Queensland Small Leaf Fig - Help needed

Jon Chown

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I really hate to admit that I have had this tree since 1984, during which time it has thickened in the trunk but unfortunately because I let the aerial roots grow unchecked the primary branching has thickened and grown in a vertical rather than horizontal plane. Even with 6mm wire I have not been able to bring the branches down and keep them down.

I have defoliated the tree so that people can see the structure and I would like to pose a few questions. Can anyone help me with these?

1. Is there a way to bring the primary branching into a more horizontal plane?
2. Is it possible to cut back by around half and, if so, when should this be done?
3. Does anyone have any suggestions that I haven’t considered?

The pot is 19 inches long and 5 inches deep. The trunk is 6” height is 21” and width is 34”

Jon
 

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Tachigi

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Hi Jon, A couple of questions. Is there a reason why you want to keep both branches? They are essentially bar branches and make they eye stop dead in their tracks as they ascend the trunk.

When you say cut back by half ,what exactly do you want to cut back? The entire tree? The primary branching?
 

Tachigi

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Jon, the first thing off I notice is the difference in the two photos between the present and 2004. The image taken in 2004 really skirts past the bar branch issue. It looks as if the left branch is higher in that photo. I assume the aerials thickened that branch and pushed down the visual plane between the two branches. That, or the angle of the picture is different. I guess the wire down on the branches in your 2004 photo didn't take. It certainly appears like you achieved what you wanted to do with it wired. I have a nerifolia with a branch about the size of a child's wrist that been wired down for almost 3 years and its just now starting to loose its spring and taking a set. Perhaps in your case you need to leave the guy wires on longer?

I did a quick down and dirty virt, removing the left branch to take away the bar branch impression. I also pruned back the right branch. The reason being that it appears that there is a smaller secondary branch close into the trunk that would bend and take a set for a more horizontal presentation as you said you desired. I doubt it is a 100% solution, however ( to me) the flow of the trunk is better. Anyway my 2 cents worth early on a Sunday morning.
 

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John Hill

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Hi Jon,
Long time
This may seem pretty extreme by cutting both off but it would give it a complete different look for sure. I am by no means a ficus expert but they heal up fast don't they? With your climate in the summer they would not miss a beat.

I know most are tired of these virtuals but hey its winter and in the teens here and I am bored to tears ;-) So on that note maybe you could get it back to 2004 with both branches removed. It is just getting the nerve to do so. Believe me I know ;-)

A Friend in bonsai
John
 

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Tachigi

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Hell John, I need to get bored to tears. Very nice! The old saying ..... simplify, simplify, simply really rings out in your virt.

Jon, disregard what I said ....... my hats of to John, much better solution

EDIT: After thinking about this ....LOL .... don't disregard it. I was approaching this with the idea that you wanted to keep at least on branch. John does in my opinion have the best solution. The branches served to thicken the trunk and with them sacrificed it presents a enviable ficus
 
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I would absolutely refuse to cut one of those branches. This tree is on the cusp of becoming a fantastic banyan style tree. The thickness of the branches and trunk mimic wonderfully the natural growth habit of these trees. Cut it back to the unfortunate vertical turns and encourage more aerial roots.
 

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agraham

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I agree with Chris.....to a degree.I think I would not cut so low though.Ficus branches the size of the secondary ones on this tree can be shaped with wire or tiedowns.This could be stunning.Even if you chose not to take it in the banyan direction,check out some of minshuan lo's work.This has the makings of a very naturalistic albeit abstract ficus tree.The aged look of the main branches or subtrunks is reason enough to keep them.

andy
 

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We should take a vote :) I'm in the camp that feel the bottom branches need to go. Chris, with all respect to your banyan style idea, the branches are just too thick in my opinion. You'd be fighting them for the rest of the life of the tree and would need for the trunk to double in thickness for them to feel in scale. Plus, even with a banyan style tree you don't want bar branches - you are looking for a broad canopy supported by aerial roots not big horizontal branches close to the soil. At least that's what I would recommend :)
 
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My point is that they don't necessarily need to slavishly follow the "rules" about branch size, since these trees in the wild don't follow those rules. What it needs is some more massive aerial roots as flying buttresses.
 

John Hill

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Chris I see where you are coming from, But to do this would it not have to placed in an over sized pot and put into a high humidity atmosphere? I really don't know for sure, never kept ficus for long. A Friend of mine does this and the aerial roots grow like mad.
This is just what I was seeing at a glance without really studying the tree. This is a fault that I am cursed with I guess :-(

A Friend in bonsai
John
 
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That's absolutely right. A wider pot, on a drip tray with gravel, covered with dry cleaning bags is the cheapest solution. A wider pot and a heated greenhouse is the best solution. And perhaps I marked it a little short for cutting back, but you've got to avoid "fishing-pole" curves to the branch tips.
 

John Hill

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So what you are talking about is to get this tree to throw out as many aerial roots from both branches so that they will all grow and fuse together as one very large trunk. Am I right?
Gotcha!

A Friend in bonsai
John
 

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That's one possibility, and certainly there could be some around the trunk, but I was talking about roots farther out, which in nature tend to form new trunks and support the weight of the branches that go so far from the main trunk.
 

Jon Chown

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Gedday John, yes it’s been a while, how have you been? I have been watching the improvement in your virtuals, you sure are mastering the programme.

I have to make an admission here before I join the discussion on this Fig that I posted primarily to encourage some bonsai discussion on this site.

I have been and am a member of several bonsai sites and I have to confess that I have not participated much in the showing of my trees because I always thought that it was almost impossible for others to assist with design ideas based on what they can see in a picture, while I still feel this way, several members here have opened my eyes to the benefits of discussion - Thank you.

By way of further explanation, I have been practising bonsai for over 20 years and frankly, I’m a slow learner and have just recently come to the conclusion that I have reached a level where I know just enough to keep a tree alive and style in a manner that pleases me (on the traditional side). My trees are mediocre and I have to now learn the finer points of refinement and ramification an area that seems to me to be difficult to pick up on the internet.

Toms comment
They are essentially bar branches and make they eye stop dead in their tracks as they ascend the trunk.
I agree with Tom on this point (A very Traditional thought process) and at this stage in the trees styling, I could be tempted to do something about this perceived problem. But is it really the problem.

Chris Johnston said
The thickness of the branches and trunk mimic wonderfully the natural growth habit of these trees.
It was this statement that made me go to my photo library to ignore the outer profile and compare the trunk of my fig with some of the Taiwanese trees that I have seen and, thank you Chris, I think that the Photo below shows (apart from the aerial roots) where my tree should head.

By the way, with regard to the discussion on aerial roots. In my location and climate, I don’t have to do anything to encourage them, I am constantly cutting them off, they grow constantly. On another site (IBC) I was advised that while they look good, there is a tendency for the aerial root to take over to the detriment of the health of the trunks roots. I have found this to be true. Not to mention what they do to the branch that they are attached.

Thank you everyone for this discussion, I hope that it helps other ficus growers.

Jon
 

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agraham

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Jon,

There are three ways of thinking about aerial roots.One can see them as a detriment to the styling of the tree and cut them off.One can see them as a design element and use them judiciously.And,one can use them to build up the trunk girth and taper by wiring,taping,etc. to the trunk.I think all of these options are viable.

The Taiwanese seem to most often use the first and third options.The Floridians are just as likely to make the roots a design element.They all create some beautiful bonsai.I guess it just depends on the design you have in mind.I have designed(or tried to) trees using each of these philosophies.

I can't imagine the aerial roots being detrimental to the health of the tree but I can understand and have seen the excess thickening of a branch because of them.This too can be "fixed" just like any other dominant growth.Heavier top pruning of an apically dominant tree allows the lower branches to strengthen.Heavier pruning of lower branches allows a shrub to be grown in tree form.Timing is the most difficult bonsai endeavor to learn...at least it has been and continues to be for me.

At any rate,I am glad to see you post your trees...it is difficult to design in 2D,but any conversation can be a vehicle for seeing something you might have missed,or for thinking in a way that your mind may have been closed to.

just some rambling thoughts,

andy
 

John Hill

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Gedday John, yes it’s been a while, how have you been? I have been watching the improvement in your virtuals, you sure are mastering the programme.

I have to make an admission here before I join the discussion on this Fig that I posted primarily to encourage some bonsai discussion on this site.

I have been and am a member of several bonsai sites and I have to confess that I have not participated much in the showing of my trees because I always thought that it was almost impossible for others to assist with design ideas based on what they can see in a picture, while I still feel this way, several members here have opened my eyes to the benefits of discussion - Thank you.

Thank you everyone for this discussion, I hope that it helps other ficus growers.

Jon
Hi old friend it has been a long time for sure. I have been fantastic besides being really bored of winter here. Calling for 8 to 12 inches of snow tonight :-(

You know me not much of a writer so I have to use virtuals to show what I am seeing. Now if I can get my bonsai skills up to par also.

Like I was telling Chris I have not kept ficus so I am sorta blind on this but I do have an open mind. When Chris mentioned banyan style it hit me. All I could see was aerial roots and more roots. A friend of mine has quite a few of these trees and he uses a hot humid greenhouse to do this. Here in our zone you have to have a greenhouse to accomplish this. I could see where the roots could get out of hand and thicken a branch beyond the point of interesting. But most of the trees like this I have seen are beautiful in their own way.
Do you think that if you had enough aerial roots close to the trunk and you maintained them to try and get them to grow together that they would eventually become part of the trunk? I know that these trees are fast growers given the climate?
Do you have any pics of this tree in leaf Jon?

This is what I was thinking that Chris was getting at: http://www.tropicalbonsai.com/ficus_philippinense.htm

I am glad I ran into again Jon and hope to see more of your nice trees.

A Friend in bonsai
John
 
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Tachigi

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Jon, Glad you shared your tree, I too learned something from this discussion. In the future dont hold your pictures close to your vest:) We (I) enjoy them
 

Jon Chown

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it is difficult to design in 2D, but any conversation can be a vehicle for seeing something you might have missed, or for thinking in a way that your mind may have been closed to.
Thanks for the comments Andy. Hopefully you guys can teach an old dog some new tricks.

Your comment
I can't imagine the aerial roots being detrimental to the health of the tree
The person who advised me of this was in fact one of the Taiwanese masters on IBC and I am not going to argue with his expertise. I must advise that following his statement I did repot my Fig and found that the aerial roots had virtually taken over the pot and that the roots on the trunk did seem to be less vigorous. Perhaps it may differ with other species of Fig.

John, ‘Calling for 8 to 12 inches of snow tonight’. That has to be cool, although not having seen snow, I’m sure that after a while it all becomes blasé.

John, I have seen the Fig in your photo or at least one similar, and to be truthful that was the original concept for my Fig. I am wondering though if the Qld small leaf has different growth habits to the phillipinense?

Jon, Glad you shared your tree, I too learned something from this discussion. In the future dont hold your pictures close to your vest We (I) enjoy them
Tom, I will bear that in mind as I attempt to come out of the closet.

Zelk, Thank you for the time taken to do the virtual. Thats nice.

Jon
 

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