Shaping Ficus Bonsai – Part 1

In this video I take Ficus, prune and shape them into something spectacular.

I show you that it is possible to change where the Ariel roots are placed.

It’s the end of september and i’m going to talk today about ficuses because a number of you keep asking me to talk about ficus fighters i wouldn’t say is a favorite species because we mainly grow temperate trees and i’m not a great lover of the indoor bonuses but in the western hemisphere and northern europe the ficuses do very well as indoor bonsai and i have some very large specimens of this this particular one was sold last week it’s going to the home of someone who has a large house with large glass windows so this should suffer no problem in fact it will thrive in very bright sunshine so this is a example of one that i pruned early on in the year you remember in march and april i did some hard pruning where i took the branches back about eight to twelve inches that means at least i would say 20 to 30 centimeter back and i tightened it and all these are the new shoots that have started to go so this is an example of a big one let’s show you some of the smaller ficuses and when i say smaller everything is relative and the ones that are very popular which a lot of people buy are these ficuses here these are nice cheap and cheerful ficuses in the boom style with very thick trunk and this is a ficus forest that we made from ordinary ficuses like this that we sell so if you pan along here you will see ficuses in all different shapes and sizes this is the one with the very thick trunk and we made a landscape with this and that was literally sold i think within two days so that didn’t stay long we made several of those so there are some what we call medium-sized ones these ones are like this and with the aerial roots i’m going to try and talk about area roots because if you look at these they have some beautiful aerial roots and you notice the structure that we have now this front greenhouse of ours is where we sell our indoor trees in the summer it gets nice and warm but in the winter because we don’t eat this greenhouse it’s very expensive to heat a big greenhouse so we keep it within this bubble plastic tent and that usually keeps the spices alive so we’ve made several landscapes as you can see these are the thick trunk ones so we use them for all sorts of different uh designs so we change them we don’t always just sell them as they are and this particular one if you remember i did a video where i changed the front of this tree this tree was originally i think lying this way this was the front leaning like that and then i made this into a normal in formula poetry again look at all these beautiful aerial roots and now i’m going to take you to the back greenhouse to show you some of the results of the big ones that i proved i should mention that these are the new t-shirts that we have produced by a company called t-mill i’m sure you’ve ordered it yourselves and tml is an eco-friendly company based in the uk they do it on our behalf they’re not made by us they’re made by teamwork and they use our logos and we get a royalty for it so this is a very nice one that mcqueen designed it’s all about the impermanence of bonsai all these wabi-sabi principles are embodied here and of course we are herons so let’s go into the background ourselves i’ll talk about some of the big ficuses and then show you the projects that we’re going to work on so i should just mention that last week less than five days ago we had temperatures of 26 degrees centigrade today the temperature is about 50 a drop of 11 degrees so it’s getting chilly if you remember i pulled it back to the bare wood it was almost starting from zero and if you remember those of you who have got a good memory i use that little saw and i scored the box by chopping and cut cut like that i did and look at all the new shoots that have come as a rest of doing that you see all from the old wood that has come from simply using the saw to chop while i’m at this tree i will just show you something about this tree let me talk about it if you look at it carefully if you come here you will see that these leaves from the trunk this is the root stock i think it’s like a benjamina type i’m not sure i’m not a ficus expert so i don’t know so see from the trunk and from the actual body of the tree you get this foliage but you must be wondering why the leaves of the branches are different it is because these clever people in taiwan who make these trees they graft the branches of this species onto the trunk so these branches have been grafted onto the main body of the tree and that is how they do most of these trees so that this is this one look at the chunk of this absolutely passive you’ve got to get rid of these if you let these grow they will take over the trees so it’s like suckers you’ve got to get a shot of it and just let the grafted portion go so i got rid of that and that’s another one there that one hasn’t come so quickly but it will come it will come you see how they’re budding back from really old wood again i chopped it back more than 30 centimeters to get it to bunt back tight uh and again as you see in the trunk this is the original tree but we don’t want them to grow because the branches are grafted another species drafted on that now this one is on its own roots so this is a different species all together this one cause sun is broken pot but anyway not to worry we will regrow this one we will regrow this one so we’ve got lots of trees on the go and now we will go to the main subject of today’s demonstration now as you can see we’ve got a treat for you these are ficuses that i think they come from china and they’ve got massive trunks and because these are mass-produced commercial trees there is always scope for improving it so i’m going to show you how we’re going to improve all these every tree is different this one is different that one is different this one is different if you look carefully they’re all different so we’re going to have a lot of fun working on these so we will deal with them one by one and i will show you the design options and i will talk about how we deal with each of these trees because every tree is going to be different now this particular tree this one i let tebow work on it so this is something that he’s done himself and he’s put it in these lovely lovely pots because they look better in these pots and he’s even put a man underneath there and he’s exploited these beautiful aerial roots to the full now these trees by the way they’re not grafted the brats are not grafted onto it this is the actual tree itself so uh i’m not a great lover of area roots you know of course ficus this is the natural habit of these trees they always send these tiny roots out some people ask how can i encourage area roots they just happen there’s nothing you can do to encourage it what you can do is to encourage them to thicken like this if you want it to thicken you can some people when they see a small root they put it in a plastic straw of course stores are not encouraged nowadays but they put it in a plastic straw and they put it into the ground and make it grow now these ones are growing in a weird way i should really take these off because they will strangle the tree i want them to grow vertically so these sort of roots should really come out and be put straight in there because it doesn’t look nice there but again as i say some people like a lot of aerial roots so but for my money i would like to keep the trunk there so i can’t stand it i might as well do this because what i feel is that if you hide the beautiful trunk it’s the trunk every time you know if you have some beautiful trunks why hide it so okay i’m letting some of the arrow roots grow there but i really like to show this part of the trunk so that has improved it and put a man here for scale and a bit of moss to beautify the tree so nice conical shape again i would have liked this branch to have come down a little more with very hard wire thick wire and bend it down like this to make it look more like this so this is a further refinement that i can make so that’s that one which my friend tebow has done i will now look at something i’ll give you a critique of this one this one doesn’t look like that small tight leaf with two sides i don’t know which one this is but it’s got longer leaves but certainly a very vigorous tree the way this one has been trained if you look closely if you come close you will see that quite a lot of wire has been used see there’s lots of wire and because ficus are so vigorous they are very easy to train with wire so if you put a piece of wire on a ficus i think in the core countries like in the uk they will take probably a year to set but if you lived in the tropics out in india or malaysia indonesia these trees will probably have their branches set in about six months they’re that vigorous and of course because they are fast growers uh the marks will form on the branches so i would say don’t worry about it but just keep an eye on it and once the branches have set in position make sure you take it off so i’m going to take them off see they have set they have set so the job has been done so i’m going to i won’t show you taking the wire off because that is not something that is worth showing now i’ve had one or two people comment on my videos that why do i try to save why why don’t you just cut it off yes you can cut it off but why cut it off and you can do this you know they say why for the sake of saving a bit of water i like to save so let me do it my way i know you can cut it but when you can undo it i don’t believe in waste you’ve got to be careful if you leave the wire on they do a leave box now the other thing is sometimes branches are just tied down with string look at this string here this is clearly a piece of string that they’ve used to pull a branch down but they left the plastic string there and if you leave it too long it marks the tree it’s made a very ugly mark now so you’ve got to take it off in time so it’s made of the mark but that will go out so i’m never too worried or obsessed by them so i’m going to take all the wires off but before i do that i will just give it a rough proof if you look carefully look at this bit this has been wired like this to come here but look at these long shoots there they have literally grown in the last month and if you don’t keep control of it you will get those strong branches taking over the whole tree and your original design could get lost so always keep a lookout on these vigorous shoots vigorous shoots can soon take over and of course by doing this i’m seeing uh more easily where the wire is so that would help me undo the wire so pruning first and then removing the wire is actually quite sensible now i will talk about some of these aerial routes again i know a lot of people like aerial roots but they have a function and a use if they are in the right context if they’re not in the right context now this one this branch is coming out in the wrong place it’s hiding the front i didn’t mention that this tree has a front and back now you look at this one this tree is very complicated like that but it’s leaning that way if you look at it from this side there is always one side that is more handsome than the other side so this is the front i should have mentioned it right at the start that i would use as the front let’s keep pruning because usually one does the pruning afterwards but i’m doing pruning so that i can see where i’m going with i want to remove those wires again a lot of these rogue shoots i call them rogue shoots because they’re growing in the wrong place certainly there will be a lot of cuttings ficuses grow very easily from cutting those of you who live in the tropics will know that even if you stick a thick piece of ficus trunk into soil ordinary mud soil they will they will root in literally a couple of weeks i remember when i used to go to india i used to be really surprised at how easily they root of course you get nice trees in virtually no time at all as i say all the wires have done their work in fact they started to bite the other practical use of unwiring wires that have been put on the branches is that you learn from the person who has been doing the wiring as i say it’s not just from wiring putting wire on that you learn you can also learn from seeing how the wires been put on when you unwire a tree so there is that side to it always interesting to see how someone else has done the wine so these are commercial trees and see how these commercial bonsai people in china have done this tree and i will see we just want some of the very long branches to make it come down and let me see how he’s anchored this has he used the two branch principle uh not quite he’s hooked it to a root but it’s done the job so two branch principle not meticulously followed now looking at this tree this branch has been left here and again for my money there’s no right no wrong i would like to take it off because this is a very beautiful truth and with that in the way it is hiding the beautiful trunk so i’m going to take this off seems quite drastic but it’s coming off and although i’ve spoken so much about making cuttings cuttings ideally about thin as a matchstick like that but with ficus i know that if i stick that in soil that is bound to root so the tropical trees they root very easily so i’ve removed that thick bronze so you can now see all of this trunk all of this strength so this is going to heal over don’t worry about that now there are lots of aerial roots as i say some people like it some people don’t if it were my tree i would not have any aerial roots at all because it is so complicated it hides the beauty of the tree and as you can see look at these thin roots there these are the roots that become thick eventually so they will keep producing these rules and again i’m not a great lover of roots some people do some don’t i’m one of those i don’t and look at the mess here this obviously has not been checked and they’ve just grown and it can start making the tree look untidy if you want to rearrange them you can always pull the area root out like this and put it somewhere else like that you see you can put it somewhere else so you don’t always have to have it coming out over there again this one is a bit bizarre coming from there and there as i say some people like it but i personally don’t i would like to see the front clear you see this is now hiding the beautiful trunk again if it was my tree i would cut all these off but because i have to sell a tree there are different people who think in a different way customer may like all these bizarre routes so although i don’t like it i have to respect other people’s days and i’m going to leave it because there’s more chance of it selling like that and of course i always have the view that different people have different things i think it is disrespectful to say oh it’s not good because i don’t like it so it must be wrong i think as i’ve gotten older i’ve come to realize that you can’t always be right there other people who have different views and they are also right so this is how i’ve learned to improve as i go along so i’m doing two things at the same time i’m removing the wire and also pruning and as i said by pruning and being able to see where the wires are going i’m learning how this guy has done the wiring you see he’s made this into a complete almost like a c-shape look at that look at a bit of wiring he’s done so flexible c-shaped there very nice again it’s not how i would have done it but it’s a different style and he’s just hooked it to the roots there’s no two bars principle involved now here again here he’s used two bronze prints so you can see clearly this branch in this box has been wired together so looks good you notice i’m using the japanese gin plus for removing the walls very useful tool i think the wire they’ve used for this branch this is three mil water as i’ve always said for most trees especially trees of this type of size two two and a half three three and a half are the usual sizes of wire that you need for this type of branch for some reason they want it to go up again maybe to produce some depth at the back you see that dome shape they’ve created so this is the style of this tree and that branch is going to the back okay fine let’s give some depth and perspective so this is good as well so whenever you get a bonsai whether it’s from us up to when you buy from any other nursery don’t take it as given that what you’ve bought is the perfect shape you can put your own stamp on it by reshaping the tree so what i’m doing here is really reshaping the skin although not in a very drastic way i’m still reshaping it so it is so dense that is becoming looking like a jungle it’s one thing to have a very healthy tree but it becomes so dense and you can’t see the structure of the tree then i think the tree is losing a lot of its beauty and potential ficus i would warn you they need a really damp damp living room i know we grow it in our greenhouses but but in an average living room it’s very difficult to provide the humid conditions that you need for ficuses to thrive if you live in the tropics i’m sure a lot of people who watch these videos live in tropical countries they have a head start but for those of us who live in these temperate climate see like the outside temperature today is 15 degrees it’s quite cold outside and then the living room will be 20 degrees ficus is really love to be in temperatures of 25 30 or more and with very high humidity so if you live in these tropical countries growing ficus is easy but then they also have the disadvantage of not being able to grow anything else they can’t grow maples and all the lovely temperate climate trees that we can grow but ficuses we treat as a novelty because it’s not easily available and they don’t grow so well in the average western living room again okay he’s used to brown principle here which is good see i’ve taken the wires up because the wires have done their job but should i wish to change the shape i may need to re-wire again so a bonsai is a living piece of art it never stands to and you have to keep working on it all the time so although i’ve taken the wires off at some stage i may have to put some wires back on that’s a rope shoot there let’s get rid of it rope sheets shoots are these very strong shoots look at cutting they’ve got hundreds of cuttings here we produce these cuttings because people buy them to use as little starter trees now i see here that they’ve used a piece of wire with no two branches just hooked onto the branch hooked under the trunk and then wired down it does the job no they’ve anchored it to the trunk in a way why can’t we leave the wire on the trunk yes you can but uh unless you want a really weird now looking trunk you know i wouldn’t do that because as some of you know i leave it on my pines and latches to thicken the trunk or they’ll form that lumpy shape so it all depends on what you want to achieve i’m taking rather long to show just one of these trees i’ve got another four or five to go so i think i’ve now known there’s just a few more wires left so there’s quite a few words to get rid of you can see like this one here you see how they do that they keep doing these curly c shapes you see right down and then swerving out so with ficus you can do that because they’re quite flexible so what they would do is let these trees grow long branches and then wire them again so they would cut it back to the main trunk and let new branches grow and when the new branches have grown they then select the branches they want and wire those particular branches so that’s the way these are trained so sometimes when branches get too thick even while like some of our hardy outdoor trees like maples and junipers if you have a thick branch it will not contrast sufficiently with the trunk and the trunk won’t look so thick now there’s another two branches here with one piece of water let me take it off before it bites they’re all beginning to bite and as i say these wires have been on for not more than a year i would guess six months to a year we can’t grow these from scratch because we haven’t got the climate for it but they do go all bit slowly lots of water oh so although it’s the end of the summer now i would say in a couple of months time the ficuses will start shedding the leaves and many people think that just because we describe the ficus as an evergreen they think they never shed their leaves they do shut the leaves and there are certain ficuses i remember when i go to india in the winter months many ficuses shed their leaves completely so it’s a bare tree like a deciduous uh tree that you find in a temperate climate so don’t get the notion that all ficuses keep the leaves right through the air they will shed some leaves so the beauty of this tree lies in the very dramatic trunk i’ve always got rid of all the wars so this is almost a demonstration on wiring but as you can see i’m pruning as i go along so the other little tip is when you wire a tree don’t just leave the wires straight you can always do a little zigzag you can see how these parts of these wires have been put on the branch can you see how this thing has gone like this curvy shape so they’re not just wide straight they’re all given a curve so that’s the secret of getting nice looking one one final piece of wiring again this one you see this they’ve used thin one you see how they’ve curved it like a c-shape s-shaped and again they’ve only used one wire which has obviously done the trick so i’ve taken all the wires off and this is the tree i may change the pot because if you remember that other pot that we have i’m going to change all the pots so when we’ve tuned all the trees i’m going to put them in new pots now this outline can be improved a little more so as it grows keep pulling it back to give you that nice dome shape see that little branch at the back gives a lot of depth and perspective so this is nice so as i say it’s your choice how you want to grow these aerial roots and it’s got a beautiful twisted trunk there so this i would say is a beautiful design so when you make a fighters i think these would have been wired from very young or they would have found a kinked branch and made the trunk that way and these would be produced from very thick cuttings and you see there must have been a very thick bronze there they cut that off to give that bend to make it bend back on itself so that’s one done and i’ll move on to the other ones one at a time thanks [Music] you

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