Herons Bonsai: My Sabre Leaf Ficus Bonsai

Nice pruning session Nigel! I see there are several comments from people that would like removing that long aerial root and the apprentice squirrels already had a go at removing it. Does that root seem to make the upper trunk wider? It’s something that it’s not very clear from watching the video. I thin that would be a reason to remove it. Otherwise, it looks quite interesting.

Video Transcript

hi everyone nigel saunders here welcome to another ficus friday and today i’ll be working on my saber leaf ficus this ficus grew really well over the summer it grew really tall and bushy and i had to prune it back before i brought it down into the basement for the winter because it didn’t fit under the lights so i just gave it a rough pruning on the top of the tree i’ve never quite been happy with the styling of this tree it has three trunks that come up and they don’t really harmonize with each other it’s always been a problem and today i might try and solve it with some pretty drastic work i’m going to start by defoliating the tree that way i can clearly see what’s going on with the branches and the trunks and everything i’m thinking my plan is try and reduce it to a single trunk tree without killing the root base under the other trunks i’m hoping they’ve fused enough with the tallest tree there that i can remove them without killing off the roots that are attached to that part of the trunk scary stuff so let’s start by defoliating the tree to see exactly what’s going on with the branch structure all right here i go so i’ll just prune off all the leaves so this tree has been sitting in the basement where it’s being dormant because it’s very cool down there it’s about eight degrees celsius at the moment and right now outside it’s minus six degrees celsius and it’s going down to -20 tonight very cold after i do all this work on this tree today i’m going to bring it into the plant room to warm it up and then it should grow with a lot of vigor because it’s had that long period of dormancy in cool temperatures it’ll react like it’s spraying and it’ll just wake up and it’ll just start growing like crazy once again that’s the plan anyway and i’ve done that before and it works quite well with the trees while i’m defoliating the tree i’m always checking the leaves for insects either scale insects or white fly or anything and i haven’t seen any yet which is a good sign i’ve had a good year for the plants being insect free both in the plant room and outside over the summer last year some years you get major scale infestations on your ficus other years it’s yeah like this year it’s nothing so far so that’s always good so it’s minus six degrees outside and in the greenhouse here it’s 12 degrees celsius so not real warm but certainly warmer than outside and defoliation should only be done on a healthy tree that has good conditions for recovery like a nice warm plant room that’s got high heat and high humidity most of the time so i’m getting down to the last few leaves here and you don’t have to defoliate a tree to prune it up it just makes it easier to see all the branch structure if you defoliate it but if you can see in there fine you can prune it with the leaves on last leaf coming off now it is defoliated this was my chosen front of the tree last time i repotted it i’ll rotate it around so you can see it from all angles so here’s the front coming around to the right hand side so you can see the trunks there’s a trunk coming forward and one to the back and then a main tall trunk in the middle there here’s the back there’s some roots here that got chewed by squirrels i’ll show you a close-up of those later there’s the left side and back to the front here’s where the squirrels chewed the aerial roots you can see part of it’s not off there some here and some down lower at the back here you can see this root got chewed about halfway through the last time i did a major pruning on this tree i pruned off this branch that was growing up top here hoping to get some more shoots coming out this area i did get one back here i got a branch coming forward and a thick one towards the back which isn’t bad they’re not ideally placed but that’ll do it’s something to work with i’ll explain all the things i don’t like about this tree one is this in this view this trunk line here kind of disappears behind this main trunk here so kind of you see a little bit of it then it goes behind you know if it was shown more like a view like that it’d be more acceptable but then in this view the root base isn’t very nice yeah the roots are the best probably in this view the other problem is this short fat trunk is really thick it’s thicker than the one behind here and i don’t really like that out front either i mean it’s okay i think you know if i eliminated that back trunk it would then be a twin trunk tree and i could live with that i think that would be quite nice even though the smaller trunk is coming forward and the larger trunk is coming backwards i prefer it the other way around that the thicker trunk was in the foreground but you know maybe a slight rotation can fix that so the front of the tree is somewhere here maybe but yeah this one is a problem the fact that it kind of goes up behind the tree there and [Applause] so i’m thinking my thoughts if i remove that trunk and carve away the roots here then i’m hoping that enough of this root has fused with the main tree that these roots don’t die off so i keep my nice root base but i get rid of this trunk at the back sort of like grafting a root onto a tree you know eventually you cut off the top part and you just keep the root that’s grafted to the main tree that’s what i’m hoping to achieve today if i decide to cut that off i’m just looking for other solutions i mean that could be the front maybe always kept this aerial root on it is thickening up a lot it is possible i could remove that also there’s a lot of different ways you could approach this tree you know it’s not bad just in that view keeping all the trunks it’s quite acceptable you got the aerial route all these trunks so maybe you know just a change of view is the best thing to do i don’t know i would prefer to actually not grow it in a clump style i i think this tree because of the large leaves it needs to be a large larger bonsai so maybe you know just growing a single trunk getting it larger will be the the thing to do well i’ve got to decide a plan of action so i’ll have to think about it i rotated the tree around about a hundred times i spun it around considered all the different options pruning this off keeping that and in the end i decided something that’s quite less drastic just a change in front of the tree i’ll show you what i’m talking about this is the current front of the tree so my solution is picking a new front so i rotated it around around here i marked the front with a piece of copper wire and there’s the new front so i’ve got the central trunk a tree off to the left hand side my aerial route off to the right hand side and that other trunk is a trunk that’s in the background almost hidden so i think that’s the best solution i can work on the root base next time i repot the tree but i think this basic arrangement looks quite nice and it doesn’t involve any drastic risky work one of the other areas i considered when choosing my new front view was this trunk line if you look this branch continues the trunk line really nicely so that was another factor in my decision to make this the new front and not go into some drastic pruning because i have a really nice leader here this branch here can be shortened and turned into a nice side branch so there’s a lot of good possibilities using this view i just have to work on the roots and get it looking better there’s the root base with the new front view so you can see it’s yeah it’s not the greatest but it’s not the worst either it can be worked on these radial routes can be sorted out yeah i think it has potential in this view i’m going to start the pruning now and i’ll start with this branch this side branch so it comes off to the right hand side it divides into two right here so if i i do have another branch here i could either prune it using that branch or back to this leaf here so a new shoot would come out from there i think because it’s kind of reaching skyward i need a change of direction so i’m going to prune off this shoot here and try and get a new shoot coming out from the bottom of the branch there so here i go i’ll leave a stub just like that the branch behind here i’ll just prune the tip off there’s a shoot a downward shoot coming off here so i’ll just take the tip off i could come back there is one here but it’s kind of kind of pointing in towards the center of the tree this is kind of too long i’ll have to do that i’ll have to turn it off to here when something grows out here maybe i can redirect it into this area over here maybe something will come out here and back here and maybe i can you know shorten the branch in future so now here’s the main trunk line coming up here i don’t want this branch crossing in front of the other trunk so i’m going to i’m going to eliminate it totally if it fans out this way it’s fine but i don’t want anything crossing over this trunk there’s also a branch coming straight out the front here i’m going to eliminate that one like that now the apex it comes up i’ve got a shoot coming this way one coming this way i pruned it already here once i’m trying to think i should probably shorten it to here at least maybe even down to here always tough choices i’m gonna take it off to here like that hopefully i’ll get two new shoots and i can maybe shorten it back to this one if a branch goes here in future i’ll reduce this one back i’m not taking it off yet but it’s a good possibility of another leader in the future this branch out the back i’ll shorten it for now i may also get rid of that one in the future so that’s kind of pruned up the main tree so next i’ve got to work on this side this side tree here i’ve got some nice branches on this tree i’ve got a big thick one that comes out back that crosses the back tree and i’ve got a nice branch fanning out here and here so i’m going to take it off here big chop this branch i’ll just shorten this one i’ll just shorten this one will shorten and this one will get shortened so that’s got the second tree pruned up so now there’s just this one at the back so i’ve got to decide what i want to do with that at the moment it comes up and then it splits into two and i’m thinking the branch line that fans out is the best one and possibly get rid of this one that then goes behind the other two that’s the front yeah yeah this one interferes it clashes with the tree in front of it so i’m going to take that right off to here like that and then i don’t want it too tall so i’m going to i got a good shoot that would straighten out here come up so i’m going to take it back to there like that shortening it redirecting that apex this one can get the tip pruned off and that one’s fine so that is it for the pruning let’s let’s step back and have a look at it here’s a look at the tree from the front now i i think it looks quite nice i think it looks tall and it’s got good good branching these two trunks kind of converge a bit here and i thought well i could put a wedge in there to separate them a bit but i think that kind of gives a realistic touch to the trees i think if you fan them out just you know perfectly and look a little artificial or it wouldn’t look as natural looking i think it gives them a little special touch almost like they’re hugging each other so yeah i’m quite pleased i’m looking at the overall styling now and i’m thinking that the trunk line on the smaller tree is maybe too tall that’s what i’m thinking so i’m going to reduce that down a bit it’s very straight with no taper too which you know you don’t want it the trunk is very straight without much taper so you don’t want it to suddenly go all twisty up top it’s got a match but i think it’s just a little too tall it kind of competes with the other tree a bit too much so i’m going to do a hard prune on that i’m going to take it back and i thought well i’ve got some branches up top here i could take the tip off but i think that’s still too tall i think i’ve got to take it back more to the height of this side branch here so here i go now how does it look it’s better but it’s still not great i think because the main trunk kind of curves in yeah i think i’ve got to take it down further maybe to here now that is starting to look better yeah i like that now i think that’s quite nice okay so next i want to do some cleanup to some of those former pruning points on the tree all right here i go i’m cleaning up this old pruning point here carving it back flush so it heals over nicely and someday you’ll never know there’s a branch even there getting down into the live tissue now you can see it’s starting to bleed here a bit okay i think that’s good for that point there i’m just looking around everything else is looking good on the that tree now down low i’ve got some cleanup to do i’ll show you that just take this branch stub back to some living tissue so it heals nice i think that’s good there i’m all done the pruning work on my saber leaf ficus i’ve got the new front chosen but i’m going to rotate it around 360 degrees just in case a new front a possibility has opened up all right here i go with the rotation so this is the new front around here so coming around to the right hand side right there [Music] coming around towards the former front and now towards the back the new back coming around to the left hand side to around there and coming around back to the new front i’m going to repot my saber leaf ficus over the summer when it’s hot and humid and i think i’ll give it a a larger oval shaped bonsai pot so it can grow a little larger so the size of the tree will match the size of the leaves just a little bit better there’s a look at the amount of branches i took off today not a whole lot just a light trimming and that is all for this week’s ficus friday i’m nigel saunders thanks for joining me in the bonsai zone [Music]

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