Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ficus burkei, Ficus natalensis, Ficus petersii and Ficus craterastoma.

A nice clumpstyle grown by Charles Ceronio.

I am going to use this post for the above mentioned species because the growth habit of them are very similar. Typical to the species trees are easy to identify but variants complicate distinguishing the above mentioned species from each other. As I post my trees I would appreciate help identifying the species. Only species that I am 100% sure off will be named.

Most of my Ficus are in a pre-bonsai state so this will be a long but interesting post.

These species are quite hardy and can tolerate low temperatures. As long as temperatures don't go below freezing the trees will be fine. They do go dormant during cold spells and may shed their leaves as soon as the growing season starts again. In my climate the trees in nature go without any rain from May - August.
The trees rely heavily on their roots as a survival mechanism during periods of droughts.
Here is a tree that was removed from the rotten core of another tree. Notice the very thick roots - almost Ginseng Ficus- like:

Dormant bonsai trees must still be watered but over watering them may lead to root rot.

Repotting and digging of yamadori should be done when temperatures have warmed up and when the trees are actively growing. Don't cut back thick trunks too heavily when digging because areas of the trunk may die if a root is not connected to a growing bud/twig/branch.

Die back after of the bark after twigs and roots were removed:


When roots are reduced the crown must also be cut back. To prevent cut roots from rotting it is better to water the following day - the damp medium will provide enough moisture for the tree to survive the repotting. When watering it the following day dunk it in water until no bubbles are visible any more. From there water only when the medium is getting dry. Feed it regularly with your normal fertilizer.

Best to grow the trees in full sun- nodes will be shorter and leaves smaller.

When the trees are actively growing they can be cut back - leafless twigs will also bud out. Wounds on these trees will heal over time and there is no need to seal the wounds.

To get ramification the trees can be defoliated. Cut the tips of the twigs and remove all the leaves. New buds will pop up within a few days. Leaves on branches that are weak may be left.

Branches/twigs can be wired but keep an eye on them - the bite in quickly when the tree is growing actively! Thicker branches can be bend by using the notch or split branch method. Healing of a split branch may lead to reverse taper problems on a branch.

The growth of these trees fuse easily and grafting can be done - even roots can be grafted. Thick roots can be carved to make the nebari believable.

Carved roots before and after:

 The carving of the roots will be extended higher up the trunk because the upper trunk's bark looks too smooth. The roots entering the soil will also be carved some more to give the impression of the roots splitting up into secondary roots.

 Carved roots on a bigger tree(before and after):

Any bonsai style suits these trees but a wide open umbrella is the natural style here in Nortwest, South Africa. Banyan, root over rock and strangler style also looks very natural.

Some strangler bonsai by the expert Mack Boshoff. Notice the different stages of strangling the host:

 The master of this style, Mack Boshoff in action creating another strangler bonsai:
Almost the same as root over rock, but a living tree is used in the place of the rock.

The trees can be dug or grown from seeds or cuttings. Even very thick cuttings will strike. Letting cuttings dry out for a few hours in a shaded area will prevent them from rotting. New trees can also be grown from thicker roots.
  Root sprouting:

The trees air layer well.

A very big air layer where the pot method and not the sphagnum/plastic method was used :
The biggest advantage of this method is that the layer can be removed and no need for it to be potted up. It can be used with other species also.

Will update soon.