Yeah, it’s another trunk chop, like butta!

Here’s an easy one for me, but maybe not so for you all.
Exhibit A:
Ficus salicaria, or willow leaf ficus to us non-Romans.
Dave (you guys remember Dave, right?) won this tree on the raffle table at the last BSF convention.
If you read the title, you know what I’m going to do.
Let me set the scene:
It is July 27th, about 90 degrees Fahrenheit and the middle of the rainy season in Florida.
Which means that it’s cooler (no, really, in the summer it doesn’t get that hot here.) than a lot of the northern U. S. But it is a lot more wet and humid (the heat index is around 100).
We are hanging around at the end of this month’s study group meeting with Guest artist Hiram Macias from Miami.
We are drinking beer (which might explain everything) and I’m studying this tree.
I’ve been looking at it all meeting and it’s time for the saw.
I’m going to cut it about here:
And that’s what I do.
You should have seen Hiram’s face.
He said something to the effect of,
“…whoa! That low?”
I said,
“Yeah, it has all kinds of reverse taper..see?”
He looked at me, and then at Dave as if to say,
“¿es este pendejo mal de la cabeza?”
Maybe, Hiram, maybe.
Here’s Dave with the top.
Wait, is he flipping me off?
Hijo de puta! Cabrón!
The tree now.
There’s a saying that’s used often by the old timers in Florida.
I think it originated either with John Naka or maybe Mas Imazumi.
It goes,
” I can make that tree with one cut…”
And I did.
Well, I had to add one wire too….
When I trunk chopped it, I cut it to a branch, as is my SOP.
But the new top was a bit horizontal.
So, with a bit of wire.
We have an apex reaching for the heavens.
Or something like that.
And yes, the wire is a little messy, sorry.
You caught me wiring dirty.
That’s ok, no one will see it anyway.
The chop scar was covered with the putty version of cut paste.
From my experience, it seems to work best.
I gently removed the old potting soil and trimmed a few crossing roots, and I put it back into the same pot with some good bonsai soil.
It’s grown quite a bit in the last few minutes.
Y’all need to move to Florida and experience our jungle-like growth.
Well…that’s actually the top.
It’s way too big to throw out and it’s a perfect cutting; it will root in that pot.
That’s Florida ficus for you.
Enough fooling, here’s the tree.
You like that orange bucket behind it, don’t you?
It’s like a rising sun.
Get it?
All the tree needs now is lots of sunlight, fertilizer and water.
Everything your books tell you not to do after a major trunk chop and root pruning.
A ficus in the heat of summer wants to grow, so you gotta give it what it needs.
And that pertains to the whole world; if your temps are hot, your ficus should be growing.
Push them, fertilize more (you should see how much Jim Smith, THE tropical bonsai guy, puts on his trees) and trim the damn things.
Don’t be afraid to trunk chop either, have a beer if you need some courage.
In fact….amigo, por favor, uno mas cervesa!

Trident Maple update

A quick update on the trident I chopped back in this post.
It was funny the response I got from that entry. Some people were horrified and some people were ecstatic.
Here’s how we left the tree.
It tree looked like this at the beginning of the post.
Now you can see why that chopping session garnered such strong emotions.
Here it is today.
See, I didn’t kill it.
It’s actually growing well; just look at how much the cut has healed.
And the tree has put out a branch just where I needed it.
Right on the bottom of the big chop!
And even an alternate too.
I’m not going to do any pruning now, I’ll give it another month or so to harden off and gain strength.
So that’s it, a quick update.
Now I gotta go pee, I’ve had me about 15 Dr. Peppas….

A trident maple getting my “usual” treatment

Here’s another chunky monkey trident maple I have the privilege of working on.
If you are wondering, after the suggestive title, what my usual treatment might be you are about to find out, my friends.
My friend Dave, who shall be making an appearance later on in the post, likes to tell the story of when he first met me.
He had a two foot tall ficus salicaria (a willow leaf ficus) that he had paid a good penny for and he was really proud of it too.
The trunk was at least 2 inches thick with a 3-4 inch nebari (as I recall).
I told him to chop the trunk about 4 inches up from the base.
He thought I was an asshole, but he did it.
When he got home, his wife wondered what happened to the tree.
She wasn’t happy either.
Here I went, cutting off 80% of the tree and now it was just a sharp stick.
I don’t think she’s ever forgiven me.
Hee hee.
Beware of Adam and your tree.
The trunk chop is how we roll in Florida.
Things grow so fast that it’s always an option to chop the trunk. Especially with a ficus.
Anyway, this is a trident.
First, does it grow as fast as a ficus?
Prit’near does. (Sorry, prit’near is a Southern Saskatchewan word which is a contraction of “pretty” and “near” and means “almost”).
I have quite a trunk to chop
I do not enjoy moving this tree. Hopefully it will be a whole lot lighter when I’m done. I’m figuring about six inches from the soil level.
First, as always, I must address the roots.
The tree was field grown and dug up and as a result, some I the roots are long, straight and have no taper.
And during the aftercare of the tree the soil degraded and some of the roots didn’t quite make it into the soil.
A few more views of the tree:

This is the front I’m going with at the moment.
As I warned you about earlier (and I did warn you) let me introduce (again, he’s made several appearances here)
Yes, that is a babies blanket on his head and, yes, it has yellow duckies on it.
He had forgotten his hat and, since he’s bald as a cue ball, he needed something to protect his tender scalp from the brutal Florida sun.
I feel sorry for his poor daughter, Krystal, when she snuggles up to her blanky at nap time and she smells it.
I can see her saying “Papa, it’s so stinky, go wash it now!”
Poor girl.
She has daddy wrapped around her finger though.
Back to the tree and the “root” of the problem…..ahem.
That’s better. Since the roots weren’t even in the dirt, this won’t hurt the tree.
Now, the trunk.
That’s a big chop.
I’ll try to root that top, I’ll let you know if it works.
Did I cut off enough?
Naw, if I don’t cut it back more I’ll have some terrible obverse taper.
That’ll do.
For now.
I just need to clean the cuts and let it grow out.
I’ll wire the new branches as they develop, giving them a downward cast.
One problem I need to take care of in the future is this chop.
I might carve it out, or fill it with epoxy or cement to encourage it to heal. As it is it won’t heal.

But I’m not too worried about it now though. It’s the branches that I need to grow.
This is my sketch.
What I need is a branch to grow at the turquoise arrow on the next pic.
Just below that cut. There is a bump that could possibly be a bud but if I don’t get a shoot I’ll have to thread graft one on.
That’s another post for next year.
Oh, and the red arrows are just pointing out some important things.
There, and there.
I’m glad I showed you them.
That’s it for now.
I will wait to fertilize it until I get about two or three sets of leaves and they harden off.
I want short internodes (branches closer together) and if I fertilize now, the tree will shoot out growth too fast and then I won’t have many little branches (long internodes) where I might need them in the future.
Next post is how I got my neea ready for the Epcot show. There will be carving, trimming, mossing and getting all oiled up.
Should be exciting, right?

Two quick trees and some fall color (yes, in January)

This will be a quick post on two unusual trees and a parting shot of some rare, late color on one of my red maples.
The first tree is a Brazilian Raintree that I propagated through an air layer (which was in this post: Let’s Airlayer Everything!).
Airlayering a Brazilian Raintree is one of the best ways to propagate them. Cuttings are difficult, seeds are a rare occurrence, and you get a better nebari with an airlayer.
The work on this tree is indicative of the many little adjustments I will do to a tree as I am working in the nursery.
I’ll be pulling weeds or watering and I’ll see a tree and be drawn to a feature that just pops out at me.
This little tree:
has a nice twist in the trunk but the top part is straight.
A little wire:
A little bending:
And we have a very extreme and dramatic tree that would be a nice little tree now:
Or, after 2 or 3 years, imagine a tree with a trunk size 2 or 3 times larger- with that bend.
A Raintree trunk and branches are impossible to move when they’re older. Work a tree when you can.

Next tree- an American elm.
The tree was collected last year by me and my friend Guaracha over by my other friend Walt’s house.
As tools we had a small trowel, a machete and that’s it.
The 2 x 4, I mean, tree suffered a little, ah…shall we say, trauma.
Here it is:
Yes, it’s a tree.
It looks like a 2 x 4.
I didn’t take a before pic because the transformation was not very dramatic.
The, ah..trauma, occurred when we were rocking the tree back and forth trying to “pop” the tap root (remember, we didn’t have proper toolage) and the tree split in half from the roots up the trunk.
We kinda looked at each other and Guaracha asked,
“Is it gonna live pendejo?”
I said,
“I don’t know cabron, let’s see.”
And, as you see, it did.
It certainly is, shall we say, different.
I can hear the establishment bonsai people saying:
“What da’ fahk are ya’ thinkin’ with that piece o’ shit? There ain’t no taper, it’s a dee-sid-you-is tree ya’ idjit, no deadwood on them. It ain’t bone sigh material. Throw it on the burn pile”
Sorry, I disagree.
Horticulturally, it’s thriving-
The edge is rolling over the…trauma, and all those branches are new.
My plans for the future:
The shoot on the left I did not prune, I just added wire on the base of it.
That will be the thickest leader and the “apex”.
I wired movement into each branch, some I pruned to slow the growth, some I left alone to help thicken faster.
I don’t plan too much carving on it, only when needed. I want the wood to be totally natural looking, which might need carving to achieve that.
It might not (you like that cocky attitude? Damn right I can “make” a carving look natural. I’m a damn Rockstar!)
Speaking of rockstars, to quote Bob Ross “here’s a picture of a happy tree”
Let me know what you think, just be prepared to defend yourself.
Like I said, it’s an interesting tree.
I like it.
As a parting shot, a tree you’ve seen before, but not with fall color.
It’s a red maple (acer rubrum).
The trunk is totally hollow.
It’s growing exceptionally well considering it’s in Florida and it is hollow.
Most floridians think that a red maple is a junk tree.
This one has been pretty good to me so far.
That’s it, just a quick post.
Next, some reader’s trees.

Some chopping, some refining, and a piece of…

Let’s take a look at three trees and see if I can form a coherent and connected narrative out of the techniques I used on them.
The trees.
An ilex schillings that needs some refining.
A bouganvillea that I’ve pretty much styled.
And a juniper that needs…. something.
Each of these trees were worked on at different times and under different circumstances.
Let’s look at the juniper first.
I was leading a bring your own tree workshop and this was one of the victims.
It’s transformation is the most dramatic but it’s also the simplest in execution (execution….that’s called foreshadowing..hee hee)
Three steps.
Believe it or not, it was styled as it was sitting in the pot. Don’t ask me why.
First step, change the planting angle.
The next step, one small cut…whoops!
Third step, wire.
Ah, looks like a tree now.
I did strip the bark from the leftover branch and did a crude carving.
Here’s a digital doodle to show you the tree in a pot.
And, you guessed it, a sketch.
The reason I chopped all that off the top was, first, it had no taper. And, second, the bends were not interesting at all. It was a large, boring s-curve.
Thirdly, it was dramatic.
Life (and workshops and even blogs) are, really, just a performance.
To badly paraphrase The Bard…life is but a bonsai bench and we….we are but bonsai on that bench…..or something like that.
Which segues nicely into the next tree.
A bit of performance art, if you will.
Most won’t allow it to be bonsai, let me know what you think.
I don’t have any before pics at all but I’ll give you the history:
It’s a bouganvillea glabra, red, that was a cutting. Most of it has rotted out.
But a bougie is almost a legacy of vegetative persistence.
As far as the tree and it’s style, I could give a whole treatise (as modern artists are almost required to do nowadays) on it.
Let’s just call it a bunjin, or literati if you will.
But mostly I’ll let the tree speak for itself.
The first and last pics are how I like to look at the tree.
Tell me what you think.
The next tree is a bit more bonsai-ish, it’s an ilex vomitoria, shillings-
I’ve let it grow unchecked for a few months. It’s had a bout of blackspot that I’ve beaten back until next year (hopefully).
It is a bit late in the season (middle of November) to be trimming it, but if I protect the tender new growth from a frost (unlikely but possible. Let’s hope for none at all) it should be ok.
The first step was removing all the ups and downs and old inbetweeners.
When I do an initial styling I will tend to keep more branching than necessary. Sometimes the reason is horticultural, and sometimes it’s just to fill a space.
This branch is now unnecessary.
So long branch.
It’s growth was also just too much different than the rest of the branching.
When pruning the tips, simplify to only two branchlets at each split.
And try to think ahead to the wiring stage….can this upward growing rebel bet wired into shape?
Why, yes… yes it can.
Now, to the wire.
I start at the bottom and work up.



The last three pics above are the right, left and back.
The drumroll please ……
The before
And the after…
Faithful readers will recognize this tree form three or four previous posts. The last in the string is here.
And, rereading it, I did exactly as I said I would.
Strange that I could be so consistent.
I gave the tree a light dusting of fertilizer (my go to, Milorganite) and refreshed the soil.
My plan now is to keep the watering to the minimum I can and hopefully get another flush of growth. Let’s hope the weather cooperates.
Now, for some shameless self promotion-For those readers in Florida,
I’ll be at the Brevard Zoo in Melbourne this Saturday and Sunday (November 16-17) selling some trees and performing a demo at 1 pm.
The Bonsai Society of Brevard is having their annual show and there will be other vendors, a world class display and demos all weekend. It’s a fun bonsai show to go to.
Hopefully I’ll see you there.
If not, I’ll be posting soon on the demo tree I work on.

Ficus microcarpa: Da’ Beast

This post requires a visit to the armory
I Choose my weapon,
This is still sharp enough, I hope
Time to tame Da’ Beast.
His lair
Verdant and growing on both sides: The Greenhouse
There he is!
What a beauty!
He doesn’t want to leave his lair. He’s holding tight to the ground
Ficus microcarpa. Though it looks like macrocarpa with those big leaves
I think the pot has given up the ghost
I got this tree from Ray Aldridge, proprietor of Bonsai World in Windermere (no longer in business I’m afraid. In fact, he gave the tree to me when he was closing up shop)
It was a little smaller then.
But I thinks it’s been 8 years or so I stuck it in that spot.
Let me set the scene:
It’s Sunday, high noon, August, Orlando Florida summer with 100% humidity.
Last night I went to Soldier City Saloon in St. Cloud, FL to watch a friend’s band, Papa Wheelee. We got home at 2….ish
They put on a spectacular show (its a cover band) and the bar has cheap drinks.
My only complaint: the band could be louder, turn it up to 11 guys
My ears just weren’t bleeding enough after the show.
I was a little wobbly, but I blame that on the rum, bourbon, beer, Irish car bombs etc.
And that’s is why I didn’t start extracting Da’ Beast until noon.
I should’ve waited.
Now, I know I won’t be believed but, generally, I don’t get hangovers.
I didn’t have one when I woke up at 9:30.
Or when I walked out and prepared the implements.
After this cut though
My head began to pound.
Needless to say, it was not fun.
But, I am a bonsai warrior. The trees must be styled, collected, repotted, wired; there is no reclaiming a wasted today.
And today is the day I had planned on this work.
Back to work Adam!
The root mass
Almost done
Look at all that space.
It’ll fill up in a minute.
And now, so I can lift the damn thing, I’ll do some cuts.
Here, here, here
These will root, hopefully.
Now the roots…
I’d say that’s at least 30 lbs of roots
Yeah, right.
My brains may be addled, but not by that much.
To The Nook! (With electricity and reciprocating saws and powerful fans to cool me off. Not to mention a roof and the shade that entails)
And a scant few minutes later…
Now it’s up onto the operating table
A few more cuts, precision ones this time, and a pot and some good bonsai soil, and Bob, will, indeed, be your uncle.
This whole structure has to go, branches, aerial roots and all.
And this middle branch and aerial root up high need to go too
Remove the crossing roots
And the unnecessary ones from the bottom
And that’s the tree
One big chunk of ficus log.
A good training pot for a tree this big is a mixing tub
I drilled a multitude of holes for drainage and I’m using my standard bonsai mix.
For my European brothers, I give you the width in centimeters
And that’s it
Close up of the trunk and nebari
Not much left is there? No branches to wire, no deadwood to carve.
I’ll have to use my….IMAGINATION…
I have some sketches.
Obviously what I’m going to draw may or may not actually happen. It’ll be close though. I need branches at the arrows
And when the branches are thick enough I’ll shave off the excess trunk for better taper
How long will this take?
I will guesstimate (optimistically) about 2 years for the main branching to be in place and about 5-7 years for maturity.
Anyone wanna bet?
I’ll shake on it

S-curve elm revisit, although they’re not really S-curves anymore

Since the last post (clicketh hither) I’ve had some great growth. So much so that I’m glad I was wandering and wondering around the nursery looking for something to do.
If I hadn’t been looking I would have lost shape on some of these and I would have had to start over.
Some of the trees from that last post have been sold so I’m introducing a few new ones. The two main subjects of that one are still here though.
Here’s a new one first
Primarily I’ll be dealing with the mid-season or secondary pruning that’s required if you want well regulated growth and not wild growth.
If you look closely, you’ll see that the first and second branches are growing up.
If I don’t correct them (bad branches) I’ll have a tree with three apices and a big knot.
So it’s to be the wire then….I don’t like to wire in the summer on elms. They grow fast and wire will cut in. And wire cuts on small elms don’t heal as well as on ficus.
First some cleanup and pruning decisions.
At this point I don’t need these little weak twigs (they’re in the wrong place anyway)
And now is a good time to re-cut the wound (on this particular elm. It must be reevaluated for each tree) to speed up and advance the healing process.
What does that mean?
Well, sometimes the callous will just slow down and stop. To reactivate the mechanism you first smooth down the deadwood and then recut the inside edge of the wound. It works.
This will be the eventual leader
I’m not going to prune the current leader off just yet. I still want some more girth on it and some more healing. This is what is called a sacrifice branch.
Let’s cut and wire
And that’s all I’ll do on this one.
Next is the elm I chopped in the last post.
Compared to how we left it
It’s like a whole n’other tree.
Them’s two twigs have all growed up
It’s funny, the one on the right in the first pic looks bigger yet it was the left one that is bigger now.
Or, as I’ve said before, I’m delusional.

Too bad for righty though, he must be removed
And since I’ve achieved the thickness (in a few months!) I want for “numba wan branch” I’ll cut it back too.
And I think I’ll cut the trunk to a line too.
Why am I doing that with this one and not the previous one?
The growth is so much more vigorous, I just feel (and it is pure feeling. Like a Jedi) that this is what needs doing now.
Now for some wire.
One bad result from a trunk chop is that the angle of the new leader is usually too extreme and or leaning too far forward.
That’s why we use wire I guess
Better right?
At this point in the narrative I would like to point out that, even though the leader has been wired and bent, and you cannot see my hands, I promise that I used two hands while bending.
In the next two pics.
I will adamantly assure you that, in the bending process, I had two hands present at all times on the branch in question.
But, since I have only two hands and no assistants or apprentices, I could only take a photo with one hand at a time on the branch. The other hand held the camera ( I am taking a correspondence course on telekinesis and soon all my branch placement will be done by mind power alone. It’s a pay-per-increment class and the last installment of the curriculum will reveal the final secret.)

And since I’m not a web designer with fancy photoshop capabilities, you will have to take both photos and, in your imagination, pretend I’m actually bending the branch with the proper and correct bracing using two (2) hands.

Seriously though, bend branches with two hands. I’ll show you how in an upcoming post called
“Wiring for fun, profit and effect”.

And that’s all I have to do to this tree today
The next tree was one I was going to use for the original S-curve post but didn’t, for some reason. Maybe I am a psycho, er I mean psychic, after all
I chopped this one and potted it into the training pot last year.
A little wound work
A little snip-snip
Some wire and two-handed branch placement

And Bob’s your uncle!

And lastly, if you remember this tree
I’ve let it grow, unwired it, cut it, wired it again and trimmed it twice since the last post.
No, really.
The branches need thickening but it’s still developing beyond expectations.

That’s all for now, I think I’ve made enough of a mess

As a parting shot I’ll again (Jeez, he’s always showing off this tree, gimme a break) show you my favorite little elm.
I’m proud to say that it was an S-curve.

Crepe myrtle bonsai: Can you “grow” one?

And now for the crepe myrtle I worked on in my booth at the BSF convention.
Above is the front and below is the side (that line sounds like a line from a Dan Brown book)

There is a lesson here not only in styling but also in the growing of pre-bonsai stock.
I purchased the tree from D&L Nursery near Ocala Florida (
It was in a nursery container and I potted it into this training pot this March.
Study this pic
What do you see? Those with a practiced eye will see one trunk chop at least.
There are two.
It is often thought by novices that a masterpiece bonsai with a 10 inch trunk and only 2 feet tall was grown by the artist from a seed.
It is true that it may have been a seedling at one point (or a cutting) but its unlikely that the artist who did the first (or sixth) styling grew it that way.
There are exceptions.
Mike Rogers from Deland, FL grows things from scratch.
Erik Wigert from N. Ft. Myers ,FL does.
I do as well.
The difference between the average hobbyist and my friends is the amount of trees we have. I probably have more ficus salicaria cuttings than even the most advanced hobbyist in my club has bonsai trees. The more trees you have the more patience you will have “growing” a bonsai. Or you just don’t have any time to work on it and it grows without you. One of the two.
So, how do you “grow” bonsai trees?
You allow the tree unchecked growth for years, chop it back, allow it to grow more, chop it back, repeat, etc.
That’s what we have with this crepe myrtle.
The first chop site. Completely healed, as you see
And the second chop site
It’s almost healed.
The crepe myrtle is good for these chops because they do heal so well.
I have one more chop to make. I am torn as to where though.
Actually, I have it down to two places.
I could use this front
Or this front
Where will the chop be on each one?
Different places.
Here are some quick sketches.
Hmmmmnnnn? You say,, hum.
The second one is shorter. By a lot.
The second design would require me to chop the tree here
I would do it to. But not this time.
First reason: this variety of crepe myrtle is called “Natchez”. Which means white flowers, BIG leaves and fast growth.
In a small tree the last two things are not really desirable.
Secondly, a chop that big (in a bonsai pot) may not heal. It probably would but I’d be fighting the tree (which wants to be bigger than 6 inches tall) and we should listen to the trees. They have much to say. Some of it not repeatable in mixed company.
Which reminds me of a joke:
These two trees had grown up next to each other and were good friends, weathering all types of storms together.
One was an elm and the other was a beech.
One day the trees were shooting the breeze when the beech spied a seedling growing between them.
He says
“Look Elmer, it’s my baby!”
Elmer says
“I think you’re mistaken Beechy old buddy. It looks like one of mine”
Well, this argument, being acted out by immovable objects with limited sight and unbending backs, went as much as can be predicted.
Eventually it came down to name calling and such.
Fortunately, a wood pecker landed on the Elmer’s limb one day.
Beechy says to him
“Woody, old pal, can you settle an argument for us?”
Elmer says
“Please Woody, to save me and Beechy’s friendship, can you go down (you who can fly and all) and tell us what kind of seedling is growing between us? I say it’s my baby, an elm…”
“And I say beech!” Beechy says
Woody shakes his head yes and flies on down.
Tap tap tap…..he cocks his head, tap tap tap. He looks up and nods yes.
And flies back up, landing on Elmer’s branch.
And he says
“Look fellas, I don’t know an elm from a son of a beech, but, I’ll tell you this..that was the best piece of ash I have ever put my pecker into”
And flies off.

Sorry, where was I?
Oh yeah, the crepe myrtle.
Next step. Those are long branches. About the length they’ll stay ultimately.
So goeth the trunk, as with the limbs
We do this for taper and movement. It is necessary, I promise. If you let the branch thicken without chopping it back you end up with thick, broom handle-like limbs.
Here’s more mayhem (which is legally defined as chopping of limbs, by the way)
And the third trunk chop
Which, on the drawing, is here
If we study the drawing there are some limbs that need culling:
Inside of a curve-
Wrong angle leaving the trunk-
Too many from one spot
These two
From a different angle
This clump of branches will cause reverse taper (or inverse, or adverse…jeez, sometimes bonsai artists are so obtuse with their acute use of words like shohin, chuhin or Jin and shari. “Look where that Shari meets that Jin on your momiji; it has inverse taper, it’s bigger than the nebari even! And why is a Jin on a momiji anyway? At most I can see a uro, but never Jin and Shari. )
Chop chop chop away all!
So here it is after the carnage:
And some wire
And the sketch to compare
And I’m seeing that I need a little more wire…..
What the main theme behind this post is, yes, you can grow a bonsai, but it takes years. And some techniques that might seem extreme.
I’ll do a quick post soon on a willow leaf ficus I grew from a pencil thin cutting and explain the techniques I used getting there. And show off a bit.

So I chopped the trunk and let it grow, now what?

There’s a cute little devil!
This little tree is a ficus salicaria (nerifolia, salicifolia,willowleafyanus) a willow leaf ficus (or narrow leaf).
I like to refer to it as the ficus formerly known as……..


The view from all angles.
Here is the trunk chop site

The tree probably looked like this before

Which is a typical 2-3 year old cutting, albeit this one has a decent base on it.
I got the little cutie pie from Emblem Bonsai out of Southeast Florida. He has very good material and I suggest you look him up.
Anyway, it was probably cut like so

And looked like this

And allowed to grow out for a season ( I bought this in January) The growth is about equal to 3-4 months in Florida, it hasn’t grown since I got it and its March now. Lets kickstart it’s heart.

A willow leaf ficus will almost always sprout all over from the the chop site like this

pushing copious amounts of shoots. One technique for branch selection is to allow nature to choose the strongest leader (it might not choose the best placement though)
Or, choose your own

Start pruning out the little guys

And the ones in bad places


Then let it grow.
How much?
Until the branches are thick enough to be wired without them breaking off.
Which brings us to this point

Some wire

More wire.
Defoliation (so we can see the branches)

And the finished job.

The thing to do now is let it grow.
I’ll repot it soon into a shallower pot. Believe it or not, a ficus is different than any other tree. The base will widen and improve in a bonsai pot.
It will.
S’truth, promise!
Not lyin’

Willow leaf ficus chop


Poor tree. Poor Dave.
If you know me, you’ll know how this will end.

It looks so full. Why would anyone want to chop that pretty tree up?
Why, to make it prettier. Of course.

There’s a good look at the nebari.

That root will have to go.

It goes from the front, up, and around to the back.

Let’s see what else is under the soil.

Usually the root base will be bigger the deeper we go under the soil.

Which is the case here. There are just a few awkward roots.
It helps, when looking for a good front, to look at the tree from all angles.


Uh huh.
I know this technique is taught as a standard procedure and I know that some of you even do it, which is excellent because you should. But if the potting angle you choose destroys the widest point of your root spread, you’ve not really learned the lesson; choose another angle. As an extreme example,I once saw this demo where the tree base had to be 12 inches across. Using upended pots and ties and bungee cords, the artist had propped the tree at a 49 degree angle. It gave a dynamic movement to the tree that was cool. The thing of it was though, if it were potted at that angle, half of the nebari would be buried. 12 inches to 6. Insert joke here.
Beautiful styling and great wiring technique but the artist let the top dictate the bottom. It went from “massive” to “meh…”. If you’re working on a tree (like a juniper or such) which doesn’t have much of a nebari, this “all angles” approach is valid. It’s the movement that would dictate the potting angle. But a maple or a cypress (or any tree similar) with a nebari should be potted to show off that massive base.

With this ficus I will be able to go from “meh..” to, well, a little bigger. 4 inches to 6 inches. Not bad.

Let’s excise this root first. The rest will go quick from here.

I cut the top back. And trimmed more roots.

Now this is constructive “examining” from different angles.

The trick is turning it and angling it just right so that the base is … bigger.

The trunk and branches will be shorter of course (taper, taper,taper) but I left them longer to give me more choices when this buds back.
And bud back it will. Being as its a willow leaf ficus there will be at least 50 new buds to choose from. There will be so many that Dave won’t know what to do. He’ll be all,
“Yo’ bro, what do I do?”. And I’ll be like
” Dude, choose one”
Here’s the after:

Sorry it’s so blurry. It’s Dave’s picture and not my iPhone camera. He has a Droid.
And the before

It will be a cute little pig…. Next year.
Here’s an artist rendering of where this tree should be in 5 years.

Not really (thats my logo tree) but it’s close. I’ll post some updates soon