bought it.

Knobbly effect of plaited trunks on a nursery bought tree

Fortunately I started my tree with very young material though, so the effect of the braiding is not so obvious. I used three very thin cuttings from different varieties of Ficus Benjamina and braided the cuttings tightly as soon as they had formed adequate roots to support them.

As Ficus Benjamina is a fast growing species, my tree quickly reached what I regarded as a decent height so that I no longer had to worry about braiding but could focus my attention on branch development. I was spoilt for options and had to remove a few branches to prevent the tree from looking too bushy. There are still visible scars where the branches were cut off, but in time they will become less obvious.

With hindsight I made a couple of mistakes. The first was in my choice of material for the palest leaves. I had two different varieties to choose from and sadly I chose the less vigorous one. The result is that those branches will never be as vigorous as the branches with darker leaves. I'm trying to fatten them up, but I'm not sure I'll ever succeed in getting the balance right.

My second mistake is more a change of artistic vision. I don't find the middle (yellowish) leaf shade so appealing and wish I'd restricted myself to using only the other two colours. I've often contemplated starting a new tree using just those two and hope to do so this summer.

No comments yet, but I'd love to hear your view.

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