mr_greggy
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tiger bark ficus

Hi fellow tree lovers :)

I am pretty new to bonsai, and I would really appreciate some advice on this one.

I loved this tree's trunk, and had to get it even though it seemed to be like its branches were too long and it only had leaves are the very top. Since then I have cut the branches back to the first one or two leaves, in order to encourage backbudding. This had been somewhat successful. Here s a pic:

[img]https://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/cc462/mr_greggy/IMG_0494.jpg[/img]

First Q. From my research, my best guess is that its a tiger bark ficus. Thats ficus retusa var. microcarpa, right? Now, most references claim that it regenerates from very hard pruning. Since it looks to me like there are too many long bar branches, I am tempted to cut it back drastically, but I am too afraid to leave it leafless. Especially since some of the branches have no leaves at all.

Here is a little idea of how far i wanted to cut it back. What do you guys think? Risky? No problem?

[img]https://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/cc462/mr_greggy/cutback.jpg[/img]

Also, I am wondering whether I should have roots pruned and repotted it before it started putting out new leaves (it has somewhat started since I took this photo). I had a bit of a dilemma with that, since I had just bought it and wanted it to settle in before repotting it, and wasnt quite sure how urgently it needed it. Here s a pic of its roots.

[img]https://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/cc462/mr_greggy/IMG_0508.jpg[/img]

I have a bit of a feeling, most of you are going "Well, duh!" :)

Thanks for helpin out a noob :)

Greg
Have no fear of perfection - you will
never reach it. - Salvador Dali

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manofthetrees
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howdy mr greggy,
you are correct with the retusas taking hard prunnings technicaly you could cut all branches off and the tree would sprout on the trunk. as for styling in my opinion i would cut the trunk on an angle between the second and third branch leaving 3 branches and developing the 3rd branch as the top. this would create better trunk taper. the cut off piece could be rooted as another tree. (ficus cuttings root easily thats why i like them)
as for the roots since you are trying to reshape the top id leave them alone for now. once the top is growing well and in the direction you are planning the roots can be worked on. i would also consider finding a larger pot, asteticly it is too small for the tree
best of luck and keep us posted

kdodds
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Advice is better given on styling if you give us at least four angles, front, back, left, right, at eye level.

Definitely I'd repot. And yeah, you can stump just about any Ficus without worrrying. I'll virt something and post it in a bit.

kdodds
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These are just quick... I see two possible directions for this tree, acheivable by next year.

Semi-cascade on it's way to cascade:
[img]https://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y201/KDodds/IMG_0494_virt.jpg[/img]

Upright:
[img]https://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y201/KDodds/IMG_0494_Virt2.jpg[/img]

TomM
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Great virt!
I was hoping someone would encourage styling in a way to bend and lower the branches way downward and these images show just that - well done. Without doing this the tree has that 'porcupine' or 'hedgehog' look of a very young or immature tree. The trunk does have nice potential.
Again - nice work guys. I'm 'liking' it.

mr_greggy
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wow! thanks so much guys! great that you take so much interest!

to be honest, when i read meanofthetrees' suggestion, i was like "man, thats drastic!" I thought i might be chopping it too hard with my virt! But I guess I m warming up to the idea.

Thanks a million for the virt, kdodds. I think I ll go for the upright style with this one, especially since my pommie has my cascade needs taken care of :)
I m having a bit of a hard time visualising the tree hiding the chop. will the straight cut be rounded off already in a year??? what can i do to make it look more natural? I guess im a bit uneasy since I don't have experience, and i am dreading it having that obvious chopped look for years...

Btw, i guess this is not kind of ficus that will swell up in the trunk?

Anyway. Let me get down to taking some more photos of it in the meantime. I need to give it a 3rd dimension, cos right now its pretty much flat - which is ok from the front, but it lacks depth.

Thanks again all. Keep it comin!

Greg
Have no fear of perfection - you will
never reach it. - Salvador Dali

mr_greggy
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so here's some decent photos as promised. sorry for the previous ones not being done the right way :)

here s the front:
[img]https://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/cc462/mr_greggy/IMG_0511.jpg[/img]

left side:
[img]https://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/cc462/mr_greggy/IMG_0512.jpg[/img]

back:
[img]https://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/cc462/mr_greggy/IMG_0513.jpg[/img]

right side:
[img]https://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/cc462/mr_greggy/IMG_0514.jpg[/img]

top:
[img]https://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/cc462/mr_greggy/IMG_0515.jpg[/img]

and at an oblique:
[img]https://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/cc462/mr_greggy/IMG_0516.jpg[/img]

re the chop concern i mentioned in my last post, perhaps the back view can help with an example. not sure what happened there, hope you can see the protruding old trunk where the chop was made. did somebody peel off the chopped part, or did the tree do that itself? how long do you guys reckon it takes this tree to start hiding the chop in this way? i know, i know... patience young grasshopper! javascript:emoticon(':oops:')

Re repotting. I read that the right time to repot was when the buds start to extend. since the leaves already came out, i figured it might not be the right time to repot? do i have to wait until next spring?

for the shaping and bending, should i be using wire and/or the 'snip n grow' (cant remember what the technique is actually called, hehe) way? I thought that ficuse don't wire too well due to the tendency to bounce back and them scarring easily since they grow so fast...

another style i considered when i was first tryin to figure out what to do with this baby, was some sort of windswept, since the trunk turns to the left and the branches too seem to kinda lean that way? any thoughts on this?

cheers again

Greg
Have no fear of perfection - you will
never reach it. - Salvador Dali

kdodds
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I wouldn't do a winswept with a Ficus, the leaves are too big and will never follow the flow of the tree.

Re: "the chop". You want the cut along the line from branch to branch, slightly over the nodes, but you want to angle it lower in the back. The scar will heal over time, but will not be noticable from the front if you get the right angle.

mr_greggy
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thanks all,

kdodds, yeah, good point re: the windswept. ok, so now I m actually dying to give it the chop! but is it the right time of year? i would like to start the old top as a cutting as you said. im guessing, when i chop it and shorten those long branches, i would need to root prune in order to keep it in proportion? or should i let it use up all that stored energy first?

here in malta we re hitting summer already. i.e. 80-82F, supposedly even hitting 86 this week. the tree is growing out loads of new leaves right now, and i m thinking what a waste of energy! guess the sooner i give it the chop the better?

thanks for your great help

Greg
Have no fear of perfection - you will
never reach it. - Salvador Dali

kdodds
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Yup, Ficus are pretty forgiving, but it may sulk for some time after chopping (or it may not). But the sooner you do it into the growing season, the better. Chopping roots... eh, there's two philosophies on that... Many older texts say, without exception, "as above, so below" or something very similar. To my experience, this ONLY hold true if you're doing quite a bit of root pruning. Otherwise, the top will almost always compensate more quickly than the bottom, so leaving the roots alone and chopping CAN give you some rapid new growth, especially outdoors. The other, newer trend, is to work the top and bottom alternately. Mild pruning and such for one when you chop the other, and vice versa. I'm not too keen on that as an unqualified recommendation to a beginner. Obviously, if you're doing some hard root work on a bushy-topped tree, you're going to have to compensate. So, the alternate thing... if you have enough experience not to ask the question, then you're fine going with it. But, if you need to ask, follow tradition over new theory.

In short... leave the roots unless it's root bound, and just give it a chop without doing anything else.

mr_greggy
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thanks. very informative as usual. yeah, definitely a beginner here, so its quite clear what i should do :) good to know, since i had come across the old text 'as above, so below' or however it goes, and i was kinda goin on that, but then again thinking about the food store in the roots...

another problem is i don't have a bonsai saw. do you think i could pull it off with a regular saw or a branch cutter? i only have those and a concave cutter, and i have to order tools from overseas and they take a while...
Have no fear of perfection - you will
never reach it. - Salvador Dali

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manofthetrees
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in my opinion leave the roots alone for now its a technique for ficus to let them become rootbound, they will grow smaller leaves with smaller internodes which is what you want. if you cut the roots and it takess off cuz of the room the leaves will get huge and it takes a while to get them back to a better size.
for the chop a saw or large cutters will work for the jist of it then go in with the concave cutters to scoop out the cut this. will help it heal faster and without an unsightly bulge. if you have cut paste it would be a good thing to apply but its not necesary

kdodds
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As stated, saw is fine IF you're fine with a saw. Obviously, a saw meant for logs is going to be too large toothed. Saws meant for carpentry are generally finer toothed and better for the job. BUT, the Ficus will bleed quite a bit of sap (normal) and gum up the cut, so you don't want too fine a tooth (i.e. not a hacksaw). Leave a bit of room. Besides possibly hollowing out (generally you don't do this on trunks, or VERY little), you WILL need to clean the edges, especially since it's your first time. For this, I find a simple X-Acto knofe works very well. If you do decide to hollow the chop (I would not, for many reasons) you can use the razor for this as well. Cut paste, IMO and IME, is not necessary on clean cuts. Further, that milky sap? It acts as its own sealer.

mr_greggy
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Yeah, I guess I ll do it as soon as i manage to get my hands on some supplies.

Re: chopping, straight, or hollowing - to make matters worse I came across yet another recommendation on here : https://bonsaijournal.com/beginners-trunk-chop-101.php

I m pasting in the relevant snip, so that you guys don't have to follow any links:

[img]https://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/cc462/mr_greggy/trunkchop101.jpg[/img]

I guess since it will be hidden, I might as well just leave it straight or give it a light hollowing as you suggested kdodds.

Ok. I ll stop with my 20 questions now and take the leap :)

Thanks, this has been invaluable for me...
Have no fear of perfection - you will
never reach it. - Salvador Dali

kdodds
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I wouldn't hollow it... Ficus heal over very well, it just takes time, especially for large cut. I wouldn't hollow because of Ficus' propensity to rot. If you hollow, and it does rot, there's nothing left to cut away (kind of). Besides, hollowing a trunk chop... not really going to help any. Cut it at the angle, but leave it level. Just clean the edges so there's no peeling.

mr_greggy
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Hi guys n gals

Just an update on my tigie, a bit over 3 months after this baby was pretty much stumped. Here's pics of kdodds virt that i pretty much followed (thanks again kdodds!), my own virt superimposed on the computerised version of the stumping, and finally its current state.

[img]https://i6.photobucket.com/albums/y201/KDodds/IMG_0494_Virt2.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/cc462/mr_greggy/tigerbarkvirt3_zps4ec04393.jpg[/img]

[img]https://i1213.photobucket.com/albums/cc462/mr_greggy/IMG_0904_zps924a349d.jpg[/img]

In the last 3 months, after i stumped it, i let it grow out and when there was enough leaves, i got rid of the new growth i didnt want to keep. The wiring shown is the second set, since the first was already cutting into the growing branches just a few weeks from wiring.

Please feel free to share thoughts, feedback, criticism, wtfs, etc :)

Specifically, I was wondering whether the wiring should give it an even more accentuated bend down. Whether to do this now or later, or whether to wait for backbudding and do it with those new branches (clip and grow?)

Thanks and hope you enjoy the update :)

Greg
Have no fear of perfection - you will
never reach it. - Salvador Dali

Neli
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Job well done Greg. I learned something here.

mr_greggy
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jan 13 update

So.... another 4 months gone by, and my tiger bark branches are starting to beef up a little. So here's a little update...

As usual comments / suggestions / feedback appreciated...

Greg

PS - One of my concerns is that it might be looking a bit too 'predictable?' in its growth directions. I m planning to give all branches a bit more of a downward bend, bit by bit - but any ideas on how i can make it look more natural looking? Cheers

Image
Have no fear of perfection - you will
never reach it. - Salvador Dali

Neli
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I am a newbie, so don't pay too much attention.
I would lower the left most brunch and the one on top'and I will point the bottom brunch end bit up...

kdodds
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Predictable is not necessarily a bad thing. I understand the desire to have something different, but this should really be something left for when you have more experience or as a side project. From what I can see, your tree is coming along VERY nicely. The only thing I would offer is to stop pruning back all of the buds/twigs/branchlets that form. The branches will get beefier much more quickly if you allow for sacrificial branches. Since ficus backbud so readily, no harm, no foul in "stumping" a main branch once the desired girth is attained. It won't look very bonsai like in the interim, but you'll get closer to your goals much more quickly.

mr_greggy
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Thanks for your replies, kdodds and neli.

Yes, Nel. Branch positions still need some tweaking. I think i I will lower most of them a bit more, especially the top left one.

Re: overpruning - yep, guilty as charged. Partly cos I need to work on my bonsai patience and let it be every once in a while, hehe, and also cos I am a bit too focused on making it looking good now instead of thinking ahead. I will try my best to keep my eager hands off it :)

Re: Predictable - I'm not sure if that was the right word. What I mean is it seems to me like its looking a bit too textbook. Almost too 'perfect' and hence unnatural, with all branches having almost identical curves. But if you say its coming along VERY nicely even, I will let that reassure me :)

Thanks, thanks, thanks!

Greg
Have no fear of perfection - you will
never reach it. - Salvador Dali

Neli
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I love it!

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manofthetrees
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just catching up on your post ,but lookin nice. if you havent yet i think it is time to do some root pruning. root pruning will give you a good bust of growth . once growth starts pinching the terminal buds off will keep secondary branches in check . leaving the end of the branch to grow uncontroled will fatten up the main branches and can be cut back to shape after some time. i have a 8 inch tall ficus that i let branches grow to over a foot .it fattened up the branches nicely :wink:

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