Shoot Selection on My Ficus microcarpa, The Bonsai Zone, Feb 2021

It’s been about a month since the last series of videos on this tree and it’s beginning to come back into leaf. I’ll be doing some shoot selection and talking about the future of my very first bonsai that I grew from a seed!

hi everyone nigel saunders here today i’ll be working on my very first bonsai and i grew it from a seed it’s been a month since the last video series on this tree and in that series i defoliated the tree i prune the tree and i repotted the tree so now it’s starting to come out into leaf after all the work i did on this tree defoliating branch pruning repotting the natural reaction would be just let the tree grow now and recover when i pruned this tree a month ago i was hoping to get more branching more back budding on the branches and today i’ll be taking advantage of that process so branches that have new shoots on them i may be shortening some i may be refining some pruning out the structure and just further refining it i don’t want to be growing shoots you know that i won’t use in the final design so i’ll rub those off and i’ll keep the ones that i want here’s an example of a branch i cut it off at the end and now i have one two three four five new shoots on it so it went from a single branch to now five branches here’s another example of a branch i pruned it off several places and now i have new shoots coming out all over the place this type of branch pruning will only be successful on a really healthy vigorous tree if you prune a weak tree back you’ll get some branches die off you’ll get weak growth coming out you probably won’t get any back budding it won’t give you the results you want so the tree has to be bursting with vigor so i usually do an operation like this after a growing season so at the end of summer here sometimes you get unpredictable results like this branch i pruned it off the tip here but i have a bud back here that you can’t see and one out at the base of the branch so you know it didn’t butt out on the tip here and that’s because it was a weak branch it was shaded out by branches above so it just didn’t have the vigor to you know create new buds along the length of the branch on this branch i pruned it several places on the tip and i was hoping to get more budding you know back further on this long kind of straight branch but i did get some back budding so sometimes it’s just a matter of chasing the branch back so maybe i’ll prune off the tip here let it grow again prune it back later on and i’ll get budding back in this area probably some day it’s always interesting after pruning to go back and see your results see how good you were with your directional pruning how many back buds formed so it kind of uh it’s like writing a test the test is pruning the tree and then you come and you get your marks and this is the results today so i’m going to look at each branch and see how i did here’s an example of some successful pruning on this branch i pruned it off here and i got a horizontal bud here and one here this branch over here i pruned off here and again i got a horizontal butt each side so that branch worked out really nicely to get kind of a more horizontal branch structure towards the tips of the branch here’s another example of a branch that i was fairly successful it was a more vertical branch and i didn’t want a branch shooting straight up so i pruned off the tip of it and now out to this side i have a more horizontal branch that i can develop in this area so i will take the two upper buds off of this branch and prune it back to that one here’s another example of a successful pruning i prune this long skinny straight branch off here and now i have one two three four five six buds coming off of that branch so this one branch will turn into six branches i can then use directional pruning and i can determine where this branch is going to grow in the future here’s an example of a branch that didn’t really work out uh there’s no buds on it at all so this branch was really weak when i pruned it and it didn’t recover so i do have the branch out to this side which i’ll have to develop in future to kind of fill in this space on the tree i cut a really thick vigorous branch off here a hail mary cut and i didn’t really get that good results i got two new buds down at the base of the branch but nothing kind of developed up in this area so yeah that branch wasn’t so successful the pruning but you know a hail mary cut you’re taking your chances so sometimes you win sometimes you lose but i can still develop these buds way down here into branches in this area so there’s no harm done when you’re pruning a tree you’ll always get some areas of the tree that just react perfectly better than you imagine and other areas may get a weaker reaction less desirable but there’s always a way to recover you can always grow that branch again so what i’m saying is don’t worry too much there’s always a technique or a method where you can recover and make your tree look really good again on some of these branches i may have to leave the pruning until the shoots grow and develop a little more it’s kind of risky if you’re cutting back to buds that the branch may lose too much sap from the cut it may weaken the branch and these buds may never develop the back buds so it’s best to let them grow a little more strongly and then you can prune off the tips there’s a branch here that i don’t want this upper part the part that’s sticking up there’s two buds on it i have a nice lower chute and two horizontal ones so i’m just going to take that tip off i’m going to leave a bit for die back so i’ll prune it right here like that now there’s no wasted energy going into developing that upright branch it’ll all go into these new branches down here there’s a branch here i’ve got some really good shoots except for this one which is growing on the inside of a curve and it’s kind of growing back in towards the center of the tree so i will remove that one entirely there’s just a little stub here i’ll remove first and then i’ll remove that branch like that so that’ll allow these three sheets to grow and i may do further pruning in future maybe taking this one off there’s a branch here it flows up and these are nice flow lines these two branches but i don’t like this third one so i’m going to remove that entirely like that i’m looking at this branch down here and there’s a chute sticking straight up that’s interfering with the branch beside it so i’m going to remove that chute like that there’s a branch here that grows up vertical and i pruned it off hoping to get some buds on the outer part of the branch and i do i have one here one here so the rest of the buds i can take off i don’t want to develop those ones growing in towards the center of the tree so i just rub them off you can rub them off your finger or prune them with shears like that so i’ve left three buds outward facing buds and then once they grow in more i’ll further refine it picking my best ones and pruning the third one off down on this branch there’s a bud that’s running parallel to the branch beside it i don’t want that one so i’m going to take that off or a branch i should say not a bud like that in a few more weeks this foliage will have all grown in and you won’t be able to look in and see the kind of the bare branch structure anymore so you need to do your your shoot selection when it’s at this stage when you can see the branch structure and you can see what’s recovered and growing if you leave it too late it just becomes a massive green up top and you can’t tell what’s going on so so you want to get the right timing for this operation before the leaves have filled out so much that you can’t see the structure [Music] down here on this branch i’ve got a chute that’s growing in towards the other branches so i don’t want that so i’ll remove that one like that on this branch i have two nice branches flowing out from the center of the tree but i have one growing back in towards the center of the tree so i’ll get rid of that one like that this branch is kind of horizontal and then it starts sweeping upwards and there’s some good branches down lower so i’m going to prune the tip off again leaving a bit for die back to there on this branch here i pruned it off and i’ve got a lot of shoots growing in this area so i don’t want the branch that’s growing in towards the center of the tree so i’m going to remove that entirely like that and then i’ve got one two three four shoots i’m going to remove this one it’s not a nice shoot now i’m left with three and i don’t think i want this one over this direction coming towards the camera because this branch kind of flows out radially in this pattern and this is kind of deviating so i’m going to remove this one and keep two branches at the tip there’s a branch here has two outward flowing branches but there’s one coming up vertically off the top of the branch so i’ll remove that one all the fine ramification in the upper canopy of a tree can be developed fairly quickly once you’ve got your primary branches in place then your secondary branches all the subdividing of your tertiary branches can happen in a season or two remember one branch divides to two and two to four four to eight so in a single growing season you can get one branch dividing to probably eight maybe more just over the summer so yeah this outer fine detail branching you can achieve that very quickly in a bonsai what takes time is building up the structure your trunk your primary branches and that taper from thick to thin at the tips this tree was started from a seed and it’s 28 years old now and it’s just starting to enter the refinement stage i’ve got my kind of trunk structure built my primary branches some of my secondary branches and now i’m working on my fine branching towards the outer edges of the canopy it doesn’t mean that the tree won’t change in the next 10 years it’ll change quite dramatically i’m sure the trunk will thicken the branches will thicken the canopy will get wider it’ll be a different tree in 10 years but my techniques that i apply to the tree will change i’ll be using more refinement techniques rather than letting branches grow to thicken them up and then pruning them back it’ll be a little more detailed work as your tree enters the refinement stage you might want to keep some money in your wallet because you’ve got to match the pot to the tree there’s no point having this beautiful refined tree if the pot doesn’t match it the pot on this tree is a little shallow for the trunk thickness the trunk thickness has grown a lot over the last few years and the pots starting to look a little small so i’ve been searching for a nice pot for this tree and i found one on ebay it was just the perfect dimensions perfect color it was a beautiful japanese pot and then i looked at the price it was three thousand seven hundred and ninety nine dollars american and i went oh that’s why i like that pot so i’m not getting that pot uh but i will i’ll be on the lookout for a nice pot for this i i’d like a slightly bigger pot and a little thicker and i don’t really want a glaze pot an unglazed pot to be fine and i think i want now pots and ficuses are a funny thing i’ve looked at probably thousands of ficus bonsai pictures on the internet and i’m always looking at what pot did they match with the tree and i would say in my eyes 75 to 80 percent of the pots don’t match the tree at all they’re just a strange shape you see you know ficus trees with square pots glazes that don’t match there’s no color in the glaze that matches any part of the tree um pots that are the wrong size uh pots that are too small and the trees bulging out of the pot really fancy pots that just take your eye away from the tree yeah so lots of strange combinations in pots and i some you know japanese pots or chinese pots that in my mind don’t really match a tropical tree you want the pot to be i think very simple so and i’m not a i’m not against glaze pots but i think the glaze has to have some color elements that match something on the tree so it’s um your color scheme on the tree has to be in harmony with the pot or you know if it’s not then the pot is going to stand out or the tree is going to stand out it’s a subtle thing when you find the right pot it’s magical but and i’m hoping i can find one for this tree so i’ll keep my eyes open and you know i’m not i’m not going to spend a lot of money on the pot i’m willing to spend probably it’s a tough question because this tree will grow so whatever pot i buy for it is a temporary pot but it’s a pot you could display the tree in probably for the next five years maybe maybe so i’m guessing the most i would be willing to spend on this tree is probably two hundred dollars to if i found an exceptional pot maybe four hundred dollars because the pot because it’s a tropical tree the pots not going to crack or anything in winter um yeah i’m willing to you know pay money for an expensive pot if it’s the right pot for this tree and i’ve got lots of other ficuses growing up that the pot will be useful for into the far future so yeah something to keep my eyes open for a nice pot for this tree up here there’s a branch developing kind of in between these other two branches i’ve already got a nice secondary branch up here so i don’t need this shoot coming up here so i’ll remove that i’ll just rub it off my finger like that on this branch i’ve got a new shoot growing in towards the center of the tree so i don’t want that so i’ll remove that one like that i’ve got the same problem on this branch i’ve got a shoot growing in towards the center of the tree and it’s on top of a branch so i’ll get rid of that one like that on this branch i have a shoot growing on the inside of a curve and that never looks good it doesn’t happen a lot in nature either so off it goes like that i have the same problem on this branch i’ve got a shoot going from the inside of a curve so i’ll get rid of that one like that it’s important if you’re developing fine branching at the tips of your tree that you don’t give it too much fertilizer or your growth will get really coarse long shoots long internodes between the leaves and the undesirable growth so you’ve got to keep the fertilizer down as it develops these new branches and this new branch structure my soil level in this pot is quite high on the root base and i’ve done that to make sure all the roots are in the soil so they don’t dry out after the repotting so once the tree is growing really vigorously and strongly i’ll rake away all this surface soil and expose more of the root base i’ve just done some light pruning on my ficus today getting it ready to grow once again and i’ll get back to working on my encore what temple i’m creating so that’s all for today i’m nigel saunders thanks for joining me in the bonsai zone

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