Friday, 10 February 2017

To Cut or Not to Cut?

For some reason the willow leaf Ficus (Ficus Nerifolia) seems really hard to come by in my city. I searched long and hard before I eventually found a bonsai nursery which had one. Yes, only one!

It was really small and quite ugly, with terrible nebari, but it was that or nothing, so I bought it.

That was back in August 2011. At the time it looked like this:

As purchased - August 2011

A couple of weeks later I did a little pruning and wiring and repotted it, burying the ugly roots.

August 2011 - first attempt at styling

With hindsight it would have been better to simply let it grow for a while but I guess I was impatient to turn it into a proper bonsai. And yet five years later it's not there yet. Not even close.

I'm not sure why I've paid this tree so little attention over the years. My photographic records seem to be rather sparse, suggesting I haven't done much work on it. I only remember that at some stage I decided to get rid of the fat ugly roots. When I removed them I planted four root cuttings, three of which survived. But I'll save those for another post.

Stuck away at the back of my greenhouse in its tiny pot, my tree developed quite slowly but by June 2015 it was starting to develop a frame which I could build on.

June 2015

Then one day I noticed a bit of die-back (the lowest branch on the right) so I changed its position in the greenhouse and went on ignoring it.

A couple of days ago I was looking for a tree to work on and noticed that one side of the tree had really shot up.

February 2017

I brought it inside that night planning to cut back the long branches. One problem - I wanted to keep the cuttings and didn't have time to plant them. So I waited.

Next day I prepared two small pots of soil for the cuttings. I was ready to go. But some niggling doubt seemed to be holding me back. Late that night, when I had planned to work on my tree, I came online and read a few articles about willow leaf Ficus instead.

When I went to bed that night I was still thinking about my tree. And that's when it struck me that shortening those branches might not be the best thing to do right now. Well not the longest one anyway.

What I'm considering doing is shortening the thinner of the two branches to keep it in proportion for future use, and letting the one on the far left grow as a sacrifice branch. Of course if the left side thickens up too much it may ruin the framework of the tree, but if necessary I can always find a different style option later. It just feels really stupid not to take advantage of its current vigour which is offering me a great opportunity to let it develop into a fatter tree.

One more thing - it's time it went into a bigger pot!


  1. Good day, if I may? Why not use the long branch as a cascade option going down then turn it to the front of the pot as it lowers and then develop a couple of individual pads.leaving the trunk on the right with its secondary branches as the apex. You can always wire it to see what it would and if you dont, just straighten it up again.

    1. Hi Willem. That's an interesting idea but I'm committed to keeping this tree small and upright. Since writing this post I've wired some movement into the long branch and next summer I'm planning an airlayer to get an extra tree. I like to look at cascade bonsai but they're not really my style.

    2. For a while I havent been a fan of cascade, but sometimes you must take on what nature gives you;-)

    3. I really think a cascade will compliment this tree