This post is just going to cover all the stuff I’ve been working on the past week. I’m going to New York in 4 days so I wanted to get my plants worked before I left. Let’s look at some pictures.

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A Buttonwood. Its finally warm enough at night to defoliate these trees and I’ve been itching to start. Here it was when I received it; a year ago.

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It was repotted, and the angle slightly changed to make it more of a semi-cascade. The soil it was in was very degraded, and it really badly needed to be repotted into new soil. The mix used for Buttonwood, well this one, is the standard FL mix (red lava, Turface, pine bark 1:1:1) and Miracle-Gro potting soil 1:1.

Buttonwood grow in and near water, primarily on the shores, and they root directly in water. Its impossible to over-water a Buttonwood, so the more moisture your mix holds the better, but because its in a pot we still want to develop fine roots, and that’s why the bonsai soil is added.

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As always, defoliate first. Normally I would just pull leaves off but some of these smaller branches would break if I didn’t use a scissor.

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The leaf stems are pretty thick. Plus using the scissor was pretty relaxing. It took the “chore” feeling of pulling leafs and added that sense of calm and relaxation. But it did take 3x as long to defoliate. But when you’ve got beer and nowhere to go, who cares.

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It has an odd branch structure, but it looks natural. If this was seen in the wild, I would imagine it sitting on the edge of a canal hanging down towards the water. It would make sense that the branches on top grow up, and as they aged fell over. The cascading side was growing down the canal edge and when it met the water it started reaching back up for the light. You’ll see this all the time along the shores of rivers.

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After a little bit of wiring and some pruning. I kind of used most of my wire on this tree. It looks a little funny now, but this is the first time its been wired and it will be continued to be worked on this year. I’ll sort it all out once its grown some more. Hopefully I’ll get some buds that will give me new options. Here’s a shot of the shari.

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Its very natural looking, but it could use some lime sulphur but I don’t have any.

My post about my cuttings being developed for Mame talked about Fuller’s Earth. This is a product called ThriftySorb which is Fuller’s Earth and had been soaking in water for 4 days.

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That is what it will do inside of your bonsai pot. And to further my point I will make my hands messy and show you how mushy this stuff becomes.

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And this is Turface that was soaking just as long. Unsieved.

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But people will tell you online that Turface breaks down too quickly and do what the Fuller’s Earth did. I don’t buy it. I also tested Oil DRI with these but didn’t mush it up in my fingers because I already know it breaks down. It did hold up slightly better than Fuller’s Earth though but I still would never recommend it to anyone. 

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This is the NAPA Floor Sweep which is so coveted by those who do not like Turface. Stark white, very powdery out of the bag, says Diatomite Absorbant right on the front and very lightweight. I have been after it for a while because I have a hard time finding Turface locally, I haven’t found it anywhere outside of bonsai nurseries. The nearest NAPA store isn’t too close either, but the bag costs $7.49 or something like that, so I picked up 5 bags to compensate for the half hour drive.

And I incorporated it in my newest batch of soil mix. Its Turface, DE, Red Lava, Soil Perfector, and Pine Bark. The Soil Perfector is an expanded slate product made by the Espoma brand. If you want a bag of it ordered through Walmart, you’ll be spending $36 for 27lbs. There’s a BWI depot in Apopka that sells the bags for $10, so I plan on making a trip to pick up several bags. I also want to pick up some expanded shale. The slate is more of a blue-gray…slate….color and the shale is more of a purple.

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I think the whiteness is toned down by the Soil Perfector and Turface. Adam calls it “The Superman” mix because of the red and blue.

While I let the mix dry after washing it I decided to work on my little Brazilian Rain Tree.

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Its been growing a lot this year. I’ve already defoliated and cut back once. It needs to be repotted.

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The roots are so dense that I needed to use this little tool. Idk what they call it but its shaped like a sickle. Maybe they call it a root sickle.

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After cutting around the pot and prying the tree out.

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That’s a lot of roots.

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Its not a Ficus so I’m going to keep some roots.

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And this was the front. Not much movement or spread.

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Looking for a better base.

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I like this but it presents problems with the original design, which was nothing special anyhow. So I decided to go with this and restyle the tree.

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The real problem is the apex is running away from the front and the branches are out of whack. The first branch is too far in your face and covering the trunk and the branch on the right is now too far back.

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First things first, remove stuff that is growing up, down and backward.

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The branch behind this is coming from the same junction as the other so I decided it should come out.

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Then to address the branches on the right.

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And the top. I need to find an apex that makes sense. For movement and taper.

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So I am taking all of this off using my concave cutter.

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And defoliated.

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After wiring and cutting back.

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What’s missing is a back branch. And I’m hoping to build one from here where the little bud is.

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The next project was to repot and do an initial styling on a big purple bougainvillea that has been mutilated by bore worms and has been declining. I didn’t take any before pictures because I wanted to tackle this and get it done.

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Nearly half of the trunk is dead. When I repotted I found that thethere was only roots on one half. I also found out it was growing in dirt straight from the ground. The sandy dirt here in Florida if you just dug a hole and poured it into a pot. Not good for potted plants.

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Hopefully the tree will continue on living and I’ll be able to do something good with it. Only time will tell.

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This is a Jaboticaba I received from Jim V. The pot was the home of a lantana he had which died from an unknown virus.

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And this is how I recieved the Jaboticaba.

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Somewhat of a slanted literati. I let this tree grow and get healthy before I repotted it. At the same time I did some styling work.

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So its done a lot of growing and so have the weeds in the pot.

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Nice root systems on these weeds. Cool.

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The last thing I’ll be doing is cleaning out these dead roots and some minor pruning.

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This is how I’ll leave the tree. It seems to be too high in the pot and coming a bit too far forward. The organic soil mix it was in was not the best quality, so I didn’t prune the roots heavily. Once these roots get healthy I’ll manage it down into the pot more. The apex will be reduced in the future as well.

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Most of my trees are project trees and I like that. I believe it makes you a better grower and artist to build a tree rather than buy and refine. Maybe that’s just me making an excuse to compensate. We all gotta start somewhere and I don’t have enough money to spend on bonsai to purchase fine trees, but I have enough life in me to grow fine trees.

Moving on.

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This is a small Chinese Tallow, a deciduous pest tree here in the Southeast. It has beautiful leafs and a nice red color on the new growth. When the tree ages it also develops a beautiful cragged bark as well. You’ll see them fairly often as yard trees, but they’re usually quite large because its now illegal to cultivate or sell. They’re prolific seeders but mine is young and has never seeded.

The problem with this species for bonsai is the winter dieback. As far as I know, there is no way to control the dieback either. I’m going to try and withdraw water this coming winter season to see how it affects the dieback. I’m not expecting much to change.

When I first purchased the tree I potted it as an upright.

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The only branch to survive the first dieback process was the left branch. The apex didn’t die all the way the the left branch, but back to the trunk line. Because that branch was the only live branch, I decided to start a slant. A year later, and one more session of dieback. I’ve again lost my apex.

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Subsequently, the branch being used as a side branch near the apex is too thick and growing in the wrong direction. And another problem is that this tree is technically not shohin because the length is out of the 8 inch restriction, meaning this a pitiful chuhin. Also just look at this long empty space here.

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You get where I’m going with this right?

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Normally a bonsai artist would be using jin pliars, but I don’t have any. So I’ll use some regular pliars. Chomp chomp chomp.

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And some wire to hold the jin in place.

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Bad picture oh well.

Next up is a Ficus Salicaria clump.

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The clump came to me from Ron Miller last year when me and Jim V. were doing visits to his house and working with him through his collection. The only major work that has been done to it since its been in my care was removing a few trunks, adjusting trunk heights, and wiring some trunks to straighten them. Over the winter it took some frost damage from within my greenhouse. My weatherforcast said 34°F low and in actuality it was 27°F; I didn’t turn my heater on. I also left the wire on the trees to long and a bit in pretty deep and caused some severe stress.

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You can see the tallest trunk is a lot thinner than the others, it was the most stressed. All I did was defoliate and trim, remove unnecessary branches; that sorta thing. I think in the future the front may be rotated just a bit like so.

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That’s a tall tree ain’t it? I like it. It was suggested to separate the trees and make a literati out of that tallest tree, which would be cool if they were seperate trunks, but it is a root clump.

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The trees are all rooted together. It would ruin any sort of nebari the trunks had if I separated them. I would have to saw. Like I said though, I like the clump style and the height.

These were my real big projects but I worked through most of my stuff. Plus if I keep adding to this blog post its going to be so long that you won’t finish the sentence and on that note. Peace y’all.

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I study bonsai with Jim Van Landingham and as I’ve said before our relationship is more of a grandson/grandfather type ordeal; he has taught me most of what I know in bonsai. Jim loves Shohin and Mame; his collection consists of about 90 trees. He is a self-proclaimed “Tropical Bigot”, his full collection consists of primarily Ficus, but he does have other trees.

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His collection is now at Old Florida Bonsai in Vero Beach, Florida which is run and operated by Richard and JJ Turner. Its a really good nursery with great trees everywhere. After the hurricanes we had in 2004/2005 the wasp which pollinates the Ficus Retusa ‘Kinmen’ fig, happened to show up in the area and there are seedlings everywhere down there; in the pots, on the branches, in the ground…just everywhere.

And if you aren’t from Florida, we were hit with several strong hurricanes back-to-back. But I was like 12 so it was awesome being without power for 3 weeks, no school, eating grilled food everyday and swimming down the streets. Anyhow…

So with all of these seedlings, Jim had the idea of putting them into small portion cups, like the ones you get your small sides in at a restaurant. He’s been growing these Ficus in these cups for about 10 years I believe he said. I have one that he up-potted after developing the trunks in cups.

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Real neat trunk, but he still has 6 growing in the portion cups that are very unique. I don’t have any pictures of them. What he’s found is that the small cups cause the trunk to swell faster than being in a regular growing pot. He also knows that ficus don’t need soil to grow, so that may answer your question of how they could survive.

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You can see two Salicaria in this picture that have no soil, ones not even in a pot. So, yes, its true.

Knowing that Jim knows what he is talking about, I took a bunch of cuttings and stuck them in marinara cups from Pizza Hut in June 2013 to propagate.

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Not every one of these lived, but the ones that did have still been growing in the cups ever since. I also took some out of the cups and put them in a flat tray to test the growth differences.

That picture doesn’t really show any detail at all, but you can see the girth of the trees and see they are sticks. I’d say the cups are maybe 2.5 inches wide.

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This is one of my favorite little cuttings because its just so odd. 

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The moss tells you, its retaining too much water and the reason for that is that I put them in Miracle-Gro Moisture Control soil. The stuff is primarily peat. I didn’t know any better when I did that. Looking at all the new growth and the deep green leaves, its healthy regardless.

I intend on making Mame out of these trees, so I’ve begun to prune them regularly, that’s why there’s not much foliage on them.

Taking it out of the “pot”. Ya…I called a marinara cup a pot.

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The roots look strong and happy. Exactly the opposite of what would be expected. And all of this root growth has occurred somewhere between 10-12 months. Weird huh?

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So what kind of base has this cutting developed? Will it be a stick with no taper? Will it have no flat roots? Roots only on one side? The suspense!

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Pretty cool. Nice roots.

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I’m going to root prune just a little to get the stuff growing upwards to stop that. Also just to free up some space in the marinara cup, where it I’ll be going back.

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Stuff like this and the thick roots seen a few moments ago.

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And now I’m going to put it in some Bonsai soil. The mix is Turface, NAPA Floor Sweep (diatomaceous earth), and Pine Bark; 1:1:1 ratio. A lot of people online claim that Turface is no good, and that’s why they’re using DE instead. I’m using it because it’s cheaper and easier to find…now that I know where to find it. I was looking for other products besides the NAPA Floor Sweep because the nearest NAPA store was about 35mi away, but my search of 3 Autozones, 3 Advanced Autoparts, Walmart, and Carquest led me nowhere. Optisorb is the other DE product that is carried by retailers, but it seems like you need to order it to ship-to-store pick up; none of the dealers I went to carried it in-store. The NAPA Floor Sweep has a Moltan brand logo in the corner of the bag, and Optisorb is a Moltan product as well, its probably the same stuff in different packaging for NAPA.

Just be sure not to buy any product that is made of Fuller’s Earth or Bentonite. Before you buy a product find the MSDS online and make sure it is Diatomaceous Earth. Oil DRI brand is commonly recommended online as a substitute to Turface, but its not. Its made of primarily Bentonite which doesn’t break down as fast as Fuller’s Earth, but it still does. Bentonite is what most U.S. kitty litter brands are made of, the main reasoning is the natural clumping properties. I’ve been using it and would never use it again. This is after about 6 months. Maybe its breaking down much faster because of Florida’s climate, the people who like it seemed to be northern and using it with deciduous trees.

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Mixed with Turface and Pine Bark, the stark whiteness of the DE doesn’t look bad. Some people don’t like the color of Turface either though. To each their own.

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Just pop the tree in there, do a little bud selection and wha la. The beginnings of a nice little Mame in development.

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I decided to go ahead and repot and do a little maintence to the rest of them.

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This is one of the weirdest ones. I still don’t know what’s going on with it.

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I just haven’t found a front yet. One thing you’ll notice about the soil is that its not lifted like the first one. Obviously the roots aren’t as vigorous. And when I tried to take it out of the pot.

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I was afraid I broke a lot of roots, so I checked the soil and found nothing substantial.

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After washing the dirt from the roots and trunk.

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Wonder why this one was not as vigorous as the last. Maybe it has something to do with the trunk shape? Really don’t know. One thing I didn’t point out with the last tree is that I also fertilized it. I did that after taking the photo.

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These need new marinara cups

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And this one is to show the amount of taper that’s been generated in the swelling of the base.

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Real good taper and size to it already.

This one is kind of nice, the roots weren’t too good, but the trunk has some unique feature below the soil line right now. Planting deep with these causes the bases to swell faster as well according to Jim V.

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Now this is the real secret as to why this is so effective. You have to put a hole in the cups for drainage of course, but I also have them placed in soil in flat tray. The roots will grow out of the drainage hole and into the soil in the flat. Idk how exactly it works, but this allows the tree’s roots to get note nutdients from outside of the cup so it grows just as if it weren’t confined. Here is my bed. There are a few that I didn’t show that are in this picture. 

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And compared to the ones grown directly in the flats.

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Still sticks.

Today I was at home, laying around, and I had the idea to go up to this landscaping nursery I heard about to check out the stock. I’m not going to name them, but they are a good nursery, I just had an odd experience there. I pulled in and started looking around, originally for Ilex Schillings, which I found and may be going back soon for. After strolling around, I noticed some Brazilian Rain Trees about 12in tall, so I headed that way. To my surprise I also found some Ficus Salicaria, Retusa, Chinese Elm, Surinam Cherry, and some other stuff. So I started looking at the Salicaria; they’re my favorite trees.

I found a few that I saw potential in, but there was no prices on any of their stock so I headed to their office. I start asking the guy about the pricing and I described the plants and where they were at, and he said “Oh the ones they get for bonsai”…except the emphasis on bonsai was weird and sounded Nordic. Strange enough right there. But he didn’t know the prices so he said he’d call the guy who does pricing, and I told I would check stuff out for a while and come back up.

Spent another 15 minutes walking about looking at plants and decided to go back. The guy is frustrated that I was back and still couldn’t reach the guy. I asked him if there was someone on the grounds that would know cuz I’d like to get them today. He was still frustrated and said something like ” I don’t know what to yell you the guy ain’t here and won’t answer my calls. I don’t know what to tell you.” So I told him they’re in 10in pots and he said “Alright how does $30 each sound?” I thought it was fair. And I checked my wallet, that’s all I had. So I picked one and brought it to him and he looked at it and then at me and said “That’s it? $10. I don’t know if I’m giving you a steal or if I’m ripping myself off but the guy can’t leave me prices so $10.”  This is what I brought to him.

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So to someone else ho doesn’t do bonsai, $10 looks fair right? No branches but one, no leaves but on that one branch. And its ugly.

But he doesn’t know about bonsai, and that’s what how the landscaping business works. So I bought it for the base on this sucker and with the intentions to do a shohin.

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It has a great base and I could tell by the arial roots, and size of the buttress that there was something good there.

Undressing and cleaning the soil, I get a good look at what I just spent my $10 on. Holy shitake mushrooms.

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Wonder how much they would charge you for this at a bonsai nursery huh? Now what I was saying about the arial roots. They show up in a few conditions; lots of humidity, lack of nutrition, lack of water, too much water, no room for roots to grow below the soil, and probably a few more reasons. But my guess by the way the spread of this trunk was that it would be rootbound.

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But really, its not very rootbound at all. There’s just some heavy suckers inside there. No worries though.

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Remove arial roots and crossing roots.

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This one is crossing another root.

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This is going to be the front and I have a few names for this tree based on this front. Cyclops, The Giant Squid or Lady Cleavage. I really feel that the tree has an eye and its staring right at the viewer. Kind of creepy.

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See the cyclops eye? Or maybe the cleavage of a woman? Its definitely eye catching, and maybe in the future will be worked on so its not so grabbing. My eye is just so drawn to it….kind of like how drawn to cleavage I am too I guess.

Now this post is about making a shohin. And with a trunk like this, boring and straight, that’s the best option. Really the trunk would have to be chopped a little lower anyhow to get some movement even if you wanted to keep the tree in chuhin size.

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I feel like this would be the optimum height. The “Golden Rule” of tree height is the 6:1 ratio of height to girth. So based on this, the base would support a tall tree, but it would be ho-hum with an upright trunk. Plus its Salicaria, its almost a rule to cut them in half if you have a straight, minimally tapering trunk. Let’s get cutting.

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Well, because I’m going for a shohin, this has to go. And if I were to keep it as a chuhin, it would still end up going. One; it creates a Y. Two; its thicker than the other, meaning less taper. That’s how simple the decision should be.

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Hey a cutting. Once rooted and with a few branches I could sell that for $5 to someone on eBay.

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And that’s how you build taper. If the Y branching continued to develop, the joint would continue to grow as well resulting in a swelling at the union; reverse taper.

The next cut will be on the branch/trunk on the left side.

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And I will do it with my concave cutter.

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I generally cut high, and then work the cut closer so I don’t take a big bite out on accident.

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But why keep that knob on there? Well. I’m hoping to get some bud pops on it here to create my lowest branch.

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Like so.

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With the fierceness of my karate chop, I cut the top out.

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Really I should be cutting down lower on the main trunk, and ending with a final height about where my hand is. But I’m going to cut again when I get a bud pop where I want it to be. Seems logical in my head.

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Speaking of logic…I guess its also logical to set plants on top of and hanging off of my grill.

Now this is my patented way of “working the roots”.

*Do not try this or attempt to recreate the events in this portion of the blog. The producers of this blog are not responsible for the death of your plants.*

The truth is. Its a Ficus, and not a Pine. You can do whatever you want to this tree in the spring time as long as you give it what it wants. Water and light. Also, none of this is patended.

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I know that I’m going to be putting it into a pot not much deeper than this. So why fuss around with anything below that line?

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I’ve already turned a profit on this tree in three cuttings, now I’ve got all these root cuttings, or possibly a root clump. But I’ve got two clumps growing already.

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All the possibilities….

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So instead of trying to clean the soil off of the entire root mass like this, I have a workable piece of wood which is still filled with roots.

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Big roots, huh.

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Not all of the can stay. Most of them aren’t needed and taking up space. Onto that mess.

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This is the back, and the big roots that are crossing are going to be unseen. So they’re coming off.

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So are the majority of these things. You saw how think they are, all I did was cut them off. So now I’m going to pot it.

I only have three options available, two would be great final pots, but not yet.

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But it will find home here. In a mica pot.

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I’m all out of mesh screen so I’m harvesting them from two Mame pots.

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I need to go get some of the stuff, its cheap but finding the time is a trick. 6 day a week life.

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Everyone knows this part. The chopsticks get the soil down into the air pockets. My mix here is Soil Perfector, Oil DRI, Turface and Pine Bark. It looks ok. I’m not a soil junky, I just think that you can grown anything in any medium as long as you water it according to that mediums needs.

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The angle looks a little funny to me, but it give that knob a better feel as a branch. The tree also looks a little tall and the pots a little big, but it’s a growing pot. Once the trunk begins to back bud, the height will be fixed. Its a nice $10 stump.

This is a Ficus Salicaria which I got at last year’s Multi-Club Auction. I think the Central Florida Bonsai Society, Brevard Bonsai Society and a third (?) Club hosted. I won the tree, with the pot for only $35. The seller was actually Rob Kempinski, who told me he payed more for just the pot alone, which is actually why I waa bidding on the tree.

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Its a really nice shohin size red pot. My original intentions with this tree was to simply chop two of the three trunks out and start a new mame. As it is here, its reminiscent of a multi-trunk oak.

The usual treatment for me is just to cut everything back and create taper before doing anything else. Being that I’ve only been working bonsai seriously for about a year, I’ve yet to do much more than that. But I was working with Adam Lavigne a few days ago to learn how to style juniper, jin-ing(?) technique and wiring technique. He told me I need to get out of the mindset of getting rid of things because I don’t like them; every branch has a use. So I was kind of inspired to begin wiring more.

First thing I did was repot the tree. It needed it.

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As you can see, roots are coming out of the soil line and pot level. Also, the moss growing on the soil tells you that its holding to much moisture. Salicaria is a super tough tree here in Florida where it can be grown outdoors in full sun, year round. They don’t even need soil in a pot….or a pot. They just need light, water, and fertilizer.

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After pulling it out of the pot this is what I have. The roots are obviously healthy looking at all the white tips. But that’s not surprising with a Ficus. But you can see all the thick roots that are just taking up space.

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This is pretty much what I was left with after raking through the soil. Some people would cringe at the fact that there is no feeder roots left. Because its a Ficus and this is Florida and early Spring, that doesn’t matter. I haven’t even got down to root pruning anyhow.

All of those long roots have to go. But what I’m really looking for is to get a nebari and determine what needs to come off to show it.

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This root disturbs the flow, circling the trunk instead of growing out radially. So its gone.

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This root it’s growing over top of another root. Gone.

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This is the backside, but you can already begin to see the root spread. All of that long stuff also needs to come off.

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None of this here will be useable. Its again, growing inward towards the trunk instead of radially. So that clump of roots is coming off too.

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I was hoping to reuse this pot, but its just to small to develop these roots more. It also limits me to two different planting angles, above and below.

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Very subtle difference in the angle. Basically the root on the right side can either be stuffed in the front corner or back corner. The tree won’t fit in the pot any other way.

I can’t reuse this pot with this tree again, but that just means I’ll be able to put a different tree into it later. This will be the pot used.

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Just a nice ovular, unglazed pot. No idea of its origin. The rock is just there to hold the tree up for the picture.

Oh, and you’re probably realize there is no roots. That’s what I do.

Now I’m gonna take a break.
This is what I’ve been listening to while working this tree. Innapropriate underground rap music.

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Even though I’m sure most of my readers know how to prepare a pot. I’m just going to run through how to make a nice screen staple. Cuz I can on my blog. I can say whatever I want on my blog. Freedom of the press son! Whatever.

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You got your small wire, it doesn’t need to be this long. This is actually a left over piece I had laying around.

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You take your pliars, doesn’t matter what kind I guess, but its a lot easier than using your fingers, and then you fold the ends 90° to make something like a field goal.

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Then twist one to the opposite side. I guess instead of making a field goal, you could go ahead and fold like this. I’ve been doing it like this for a while, so I’m stuck in my habit.

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This is harder to explain, but you take each end and fold it backward on itself. It should make a curve like that. Getting the length of this fold is important. You want it to cover the edge of the hole so it holds the mesh screen down.

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And then you fold the ends down again at a 90° angle. This is what the end result should look like.

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Of course this isn’t the only way, or most simplest way, but it looks fancy. I imagine it to be like an artist leaving a signature. Not the focal point, but a distinct marking. I’m not saying this is a unique staple but I can’t think of a better reason to go through so much trouble making something you won’t see until you repot the tree again.

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You finally got the mesh over the hole, and you put your staple in. You want it to be as close to the edge of the pot to reduce tension on the screen, and it shouldn’t rip your screen. Not that I’ve ever ripped a screen anyhow, but I guess it happens? Can I get some testimonials for this one? It looks neater.

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Hey…that sticker says Japan. So its a Japanese pot. Well here you just bend the ends out and secure the staple. Your screen is in place, not going anywhere. And now you just cut the ends short for appearance.

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Magic. The tie down. You put a wire, I’m not sure what gauge, but it should be slightly thicker so it doesn’t break from twisting the tie tight on the tree. The goal is to be able to lift the pot with the tree like the picture shows. If your tree ever gets blown over, the tree shouldn’t fall out with roots exposed and dry.

I’m sure all of you are going to be upset that I did that. All of you, being the internet forum elitists. The faceless.

I know a lot of you already know how to prep a pot, but in the odd circumstance that a new person finds this post, there they go.

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And here I go. Its a nice fit. I should have worked the tree and then repot, but I don’t think it makes a difference since I thoroughly  soaked it. Soaking after repotting also pushes air bubbles out, even after using the chopstick to press the soil down into holes between roots.

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Oh and its planted in 100% Turface. Tell me how terrible my roots will grow now.

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After defoliating, the first thing I’m going to do is remove this nob.

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It was just ugly and dead. And another detour.

One of my posts includes a Ficus Salicaria ’89, and I mention the difference between the Salicaria, ’89 and the Exotica. All of them are Salicaria but the leaves and growth pattern are different.

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This is the fully grown, mature Salicaria leaf. Small by nature, this has not been reduced, and the reduced leaf can be 1/5th the size.

Now my ’89 and Exotica both were defoliated mid-March. So its been between 4-5 weeks of new growth. That being said these leaves are not fully matured.

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This is my ’89. The width is more wider but is in scale with the Salicaria leaf. Almost if it was enlarged on 2:1 ratio.

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And the Exotica. The leaf is nearly the width of my palm, probably 4:1 with the Salicaria.

The leaf size is the real difference between the varieties. The growth is more vigorous in the ’89 and Exotica, but the internodes are also larger. So then which came first? Salicaria was discovered first, the ’89 showed up after a freeze in 1989, and I’m not sure where the Exotica fits in.

In hybrid varieties, the genes of the mother plant will come out in the new growth from time to time. This is called a sport in botany. Some food for thought.

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Oh what happened here? Like usual, I get interrupted an need to leave for work. I had begun wiring, as seen, and realized it was 3:38pm, and needed to clock in at 3:45pm. So when I got home from work I decided to finish the tree in my room.

And when I got home…a stray puppy found my backyard. We might keep him. Good dog. His name is Arcanine, or Archer/Archie for short. He smelly like canal water. He looks like a Pit mixed with a Boxer.

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Back to bonsai.

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I said I was inspired by Adam so I’m going to wire every branch. Which I didn’t stop to take pictures. I got home at 10:30pm, and was on the phone trying to find a friend to give the dog a home until 11:30pm. I started working the tree again near midnight. I was tired.

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Front

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Aerial

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Right

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Back

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Left

These pictures actually helped me sort the branches a little more and make those minor touches.

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All finished. Sleep time.

Hey I’m awake again.

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Last thing to do was fertilize it and get it back on my bench. The dog slept over night outside of my porch, so I caved in and put an old fouton mattress on the back porch when I got up because it looked like it was going to rain.

So then I went to the dollar store to get him food, collar and leash. I took him with me in my cab and he laid in my lap the whole time, no barking. My girlfriend and I brought him to the nearest vet office to have them check for a chip and he doesn’t have one. His ears are also raw, the technician thinks he was stuffed in a small cage and literally rubbed them raw. I treated them with peroxide and neosporin. I have him listed as found on some sites, don’t think anyone is looking for him though.

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I took him for a walk twice. He’s a great dog. He doesn’t pull or lead. He listens to me when I tell him to sit. And he’s just so sweet.

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Yes. This is what the streets of Palm Bay look like. And yes, I’m barefoot. On that note…peace y’all.

Last Sunday, March 16, was my girlfriend’s 21st.
We spent the day at Epcot, and we had a great time…
She drank around the world, I got to see the BSF Bonsai Exhibit and it was a win-win ordeal.
Great food, great drinks, and great places to blow money.
I could easily spend a thousand dollars in Japan’s gift shop within an hour;
solely on Pokemon, Godzilla and Gundam stuff.

The next day was St. Patty’s Day. More drinking.

So by Tuesday, I was ready to get down and put in some work with my trees.
Every morning I go check on my plants, make sure they weren’t damaged over night, and just to see them.

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This Hackberry has begun to come back into leaf,
I just thought it was looking pretty.
But, There is four trunks, I’m not allowed to do that.
I may end up removing the smallest trunk, the four trunk thing doesn’t bother me to much,
but it’s not accepted generally.
I just don’t feel like it needs to be there.

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This Florida Elm also just caught my eye today as it’s beginning to come to leaf.
I was going to make a post about both of these trees….two months ago.
I’ll do that eventually.
Probably when I do the first pruning this season.

But before getting to work, I again needed to treat my lady to lunch,
and on our departure from our house, this happened.

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As you can see, I don’t live in a residential area.
Only house on this street and I see these two Doe’s pretty often,
this was the closest I’ve ever been to them though.

After this encounter we went to lunch at Cantina Dos Amigos beachside.
Real good Mexican food. Then because I was in the Melbourne area,
I decided to check out Hobby Town to see if they had any Gunpla model kits.
Being in Epcot Japan made me realize how badly I’ve been itching to build these again.
I was building them when I was in elementary school and Gundam Wing was on Toonami.

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So I got this Deathscythe Hell from the OVA Gundam Wing Endless Waltz.

So I finally got home and got down town to work.

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This is a Simpson Stopper that I showed at the BSOB Zoo Exhibit last fall…in a Mica pot.
Another tree given to me by Jim V.
e told me that it has never been repotted and was in that pot for 18 years,
since the day it was collected.
That being said, working the roots was a terrible pain in the ass.
The soil mass was incredibly dense and hard; the roots were just unkindly.
I was eventually able to work them back to fit into the new pot.

But then, disaster struck overnight.
Part of the reason why I check my plants daily.

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The tie-down in this pot is not so effective because there is only one hole,
and it is on the right side of the pot.
The tree was blown right out of the pot and dried out over night, into the morning.

Looking back, one of the things I believe saved it was the fact that at this time I was watering my trees in the mornings.

Wait, did just say saved?
Yes I did.
The cambium is totally green on every major branch from the base to the apex.
But there was a fair bit of die-back on the twigs.

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These are clearly dead. As you can see they’re totally black.

So what I am doing here with this tree today is simple;
cut back to what is alive,
and remove any branches growing downward and any that were growing in awkward positions.
This is one of the trees Jim lost interest in,
not much attention has been put into branch structure in a long time.
It is a fine tree though.

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This is just showing that the wood is still green and lively.

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Not a huge profile change, but quite a bit had to be removed.
This tree won’t have any heavy work done until it has fully recovered.
I’m just glad to see that it’s living.

Next on my agenda was another Sumo Salicaria.
This photo as it was after I worked it with Jim V. last May.

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The post I did about the other Salicaria is of the ’89 mutation,
this chunk of wood is the standard small leafed Salicaria.

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It was repotted at the same time the other Sumo was at Ron Miller’s house.

As it is today.

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What really needs to be done is simple, defoliate, select branches and prune.
I am choosing not to wire today.
One other problem was this tree has also been affected by the Bore worms.

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After cleaning it out the best I could.
They’re nasty little suckers and I hate them.
I’ve had a lot of problems with them and my only solution now is to use a systemic insecticide as a regular treatment.
Which makes me feel really guilty.

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The next matter to attend to is cleaning up all these unnecessary buds.
I refer to them as fuzz.
Ain’t nobody want to deal with the fuzz.

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This branch here is in the front, and is an eye poking branch.
I don’t think the answer is to wire the branch,
but to select the bud growing towards the right and build the branch from this bud.

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Moving around the trunk, this upper needs to be removed,
and the buds tipped.
I would also like to see this branch thicken up some more this year, just a bit more.

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This branch shows nice ramification, but no taper.
So I cut it back.

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You get the gist. Standard pruning techniques.
Looking at the apex, I have a branch low on the vertical that is to fat.

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It does have interesting movement in it,
but its too fat. It needs to go.

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After removing that branch, I just did a branch selection
and reduce the height of the apex.
No pictures necessary.

Next on my things to do.

A small Portulicaria Afra.
The tree was given to me as a birthday present last year, April 7, 2013.
Some time in the Summer of 2013, the trunk split.
Probably from to much water.
Anyhow, I think a hollow trunked Portulicaria is cool,
and the pre-bonsai is begining to look like a tree.

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After finishing this tree, my sprinklers had come on.
They look nice huh?

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The yellow wiz-heads throw water a good 20 feet.
If anyone is reading this a think about doing an automatic sprinkler system,
I highly recommend these sprinkler heads over standard rainbirds,
or the circular ones.

After my water had fininshed, I went and pruned my Ficus Salicaria cuttings.

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By this point it was actually about 7pm.
I needed to go feed these dogs for a woman that I’m house sitting for.
So I took  a break.
Got them fed, and came home to build my model kit.
Here it is with good lighting.

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I need to get paint.
That is what a typical day off-work for me is like.

This is more of an experiment than anything else. I’m a huge fan of Maple bonsai. Living in USDA Zone 9b though….it just leaves me with zone envy. Kind of like them boys over on the forums who think I’m a liar; they’re just jealous and I’m not going to pretend to be someone I’m not to make them happy.

Seriously. I’m a light hearted, half-wit 21 year old. I’m no professional.

Sometime last year, I was at a local landscaping nursery and noticed a Maple species with a tag saying “Ember Glow”. It had a very pretty leaf and looked good. I didn’t buy one at that time because the owners were actually fairly rude, and I thought they just had the intentions on making a dollar. I did notice they were Japanese Maple though and I knew I was too far South to grow JM.

I recently stopped back with the intentions to buy Ilex Schillings but was disappointed with the available stock. So I went to check on these Maples, to see if they still had them, and to see if they were healthy. I talked to one of the owners and she told me the Maples had been there for three years already. That made me fairly confident enough to buy one. I had saw them looking healthy last year and looking healthy again this year after the winter. I bought one.

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But why did I buy it? For all the wrong reasons.

The traditional view of Deciduous bonsai is; no dead wood. But I’ve been outdoors and seen plenty of Deciduous trees with deadwoo. My view is, if it occurs in nature, its ok. And if you don’t like it, oh well. I don’t have time to argue with elitist buttheads. Look at my first post about my Crepe Myrtle, it has plenty of Uro’s.

After digging under the soil some, the spread also caught my attention. It had a fairly nice nebari for a nursery grown plant. The soil also looks really good.

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Already here you see what would make others cringe, but I embrace that. If you allow yourself to blend in with what’s around you, you’ll never be noticed. Same with bonsai. Following the rules will result in traditional trees, which are beautiful…but as an artform, bonsai needs to continually evolve to expand.

Really, all art continually evolves. I’m not an art history major, but I know that what was commonly accepted in one era, is considered boring in another. That’s what causes the continual evolution.

I think bonsai may be in the midst of an artistic evolution as more and more western artists bend the rules and break out of the traditional mold. I’m also not an expert on Japanese culture or the history of bonsai, so don’t assume I’m on the front lines of this subject. But I have seen artists straying from the traditional framework. North American artist’s who want to define what American bonsai is for example.

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This. Its not acceptable to many artists. It doesn’t fit the frame work. If that’s how you reading feel, go ahead and comment or share, and furiously type about how wrong I am.

Its my tree. I’ll do as I will. If I’m wrong, I’ll remember and learn. But if you’re disrespectful and insulting, I’ll be the same towards you.  So long as your criticism is constructive, I appreciate it.

One thing I did was connect the two uro’s. I originally just cleaned them and opened the wounds to encourage healing, but leaving a “bridge” between the two zones bothered me.

Next, I chose my apex, based on movement. Each of the available branches had about the same girth, leaving me with about the same amount of taper with each choice.

The branch in the middle was the smallest, giving the most taper, but as far as movement, very unnatural if you imagine the other two removed. I would be left with a very unnatural knob looking area, full of ugly reverse taper.

The far right branch does not look bad with movement. The reason I didn’t choose it was because it would require a very ugly cut…it just wouldn’t look natural.

So I took the branch on the left. Which looks like it was the thickest, only by a hair or two. Generally, I select an apex based soley on taper because its harder to introduce fine taper than fine movement. In this case, I worked differently.

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The movement in the trunk looks natural flowing into this branch. It continues the line of the trunk. So I cut the other two off with one cut.

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This will be the front more or less, somewhere in there. Just a little bit more to the left probably. That will hide more of the “shoulder” of the cut. I don’t think that’s a bonsai term. Neither is Japanese Maple in Florida Zone 9. I will also touch up the Uro.

Now before I start talking out what the “Ember Glow” Acer Palmatum is all about, I want to show you the Spring leaf. Very beautiful.

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*Verrr nice!* – Borat voice.

So, what I’ve discovered about this cultivar is it was designed to sustain high heat, full sun, and vigorous growth. It is not a grafted maple, “it grows on it own roots.” Though I’m not an expert, from what I understand this allows the tree to tolerate much more stress than a grafted cultivar. The leaf turns green during the summer as well and, displays an array of fall color from orange splotched leaves, all the way to purple. Also, the hardiness zone extends as far south as Zone 9, which is why I’m experimenting with it.

One of the websites I came across actually noted that it was not suitable for bonsai, but I’m not sure why. No details were given. I also didn’t find any images of this cultivar grown as bonsai. Another reason why I would like to try and grow it here in Zone 9.

In the last picture, the internodes look fairly long right? But when I look at this here, I notice they are short.

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So we’ll find out. And all of those twigs and branches I cut that you see in the picture above, I’m attempting to root as cuttings. This, in my opinion, will be ground breaking for us in hot Florida zones looking for a Japanese Maple. Only time will tell I suppose.

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Cheers!
(Sake)

This post is all about nostalgia. A look at what was and what has become. We’ll get into that later actually. Right now, it’s only about one tree though. My first tree. A Ficus Salicaria that I bought at The Grant Seafood Festival in 2012.

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There it is, Day 1. An uneducated, spontaneous purchase of a “bonsai” that I didn’t know anything about. No knowledge of styling, nebari, or even what species it was besides Ficus. This is what I saw for roots and I said “Wow, that’s awesome.” Now I look back and say, “Why did I like that?”
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To someone who has never been exposed to fine bonsai, this was really neat to me. I saw pictures when I was young, and I even attempted bonsai around 12 or so. I think I saw it in anime; I do know that I was not exposed to it by Mr. Miyagi. I’ve always like Japanese culture because of anime, I started eating sushi at a young age too. I swear my Mom had a Chinese Elm at one time that she kept in her bathroom. I think she had it for about three years before it checked out, probably due to wires that were never taken off. She doesn’t remember ever having it, but I distinctly do.

Not knowing anything about how to care for a bonsai, I started doing what I was good at; spending time on the internet reading. I scoured the internet. Read so much information from so many different sources that I felt fairly comfortable to repot this tree and defoliate it. Neither were intelligent decisions. I thankfully did it at the right time of year, by total accident though. When I lifted the tree from its pot, I saw the soil was 90% organic and 10% substrate dressing on top. This prompted the repot into a bonsai soil mix I bought from Penjing Bonsai Garden on U.S. 1 in Malabar, FL. Really though, Malabar is just Palm Bay. I’m not sure why Grant, Malabar and Valkaria are separate entities from Palm Bay, FL. The nursery is great for the beginner, the owner is very nice, and the prices are fair. I’ve purchased a lot of my first trees from him. I stole this picture from his website here: http://www.penjingbonsaigarden.com/index.html    

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I get off topic sometimes. It’s mostly because I write these between 11-3am in bed and usually from my smartphone. This is an exception to the rule with the phone. I’m usually watching Food Network or listening to music. And my taste in music is not acceptable for a bonsai artist, neither is my past lifestyle though…nostalgia.

Anyhow, I first defoliated the tree in mid April and then early May, repotted. I didn’t trim because I didn’t know what to remove and what not to. It was shaped as a broom style, which most beginners like because it looks like a regular tree. As a learning bonsai artist, I have come to understand that broom style is not at all what I want.

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And here it is in May with the new soil.
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If you payed close attention, these pictures weren’t taken in the same locations, look at the yards. I moved out of my parents house about June 2011 into a buddies house and lived there for almost a year. Then some bad stuff happened there and I moved in with my girlfriend and her parents for a few months. This is their yard. Very nice.

After living with her parents for about 3 months, we got an apartment together. We might’ve been together about 8 months before moving into the apartment. We’re still together and things are starting to get better between us, we’ve had our ups and downs but we’re working on it. I also go through phases of depression, sorry to those of you that have seen it. That’s actually a pretty sensitive subject. I don’t want to get to in-depth because thats a story that began in 2004 and is ongoing. I was in a very low point in life after moving out of my parents and am lucky to find my girlfriend when I did, so I’m very thankful for everything about her.

The theme of this post is nostalgia, and I’m going to keep reminiscing whether anyone reads this or not. If you don’t care about the filler, just look at the pictures. By the time we moved into our apartment, the foliage had come back in again. Shortly after, I defoliated one more time. Not knowing any better, I thought that literally plucking the leafs (or is it leaves?) off would just create more branches. Not too bright, but I didn’t know any better. We moved in, in June and this photo is in November.

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What a major difference! Not at all. Looks like every other picture but the canopy is a little more full. This was after the second defoliation. Those buds at the bottom actually came into good use over these two years. They actually had been removed a few times. But they came in handy. Trust me.

In April 2013 it was restyled and the back became the front. The green elephant was nestled in between the trunk and that weird root that rises up, which is now in the back.

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The tree grew for a few months and it came back into leaf and again looked like a broom style even though the branches had been weepped downward. Then I defoliated and cut out the branches that had began growing upward to create the broom. what I had was this tree that looked like a skinny girl staring at me with her shoulders up. You can see it in that picture above. I wasn’t happy with it at all, she got on my nerves like she was about to punch me. I don’t like being threatened by other species.

Besides that, the trunk has no movement and little taper. The canopy had no excitement. I had no low branches. So I did what any unhappy tree owner does. I chopped it in half. I don’t even remember what month I did that. But it had to have been about August or September 2013.

I didn’t take a picture of it, because no one really wants to see a tree cut in half…in a bonsai pot. Not even myself. Between the April restyle and the chop, those bottom buds reemerged on the base of the trunk. This time I let them grow and never cut or pruned them. The term for a branch like that is called a sacrifice branch because its grown to fatten the trunk and then to be removed. I’m sure most readers would know that, but some may not, so now you know, and knowing is half the battle. G.I. JOE!

I never liked G.I. Joe.

Now its March 12, 2014 and the stump had back budded and put on a bunch of growth all over. I’ve let it just grow and grow and grow. Now we’re in the very beginning of Spring here in Florida and I decided I’d take a look at what I’ve done. Let’s see what this girl in blue shoes has under that green dress of hers.

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This is actually an award winning look. Those who are unfamiliar with this style have not seen real bonsai. That’s just how it is. Not really, come on. Don’t be offended by me. This meatball looks better than that girl I was looking at before. Maybe I’m drunk though. Maybe every girl looks better now that I’m drunk. Maybe every meatball too for that matter. This tree made me think of that old Shakira song, Underneath Your Clothes. So let me show you what “she” was hiding under there.

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I cut out a few small branches that were disturbing my view of the trunk that I knew that I absolutely would not need. I wasn’t happy with what I saw. And looking at her, she doesn’t look so feminine anymore. I think she is just as uncomfortable in her skin, as I was with her appearance. Shout out to the LGBT communities! The buds that came out of the apex of the cut didn’t even come out where I was hoping them to be. Bummer.

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Bummer. She really didn’t want to be a woman anymore. That’s what she told me. And I’m her plastic surgeon. So what do I do? I cut again! CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT CUT!

But where? Where could cutting this tree again make it any better? Let alone perform this woman’s operation. She want’s to be a man dammit. He deserves to be who he wants to be. They say its easier to turn a pole into a hole you know….Unfortunately this where I started to get down and dirty and didn’t take pictures as I went because I honestly wasn’t expecting to get what I got.

Real quick let me explain all of this gender association. The art of bonsai accepts trees to be feminine or masculine pieces. This is based on the features of the trunk and then the pot should be matched accordingly. Yes, even the ceramic pots are looked at as masculine and feminine (which I have a hard time spelling). What makes a tree feminine is curvy lines, slender trunks, flowers, smooth bark, weeping branches, light colors; the sort of thing that makes a woman feminine. Pots follow the same basic ideas; smooth textures, colorful glazes, smooth corners. So what made this tree look like some beefy, scary woman in my eyes was the long slender trunk, the weeping branches, the blue pot, the rounded corners of the pot and the reverse taper where the branches formed shoulders; but the base didn’t tell the same story as the trunk. It looks aged, wide and rough. Which gave me the idea of transgenderism in bonsai. It’s hard to understand a piece of art if the composition is telling contradicting stories.

Back to the tree at hand and his opportunity to become a man. I cleaned out more of the branches that were growing near the top but that were not quite there to see if any of them could be used as an apex. I did not like any of the options. Here you can see the distance between the chop point and the possible branches I am talking about, also the apical buds that are in the wrong spot. Sorry, it is a bit blurry.

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There was really nothing good there. Which left me with two more options. Cut just below this cluster and hope for better bud positioning, or cut back to the next lowest branch and use this as an apex, which would leave me with a sumo. Like I said, this is when I stopped taking pictures. I made the cut, and then worked the roots, and what a good surprise I had when I got back to the trunk and got away those nasty ones that I originally purchased this tree for. I really went to town on these roots to fit it in this pot. Since I don’t have any pictures of the work I’m describing, I’m not going to ramble about it. I cut a lot of stuff and then stuffed it into a small pot.

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What makes this tiny little tree masculine? The earth tone pot, the thick fat trunk, and the bark just has a rough quality to it. Can you believe what a nice nebari this tree has now? That fat knob is gone (the elephant has had a new home for months), the root that circled the front of the trunk is gone, and what was left was some actual nice radially flaring roots. The branch on the right is actually in the back and I’m letting it thicken before pruning it at all. I am doing the same with the apex, but I don’t want it to get to thick. One of the sacrifice branches was left on the trunk and I plan on working it into the tree’s design.

And here is the transformation side by side. I think its incredible.

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I still play the original Poke’mon games, I grew up with a Poke’mon Color and Red Version. Now I emulate Yellow version on my phone. I also still play PSX games on my PS3 even though Sony just released PS4. The only anime I still watch is Guyver, Gundam, Yuyu Hakusho, and Rurouni Kenshin because I gerw up with them. I have even been wearing the same pair of shoes since 2006, my ninth grade year. I’m up to date with my music though. More nostalgia next time. Thanks for reading!

A trip down memory lane real quick.

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Another tree that I received from Jim V. the first time I worked with him back in April 2013. Look at the soil, it makes me cringe. But it also is amazing to see these trees growing healthily in such bad soil. Between May-July 2013, Jim and I were frequenting Ron Miller’s and helping him with his trees; repotting, pruning, styling. I mostly repotted and pruned the small trees, they did the serious work. One of the days, I brought this tree and we repotted it. I don’t have a picture of directly after being repotted, but I have a picture of it from January when I did some wiring and a light trim in its new pot.

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And after.

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Because this was done in January, I didn’t prune or cut the top our or anything but simply place the branches and remove some unnecessary stuff.

The end goal is a banyan style and we’ll get there eventually. So in light of Spring coming up so quickly and the housewives starting their Spring Cleaning; so am I. Still working on the trophy husband thing. But I don’t know if this will ever get me there on her own. I really hope she doesn’t see this.

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Whenever I did the work in January I broke a branch, but I’m not worried about it, this will heal. See.

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So you can see its put on some growth,  the most major thing I’m doing is chopping the top out. Which if you look in the very first picture, it has thickened nicely. Picking it was as simple as this.

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Real easy decision if you look at where the next branch is.

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I guess I defoliated before I cut, cool beans. Nice chance to introduce more taper and more movent into the apex. Now for a touch of wire to move it into position.

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I love those roots. The rest of the business is just casual trimming. Removing down branches…branches in the crotches. Its never fun to have a branch in your crotch.

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And I’m done. Wish I could draw and give you a sketch of what I see in the future, but this is my highest level of my artistic creativity. A haiku.

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Maybe before I get famous I’ll go into detail about myself and where I came from and how strange it is for me to be where I am now.

Remember that time Paris Hilton published a book with more pictures than words? I’m attempting that with this posts. Just spring cleaning, mostly bud selection. They’re all small size trees, I dug them up August 2013, wait till you see the roots. They grow like a weed, and smell like piss. This single paragraph is making me realize how talented Paris really was with her book.

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Its a slingshot, so to eliminate that I’m tipping it over to create a low branch out.

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Just doing bud selection.

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This is a neat twin trunk. Nothing special here either.

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The base on this is kind of unique and the trunk has reverse taper down at the bottom. My eye doesn’t notice for the most part because of the movement.

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This is probably one of the better trees of the bunch because of that shari. Developing a natural looking apex will be a chalenege.

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Nothing special. Bud selection.

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Made a jin and selected buds.

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I planted this one deeper than it should be, but it has a nice base you can’t see. The top needs to get carved and it’ll be nice.

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This is also one of my favorites. Enlarge the image and look at the holes I the bottom of the pot. They’ve been potted for 5 months and the roots have filled the pots.

So, I also have been told Lantana don’t make nice shohin bonsai, the leaves are big. I’m ok with that because I like them and if they won’t ever be award winning trees, oh well. I haven’t won an award since I graduated high school, does that make a difference in my character? Who cares?

Lantana is a bush, it puts out runners, and then just throws whips everywhere. Some of these small trunks I got had whips growing 8foot long and hardly 2 inches thick. I like the flowers, I used to collect them for my mom when I was a kid.

Anyhow, this is the biggest one I collected. Its a raft.

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Before this picture I had worked on it a little big and made a few jins. I noticed when you make a cut, you can not expect to get a bud to pop from near that cut.

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The cut at the top was made 5 months ago after it was collected. You can see only about 2cm of it actually died but it didn’t back bud for nearly 4 inches down the trunk. Weird to me.

So basically all I wanted to do with this was reduce the number or trunks, and get the heights of the trunks alright. Knowing how they die back, I didn’t get to do the second part because I didn’t wanted to make a cut an inches below a bud and lose 1/4 of the trunk to die back. So I brought it down to 5 trunks.

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The one on the far left I decided to jin. And if you’re wondering why I’m doing so much work to trees that were transplanted 5 months ago, look at the roots on this.

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After reducing the trunks and doing some jin, I started looking for a better front to create depth within the trunks and get the curves telling the same story, which required one bit of wire.

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I defoliated it all, and like I said, the trunk heights are not correct still because of the dieback. When the buds shoot out again in a few weeks, I’ll work with what I got then.

This ’89 has got to be my favorite tree. Its just such a chunky sumo. As of right now it will be named “E. Honda” after my favorite Yokozuna. So this is it in May 2013 after I took it home.

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The tree, like the rest of my nice trees, came to me from my teacher/grandpa Jim Van Landingham. Its one of his trees that he got bored of working on, which he has a lot of, and he let’s me have them to work with. Before I took this tree home I made a visit down to Old Florida Bonsai where Jim lived and worked and he spent a day with me working his plants and teaching me how he does bonsai. The reward was all of the trees I had just worked on, I got to go home with. 

I didn’t start to take bonsai seriously until April 2013 and that’s when I met Jim V. and Adam; also the rest of the Brevard Bonsai Society. The experiences I’ve had in the last year are just crazy to me. I feel like part of a movie. I’ve met so many generous and great people who want to see me do good. It’s just a good feeling knowing I’ve found something I’m good at and enjoy.

Enough sappiness. June 2013, the tree was potted. Because its a ficus, the bottom was sawn off and thrown into a pot. If I had the foresight, it might’ve been done a little differently. More on that later.

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Now its March 2014. And I let the tree grow most of period between now and then.

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So it obviously needed work done. And during the winter it got a little stressed. One night, my forecast didn’t show it to be 32°F so I didn’t turn my heater on in my greenhouse. Then I wake up and my outdoor thermometer said we hit 28°F and some of my trees were stressed more than others.

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So it didn’t get damaged much but it was showing the signs of the damage. Speaking of damage, I have a major issue with Bore Worms where I’m at. I use a systemic insecticide as part of my regular regiment now on all of my trees. Which I don’t like to because I don’t want to kill the bees or butterflies. But you gotta do what you gotta do.

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That hole was from a Bore a few months ago. They’re nasty little suckers. I lost a tree to them last year. R.I.P.

For those of you who do not know the different between Ficus Salicaria and the ’89 variety, here’s the story. In 1989, down at Jim Smith’s bonsai nursery in Vero Beach he had a bunch of Salicaria planted in the ground as well as potted. It froze really hard that year, and the Ficus in the ground died back to the soil level and then spit out a larger leaf. And I’m not exactly sure but later another mutation appeared called Exotica which has an even larger, rounder leaf than the ’89. I do have an Exotica as well, but it’s already been worked on prior to this post and is defoliated. The Salicaria is on the bottom and the Salicaria ’89 is on the top.

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The first thing to do when working is to defoliate. But there’s some long branches I know I’m going to cut back short so I didn’t waste time defoliating those totally.

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My water puts a weird mineral deposit on my plants leaves and it comes off real easy. I’m assuming its nothing to be worried about other than the way it looks.

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So after plucking leaves for a while, this is where I stop.

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There’s two real long branches in the back I was thickening up that I’m going to cut back. Here.

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So let’s cut it.

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I didn’t wire the tree before pruning. I took the picture out of sequence because I originally cut it longer and then realized I should have wired it when it was thinner and could get a nice curve down in it. I also noticed from the front it was crossing and disturbing the flow. So I cut it to a nub and am going to regrow it, the benefit is taper.

This is the other long branch. And you can see the branch I was talking about with the first cut. This branch will probably come off in the close future. There’s a bud coming out exactly where I need it on the trunk to be a back branch. You can see it under my scissor.

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I’m not very good at remember to take pictures before I do something yet. So I basically just cut everything back and cut the top out and picked my new apex, I left it long to wire.

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If you look at the first picture of this tree, you will see that the heavy branch on the left has lifted quite a bit. This is after allowing the wire to bite in, but its expected to happen with ficus.

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It was down more so like this.

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So that’s where I’m going to put it when I wire it. Its filling a blank space on the left side of the tree. And suddenly I’m done wiring. I only wired it lightly to get the branches placed.

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And here’s what I’m doing to address the roots in the back of the tree, which are very ugly.

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I’m packing it with Spaghnum Moss to grow roots down into the soil. I was suggested to pot the tree into a shallower, wider pot to allow the roots to grow and thicken up more. Only because the tree hasn’t been potted for more than a year yet, I’m not ready to do that.

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Next spring I’ll do that because the backside of this tree is a big downer at the moment. And that’s all she wrote.