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Here’s an interesting fact: I live in Florida, I have four studygroups where at least one buttonwood per day shows up to be worked on, they are native to the state and always win the Florida Native award at our convention, I love carving, wiring, and refining them, but…..I don’t own one in a bonsai pot. I have some in nursery cans, and training pots, but not a single one in training.

Weird, right?

Needless to say, the subject of today’s blog, a buttonwood, belongs to my Monday morning client, Janice. I’ve been going to her for about a year and a half, or so. If you follow my Instagram she is the owner of all those beautiful bougainvillea I post so often. This buttonwood (conocarpus erectus) is one of her favorite. She got it from the Buttonwood Queen herself, Mrs Mary Madison.

I can’t recall if I’ve blogged about it before, at least not in its own blogpost (I searched for it). But it’s time for it to be the Star now.

Here it is in February, 2018. It looks like I styled it once at this point. the bones were all there, with superior deadwood, good trunk flow. The branches just needed direction. At the time of the pic, I don’t think it had been repotted at all. But in this post it will be its second repotting from me The tree responded very well last year and even grew over the winter. I’ve been going against conventional dogma (dogma: /ˈdôɡmə/ noun, a set of principles laid down from up high by an authority that should be treated as the absolute truth and not to be questioned by Adam) and continuing the processes of fertilizing, pruning, etc., over the winter, and it shows. Most buttonwoods drop leaves, here in Florida, when they are “dormant” during the cold months (they are technically classified by the USDA and the US Forestry Dept. as a deciduous tree, as they can go leafless during winter, due to cold or drought)

But it’s not even dropping leaves now, after the first flush of growth.

….and no pests that I can see. We’ve been plagued by a bug called a “chili thrip” which has been going through populations of landscape plants like Schefflera and Indian hawthorn (it was named in the greenhouse trade in chili pepper culture, hence the nomenclature) but has begun its cross species trek into buttonwood. In the wild, there’s a check on them from other predatory bugs, but the overuse of broad spectrum and systemic insecticides in ornamental plant management has many unintended consequences.

Such as: on bougainvillea, we get a small caterpillar called a “looper” that resembles an inch worm. It eats the leaves voraciously. Many people are using the neonic insecticide, imidacloprid, with brand names of Merit, Premise, etc, to control them. It does kill them, as it’s a has a systemic mode of action, meaning the plant absorbs the insecticide and it becomes present in the plants tissues. This mean that, when a bug ingests a plant leaf, it kills the bug. Neat.

Unfortunately, the insecticide also kills predatory bugs that live on a bougie, who, in turn, keep a nasty spider mite in check, of which said spider mite sucks the juices of the flower, causing a weirdly crinkled bloom (well, not really the flower, Bougies have bracts, which are modified leaves, that’s another lesson). To keep everyone happy, except the caterpillar, use instead an insecticide called BT, which targets just the caterpillar. (It’s not really an insecticide but a bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis, you can get a powder and mix it or a pre mixed spray. Non toxic, safe for everything except caterpillar type bugs)

Anyhow. Back to the buttonwood.

Notice the small leaves?

This is a large leaf from one of my stock trees.

People are always asking about how to get small leaves on a buttonwood (and any tree, really). Well now, I’m here to help!

The best way to get small leaves on any tree is to….ready for it? Do you have your pen and paper in hand?

The best way is to….not worry about it. Your first inperitive is building the branch. Thickness, taper, movement, and then ramification. That means more secondary, and tertiary branches. And through making more branches, you’ll get more leaves. More leaves mean….ready?

Smaller leaves! A tree is like a small (or big) solar energy collection machine. But it only needs just so many square inches of the photovoltaic material we call “the leaf” in order to survive. A tree with few branches will have big leaves. When we cut the grow tips or defoliate a tree, the hormones throw the tree into gear to grow as many leaves as it can. But, here’s why more branches mean smaller leaves, the tree will stop the leaf growth (generally) when that surface area is achieved

Basically, if a tree loses all its leaves, it will grow back twice as many, in response, but they’ll tend to grow back half as large.

What my goal is, at this pruning and maintenance session, is more branching. To do this, we cut will all the grow tips.

This removes the auxin at the tip, allowing the cytokinins to become dominant, which stimulates dormant buds to grow. Hormones aren’t just for teenagers and elephants in must.

Aha! A flower spike. Called an “inflorescence” by the botanist, on the buttonwood, it’s the end of a grow tip.

Which means that the branch won’t elongate as a single branch but as a fork. Flowering, amazingly, causes ramification.

But, considering I’m working the tree (and repotting) I’m going to remove them so the tree doesn’t waste energy making more flowers and seeds.

I’ll still get more ramification, but even more quickly.

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It’s been a long and winding road with this Brazilian raintree. It made its debut Here, in 2012. That’s like, 7 years man!

Another fantastic showing was Here , where it was planted it in its current pot.

If you read both of those (like, why didn’t you? Huh?) all the carving and concrete work I toiled on are going to be tossed aside, like a deuce in the night, for a new vision (yes my friends, it’s “deuce” not “douche”, in that old song). The carving at the top is still pretty much in good shape, but (and take note), as often happens, the deadwood at the base has rotted away. But I have achieved the goal of strengthening the live vein. In those previous posts (you haven’t read them yet?) on the tree, that vein was less than the width of my pinky. (since I’m the only person in the world that uses my pinky as a unit of measurement, it’s about 3/4 of an inch wide, or 19 mm, for the metrically inclined. You all should adopt the Adamist system of measurements. It’s way more accurate. My system for liquid measurements is…..inspired….)

The first work tonight is on the deadwood; to get rid of all the soft deadwood and then do some rough shaping with a knob cutter.

As you see below, with the loss of all that mass at the base, we have a bit of obverse taper.

Ok, a lot of reverse taper.

So much inverse taper (see what I did there?) in fact it looks like a pencil rendering of El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha, tilting at a windmill.

Or one of those illustration and animations that Pink Floyd used in The Wall videos and movie (you youngsters should look that up. There’s some scary parallels in those images).

Now that that’s done, let’s turn to the pot. (you’ll notice the rock? I had to put it there to stabilize the trunk, but the roots have developed enough that it’s holding it up by itself)Here’s the new pot. It’s a container made by Dave Lowman I picked up at an auction in Sarasota. I really love his work, especially the crescent and amorphous shapes they’re the most natural in the country (his Website).

And, as has become common for these evening picture shoots, the obligatory blurry soil and root shot.

The stone is pretty well embedded in the roots.

It’s the only naturally occurring rock in Florida, they call it “capstone”. It’s our bedrock and what our aquifer is made of (well, there’s the water of course, but there are caverns under Florida filled with water that crazy people cave dive. Not me. I once saw a program on an educational channel where a guy in a car followed the divers through a city with a tracker of some sort, as the divers explored the water filled caves. The divers eventually came up in a small sinkhole in an abandoned lot. Some of the passages required the divers to take their air tanks off to fit through. Scary).

The old container. Made by me, of concrete. The color was achieved by mixing red and black powdered coloring.

I call the effect “sexual chocolate”.

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You all know about the willow leaf ficus, at least you should.

I blog about it quite often.

Well, for those not in the know, it’s the ficus salicaria.

The ficus “89”, though, is a variation of it. You see, back in 1989, in Vero Beach Florida, at Jim Smiths nursery, it got cold. Cold enough to freeze a bunch of willow leaf ficus to the ground.

It didn’t kill them, but what grew back had bigger leaves and grew faster that the stock plants.

I’m not really sure what happened and it’s above my pay grade to figure it out. I could assume what happened but that just makes an ass out of the person doing the assuming. It’s above many bonsai people’s pay grade.

Anyway, this tree has bigger leaves and grows fast. It looks nice now, it had a full canopy and quite bushy. The fast growth caught me by surprise and all this wire… ….cut in pretty badly. But that fast growth rate will fix that soon enough.

Why is this a “Quick Blog”?

Well, you’ll see soon enough.

Linger on the before shot……..

‘Cuz it’s all coming off

More so than usual.

There’s not gonna be a pretty “every branch wired” tree at the end.

Only a stump with some more stumps growing out of it. Even more stumpy than the above pic.

Snip!

Snakt!

Chop!

I’m taking advantage of that fast growth.

Let’s build some taper.

Fertilize, water, FULL sun.

And that’s that.

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This specific southern hackberry is a common subject of the blog. I could write a book on it there’s so many posts.

It was in this post where the tree made its humble debut.

To get you up to date on what happened this spring, I repotted it after about three years of no repot, and I just let it grow.

Today:

Here’s how it looked on January 22, 4:43pm, after the repot. (timestamp on my iPhone pic…..I’m not that organized. Used to be we had to put our pics in an actual physical, paper-leather-plastic-and-glue picture album, and use a pen to write out the day and place the pic was taken. Actual printed out Polaroids or 110 Kodak film. The smart phones do it all nowadays. Here’s how many pics in my phone at the moment …All those pics and videos in my back pocket. Computers are so advanced these days that, soon enough, the AI’s are going to introduce nanobots so we won’t have to even brush our teeth ever again, they’ll scour our mouths for all that nasty, harmful bacteria and the green bits of leftover spinach from our teeth after that lunchtime calzone. No more onion breath, lady dragon breath, or gingivitis. PROGRESS!)

It’s been an unusually wet spring but this last week in Orlando it has been dry and brutally hot.

Like, Africa hot, totally (as my sister, a child of the 80’s, says).

So the leaves are showing a little heat stress. Deciduous trees in Florida (and around the world, really) tend to go dormant in the heat. That’s one reason they’re ragged looking. And there’s a bug or something that ate some holes in a few leaves. That’s ok, we all need some salad every once in a while. And I have a feeling the remaining leaves will not survive this post.

But the rains have spurred some new growth. Which means…time for work!

First, some pruning. There are a few dead branches left over from the end of winter work.

Which is typical of deciduous trees. The sap retreats in the autumn and the tree has to endure the freezing temps, so it’s pretty common for a tree to abort a branch or three. Sometimes it’s just a windy day that dries out a thin twig, sometimes a branch will freeze, or sometimes we just don’t know why it happens.

I have an idea with this one above, it is in an incredibly shady spot, and those branches tend to be weak anyway. One reason we try not to grow them there in the first place.

Here are a few establishing shots. To give you a before.

As I said, the tree has been allowed to grow.

There needs to be time for your trees to do this. Especially on a deciduous. But even on tropicals, which can make sugar like there’s no tomorrow.

The only way a plant feeds itself is with this amazing process called photosynthesis (contrary to what the popular fertilizer advertisers say when they constantly barrage us with the “FEED YOUR LAWN!!!” commercials, there is nothing we can do to give sugar or carbohydrate to a tree. Think of fertilizers as energy drinks. Energy drinks are not as bad for you as you may think, they are full of vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, which a body needs, granted, but they also have caffeine and sugar, should you go for the fully sugared varieties. Caffeine is an artificial energy source, but it’s not what our body uses as fuel. Too much caffeine eventually weakens us and opens up our bodies for some types of disease. This happens with fertilizers. Too much nitrogen causes weak growth, sapping the tree of carbohydrate that should be in reserve. Where my energy drink analogy falls apart is the sugar aspect…..maybe. Our bodies are adapted to convert complex food into fuel for..

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A studygroup? Isn’t that one of those late night college thingies that begin with good intentions about collectively cramming on some difficult subject but usually devolve into binge watching Netflix and over indulging in pizza and beer (and other mind altering herbage)?

It is that.

But, considering I write a niche bonsai blog, we are going to explore the phenomenon called the “bonsaibp studygroup” (which my editing software insists that studygroup is two words, but I shall micontinue, in the spirit of my generation, turning ctygit into one word, oh well, whatever, nevermind). I’m curious why they started calling the bonsai workshop with exclusive members of “at least six but no more than ten people” a “studygroup” ? It could be because they do devolve into beer drinking and pizza scarfing events when all of the work is done? At least mine tend to do that, at times.

A bonsai studygroup can take many forms. The first ones were just a bunch of people getting together to work on trees; it’s less than a club, which clubs tend to have presidents and bylaws and get caught up in business meetings and bonsai politics, but more than a drinking session while chopping trees.

Sometimes these types of study groups will bring in a professional to teach, but they don’t need to.

I had a group we called The NoNaMé Bonsai Studygroup.

We had a monthly (or yearly, if you wanted to) membership fee that was used to bring in various artists from around Florida and even the country (there was one year we had Suthin Sukosolvisit, Guy Guidry, and various Florida artists like Erik Wigert). We kept our studygroup informal, no bylaws or officers except for a treasurer, who was me.

In Florida and with the Bonsai Societies of Florida we could have made our group official and had the benefits of belonging to a state organization, like access to the Visiting Artist program or website help, and there are several in the state that are. But I wanted to stay out of the politics. I should have listened to my past self, huh?

There are also many studygroups in the state which are made up a group that just like to do bonsai together without any outside artists coming in, like the Brevard group that meets at Dr. Reggie Purdue’s house.

Now, let’s get to a new phenomenon that has been building in popularity of late, the Professional guided studygroup.

Disclosure time, I lead four such groups in Florida. Here are some pics from them (I realize you are all suffering from text fatigue, and need something to look at).

Above that’s Pete, Tom and Marty, below is Bob and a bougie.

A redesign of Steven’s willow leaf ficus. More on that at the end.

The idea of a professionally steered studygroup is to, well, utilize a particular artists strengths in a group setting. My strengths tend towards finding and developing trees that may not have had a bonsai persons hand in the life of the plant yet, refining those trees that have had an initial styling, and bringing near finished trees to a level where they are ready for exhibit. I’m also good at The Chop. This is a willow leaf chop we did in the Ft Myers group.

Here is some work turning a Brazilian Raintree into a flattop. Just the beginning, getting the first branches in place. Someone told my student that the tree wasn’t a good candidate for a flattop style.

An initial Penjing or sakei planting.

Trying out different pots for a divi divi tree.

We chose this one.

That’s Kathrin. But it’s not her tree.

Some studygroups meet once every 6 months, once every 4 months, or even every month. They are not a substitute for clubs. Clubs are important for the culture, cross pollination of ideas and techniques, and for the history.

My studygroups meet monthly.

It is ambitious on my part but it’s also selfish. I love working on trees. These two Raintrees are from Kathrin

As well as this ficus.

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The first rule that we bloggers get in our official blogging contract with the managers of the internet is that we should “……avoid alliteration, always…”.

But I’m a rule breaker, an iconoclast, a loner, a rebel. This blog is, after all, “An irreverent blog by a questioning Bonsai Artist”.

MMMMMMMM……

Which brings us to today’s tree: a ficus salicaria, the famous Willow leaf fig.

I can’t remember if I’ve blogged about this tree before, or if it was in a YouTube video, but I’m pretty sure it’s on Instagram somewhere (edit: the original styling is on YouTube, here are some screenshots for those that don’t want to watch an incredible handsome and funny bonsai dude play with a little tree…)

The before…

During…..

The finish(Make sure you watch past the credits, I was doing post credit scenes before it was cool).

The stock material was pretty regular and not exceptional.

Marginal, as I said.

But, after a few years, and several wiring and unwiring sessions (including the unwiring I just did moments ago as you were watching the video), here’s the tree:

Notice the unwired tree has gotten shaggy. Here’s an interesting aside concerning trees (this is important when you are chainsawing big trees in the landscape as well as bonsai) there the phenomenon of branches pushing back against an object, like another branch or, in our case, the wire. Meaning that, as an example in a big tree, a branch, as it grows, will push against an object, say a telephone pole or a neighboring branch, creating what could be substantial tension. This might be dangerous when using a chainsaw (or any saw) when pruning. You could be sawing away and “POP!!” The tension suddenly releases, whipping the branch, and could hurt you or someone below.

What happens on a bonsai is that as soon as you remove the wire, the branch will move. The branch is pushing against the wire. It is, thankfully, not much movement on our little trees, but it means you might need to rewire almost immediately.

Especially on a ficus.

Example on today’s tree, the before, with wire:

And without wire:

And before someone says that I took the wire off too soon, this ain’t my first tree. I keep the wire on long enough for it to cut in, as you can see below.

And, before I get the “you done ruint that there banzai with the wire” rant, I’ll say again, this isn’t my first tree. Those wire marks will grow out. Promise.

This is probably the third wiring, and you can’t see the marks from the first wiring anymore, can you now?

This time, I’m only going to use some guy wires to keep the main branches down….…..and one wire on the top left.

I could leave it without wire and let it grow out, but all those twists and movement might be lost, and the branches will start to grow up again.

Why do branches grow up you ask?

Why, that’s an interesting question. I’m glad you asked…

As a tree grows, it tends to put more material on the undersides of branches and, interestingly, in the insides of curves.

The underside growth is for two reasons.

We have gravity trying to pull the branch down, the tree needs to grow up to the sun for photosynthesis. Our friend, auxin, the main hormone for growth regulation, doesn’t like sunlight (which is funny because that’s what causes trees to grow towards the sun) so it collects away from the sun, on the bottom of the branch. That auxin then stimulates growth, and “pushes” the branch up. This explains why trees and most plants grow towards the sun or a light source (sun on one side, auxin on the other..phototropism) and explains why branches want to grow up after we’ve “trained” them down. The auxin is on the underside of the branch and “pushes” the branch up.

This same characteristic explains why a trunk with extreme twists will “straighten” out in time.

A young S-Curve tree tends to have an exaggerated “s” in the trunk compared to the older, thicker ones available. That’s because the auxin hides in the shade of the inside of that curve, causing more growth and creating more tissue, and, therefore, “fills in” the curve.

And that’s your horticulture lesson for today. Mark as “read” and file it for future reference.

And that’s that.

The tree shall grow and maybe you’ll see it again soon.

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Ahhhh, it’s my favorite time of the year at the Walt Disney World Resorts, the Annual Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. And what that means is, the Bonsai Societies of Florida display in the Japanese Pavilion.

I’ve had a tree on display a few times now but this year I opted not to submit one for consideration. There were a few reasons why I bowed out this year, one was to make room for new exhibitors.

One of those new people was Stephen Gale, one of my study group students, and this is his tree. I volunteered to deliver it for him so he didn’t have to buy a new car in order to transport it. I used my wife’s Kia minivan so I didn’t have to replace my much loved PT Loser. The tree is a willow leaf ficus (Ficus salicaria) that he had grown from a smaller cutting.

Significantly smaller.

Being the president of the Central Florida Bonsai Club I am, however, a member of the Epcot Selection Committee, headed by our intrepid leader (and OrlandoBonsaiTV YouTube guy) Paul Pikel. So I had some responsibilities.

Or perks.

The morning of the install found me having a chocolate croissant and a hot mocha. We had stayed the night at The Contemporary Resort to make sure we are all just a short way away from the Epcot park.

But it’s still an early morning, we had to be at the backstage staging area at 7am.

And it was also a chilly morning for an early March day. You’ll notice the jackets (no snow, though. It is Florida)

Here’s Steve’s willow leaf ficus (if you zoom in, yes, the sign has a misprint. It is not a Brazilian Raintree).

A leafless tamarind from Ben. For those wondering, this legume can be a deciduous tree in cool enough winter. But Ben defoliated it before the show.

This year we had the pleasure, but also the honor, to be able to show one of the trees (A ficus exotica) that was created by late, great, Jim Smith. It is among the trees that’re on display at the James J. Smith Pavilion at Heathcote Gardens down in Ft Pierce. Here’s three of my blog posts showing all the trees on display Part one, Part two, and Part three

The curator now is a fine gentleman named Tom Kehoe. Take a trip and see all the improvements he’s made. And be astounded at all the trees.

This is the 2019 exhibitors and the committee team. Notice how cold they all look!

As I said, being a part of the committee has perks. Sunset over the Seven Seas Lagoon.

Fireworks over The Magic Kingdom. That’s Space Mountain in purple there.

The Epcot display is a program of the Bonsai Societies of Florida, but my local club also plays a part in the Flower and Garden show. We have what I call a Meet n’ Greet booth on select weekends in the Festival Center.

The trees are smaller, but we get to talk to the guests.

Getting back to the Epcot/Bsf trees, the display is there for a full three months, from the beginning of March to the end of May (there’s still time to see them!) and because of that, they really change and grow. I believe this is the most unique and amazing part of the show.

For example, here’s a lysiloma from Mike and Lunetta.

The beginning of the show…

And mid show.

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The first rule of bonsai writing is that you must impress your audience with non-descriptive, cryptic, and unpronounceable neo-Japanese jargon.

The second rule is that it should read as though you are Hemingway describing a shotgun.

Short. Declarative. Sentences.

If you’ve discovered this blog for the first time, I’m sorry.

My style, approach, and attitude are not akin to your average bonsai blog.

If the reason you’ve come back is because of my irreverence and unique “voice”, I thank you.

My blog is in the first person (for those that didn’t pay attention in English class, like I am speaking it).

It’s bombastic.

It’s non conformist.

And it’s salty.

I’m a scarred, slightly broken, and maybe even a little bit of a madman, but I’m a survivor.

Kinda like these ilex I’m about to work on (and you thought I was just talking about myself, when it was really just a long segway into the actual subject).

I was invited to give a demo for the North Florida Bonsai Club by Tristan, the current president.

This is my third visit in as many years, so maybe they like my “voice”. We had gone back and forth for a subject and a format for a couple of weeks and we finally decided upon a demo using ilex vomitoria “schillings”.

I had given them the choice between three different trees. They chose this one, and this was the result.

I consider myself an ilex man, the dwarf of the species being my favorite broadleaf evergreen in the whole wide world to work on.

Of the three, they chose this one. I think it’s a nice one. Good nebari, well healed uro, it’s kinda in an ume style. Which means that the roots as they enter the soil (nebari) are strong and radial, there’s a hole in the trunk (uro) , and it resembles a Japanese apricot in its growth habit (ume, which tends to have angular movements and lots of rotting wood).

I told you about those fancy words, right?

The real subject of this post (I tend to wander) is a collection of collected ilex I’ve had for about 4-5 years and have been a bit neglected.

I also had made mistakes in the initial pruning, resulting in profound rot on many of the trunks.

And I left some wire on this one. No don’t even remember putting it on truth be told (which might be the reason I forgot it. It must have been done during one of my black outs)

It’s easy to remove I might just cut off the whole branch in the end. But that’s ok. As they say:

“Make a plan, prepare for your plan, but you must adapt in order to overcome.”

Not sure who they are though. Pruned.

Wired.

The back.

That bridge is still alive, amazingly.

Even though most of the chunky trunk died (that which most modern bonsai practitioners would say it absolutely needs) I think it still looks like a tree.

I’ve written a lot about ilex. It could be considered “my” tree in the sense that I know way too much about them.

In fact, here’s my very Fifth blog post , actually.

And my sixth blog post.

I got so inspired, I went through almost all my stock ilex in the nursery.

Just sit back and marvel. Go get a beer.

We don’t need this tall pot. Cut it down!

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There’s Tom, a good Friend if you know him. He’s still a Friend even if you don’t.

He got himself a bunch of bald cypress seedlings and carved a little wedge out of leftover cherry and thought he’d try some trunk fusion.

I think it’s damn cool. Not only will it create a fat tree quicker, but all that character that’ll come from the fusion marks. I’ll keep you guys up to date on it as it progresses.

I’ve seen the technique done with maple whips and ficus cuttings but this is the first cypress one I’ve seen.

So much potential.

Pretty cool, ain’t it? Anyway, that’s not why I’ve gathered you around your internet screens today. 

I want you to close your eyes……imagine yourself reclining in a form fitted chair, soothing, nondescript music lulling you to sleep as the Novocain begins to numb your face. Now imagine that high speed and high pitched drill bouncing and grinding on your poor bicuspid, and you smell the odor of burning tooth, and choke as your uvula catches the remains of powdered enamel in the back of your throat. Hmmmmmmnnnn.

Now spit.

Sorry. I used this carving tool to make a groove in the trunk of Tom’s crepe myrtle. Why?

I’m sure there are at least two people who are asking this.

“A crepe backbuds like crazy!”, they say, “Why on God’s green earth do you need to graft?”

Well now my skeptical friends, I will give you two answers.

First: crepes, like most deciduous trees, will not throw a bud out on a callous. The science, real quickly, callous tissue is differentiated material, and doesn’t have the meristem cells necessary for bud creation. The place I carved the groove into is a big callous, but it’s just the place he needs a branch. But, unfortunately, he won’t get one. Unless, of course, we go to the heroic measures that will soon be delivered to you from my mobile phone’s keyboard, here in Orlando FL, through the aether of WiFi, into some cables, beamed up into Low Earth Orbit, beamed back down into the millions of receptors designed and allocated for no other reason but to receive my egotistical ramblings within my extremely niche, somewhat readable, but always entertaining personal web log.

Second: why not? It’s an interesting procedure I’m about to perform. Let’s see what happens. We might learn a thing or two.

The only branch long enough to bend and reach the grafting site (this is called an approach graft. I think…) just happens to come from the top of the tree.

Sooooooo…..with a little bending…..

A little more….

Maybe some tape and a zip tie just in case the branch wants to snap at the apex of the bend….

And it’s a fit!!

Another zip tie to hold the branch. Not too tight!

And a sharp knife to score the branch so the cambium layers can match up.

Some loose wire to direct the branch in an upward direction (to get those auxins in the right positions for growth. Crepes are very apically dominant. If your branch isn’t pointing up you’ll tend to lose it. Or it’ll throw a new one. )Auxins (and hormones) are why trees grow.

They are the cause, the computer program, the instructions, the band leader.

When you finally understand this, you can truly figure out why a tree does one thing, or another. Or dies, or stops growing, etc.

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Weird?

Wacky?

From here, unless you zoom in, all you see is that it’s overgrown a little.

I just repotted this tiger bark ficus into a wider pot. Zooming in close, on the left side, you see…..a hole?

Nope.

Not a hole (wait until you see a crepe myrtle I’ve found with a hole…).

Well now, this shot doesn’t clear it up. It does show the new growth though. Meaning it’s time to do some work.

Here we go….can you see it?The branch wraps itself around the backside of the tree.

You can see it here, from the tree’s left side view, poking out.

The “first branch” on our right is really coming from the left side of the tree. The tree was a gift (actually it was a “please take this tree I’m killing it”) from my oldest son’s 7 or 8th grade teacher Mr. Meyers.

I have shown it before, I think it was the last time I had repotted it.

The tree just kinda grew those branches around the back on its own.

And I let it.

In the pic below, you can see where I have pruned off a side branch; it was actually a dead stub that the tree aborted itself. That was the “official” first branch.

And it’s not like I haven’t had a hand, even a heavy hand, in the shaping. As evidence by the old wire scars below.

So what am I gonna do?

I could cut it, and any other “offensive” branches, off.

Try to force it into a peer reviewed and democratically accepted mold.

Style by consensus…

Make it look like every other bonsai out there……

Or, I could let the tree decide.

Listen to what the tree is saying.

Like here: yellow leaves (and new growth), in the springtime means the tree is saying,

“Get off the pot! I’m ready to grow!”

A quick removal of old leaves is the first step.

I said I had repotted it already. It went into a wider pot and I fertilized with Espoma Brand Biotone. A very stinky, organic blend with mycorrhizae and some beneficial bacteria.

I’m guessing there’s chelated iron as well, this is regular pumice stained orange from the Biotone.

I’ve pruned off the dead ends, the multiple or un-needed branches (well, most of them. Under my thumb I haven’t decided what to keep there, I’ll have to bend the branch first to see what fits…).

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