A few weeks ago, I found myself walking away from the Golden State Bonsai Federation’s Mammoth Fundraiser with three new stands and a large ficus. The ficus sported a funny, bulbous trunk and a nice, full silhouette. So I did the natural thing people in bonsai so often do – I removed the bulk of the foliage, inadvertently creating a sort of tropical Charlie Brown tree.
Ficus before cutback
Ficus after cutback – ouch!
I fully – and regularly – accept my non-bonsai friends’ critiques about the “beauty” of my collection. I consider this to be part of the intake process. When I get new trees, I focus on getting them healthy, and tree health always begins with the roots. I knew I would soon remove the tree’s soil and would therefore need to remove a commensurate amount of foliage – that’s what led to the big cuts.
The repotting went smoothly. I began by removing the old soil and trimming the roots.
I then went to work on some large roots that didn’t make sense for the tree. One large root in the front of the tree was too large for cutters so I gnawed away at it the best I could and then smoothed the wound with a chisel.
Removing a large root
I didn’t leave many roots. Healthy ficus can typically withstand fairly severe root pruning, especially if the tree is well cared for after the repotting.
Rootbase from above
Rootbase from below
Such a small rootbase made finding a bonsai pot easy. When I was finished repotting, I placed the tree in a greenhouse where it will be misted, but not watered much, for the next month or two.
Ficus – side A
I have yet to select a front for the tree, or an apex – it’s too soon for that. I still need to remove the top third of the trunk to address a large, open wound, and I don’t want to make that final cut until the tree has more vigorous shoots – and plenty of roots. I’ll start thinking more about the future style of the tree when I get to that point.
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