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"And the LORD God made ... trees that were pleasing to the eye ..." Gen. 2:9, New International Version.

"Bonsai isn't just something I do; it's part of what I am." Remark to my wife and daughter.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Graft That Matters.

     I've tried a few grafts before; but all were on trees I didn't plan to keep, or in places where it wouldn't bother me much if the graft didn't take. The graft I did Monday, tho, was different. If it should fail, one of my favorite bonsai-in-training will be two-dimensional for a number of years to come!

Yellow arrow indicates where a back branch is needed.
That tree, a willow-leaf fig (Ficus salicaria,) needs a back branch at a particular point to give it depth. A new shoot did break at the desired spot a couple of years ago, and I had hopes for it. But the shoot died after several months, and I decided a graft would be the best way to go.

Forgive the picture quality, please, as well as the background jumble!
For more than six months now, I've been letting an upper branch grow out, to be used as the scion. By this spring, that branch was long enough.
I did consider waiting another month, while the tree finishes adjusting to outdoor light. But the tree is vigorousand healthy, and the heat of summer will drive strong growth and faster fusion. (This is a tropical species.)
In the second picture, the yellow arrow points to the scion branch. The orange dot and arrow show where I want the new back branch.

Cutting the groove. I like how another branch is reflected on the blade!
This was an approach graft: for any who don't know, that means the branch I'm using will not be cut free from its original attachment point until the graft has taken. Once I'm sure the branch is being nourished thru the graft site, that will be the time to sever it from its own parent branch higher in the tree. It will also then be cut off below the graft, leaving only the part of the grafted-in branch that now emerges above the graft site. That, if all goes well, will develop into my new back branch.

Again for any who don't know, it is important, when making a graft, to use a very sharp blade, so that the cambium is cut rather than crushed. A utility knife with a fresh blade did the job nicely. I cut a short groove, the width of the scion, down to the sapwood. The (very thin) bark of the scion was scraped, to expose the cambium.

Making sure of the fit.
On a Ficus, I believe that simply exposing the cambium will be enough. Many of the genus, including F. salicaria, fuse readily with pressure and a little time. With another genus, such as Pinus, I would have cut thru the cambium of the scion, and then carefully matched the cut surfaces of the cambium, that of the scion to that of the host point.

Firmly secured, and gooped up!
I wired the first several inches of the scion branch to support it and minimize stretching while it fuses. Then it was bent down and around, fitted into the groove with the leaves upward, and secured with nylon "zip ties." A coat of cut paste, to keep the site from drying out, completed the job. The tree is spending a week in our more shaded side yard, before being returned to the sunnier deck.

Assuming this graft takes, and the newly-placed branch grows well, the next major step for this fig will be to find a permanent pot for it. This tree still needs several years' refinement; but it's as large as I want it, and its basic structure will be set. I may be able to find a good "home" pot for it at Sara Rayner's booth at this year's Mid-America Show in August. (Medium-blue oval, perhaps.)

Two euros 20 cents, at a garden center in the Irish midlands.
For friends abroad, Monday was a holiday in the USA: Memorial Day. Besides cemetery visits and ceremonies to honor and thank our troops, typical activities include picnics and summer sports. Being the bonsai "fanatic" that I am, I thoroughly enjoyed spending much of the day on bonsai, particularly on two major projects! 

This was one of those projects. I originally expected to share both projects at one time, but this post is getting long enough! I'll post the other project in a few days. :-)


  1. Very interesting and thanks. I am considering this technique for a Silver Birch. I have done it before on this species with limited success. i look forward to a future progress report

    1. Thanks, Mike, and I'm glad you found it helpful. :-)

      I got some useful tips from Jerry Meislik, including the use of zip ties to secure the scion and put a little pressure on it. Give his site a look, if you like: (and yes, the name "bonsaihunk" is definitely tongue-in-cheek.)

      Ficus salicaria is pretty vigorous, so I hope to have a progress report in about a year.

      Take care.

    2. Woops! Somehow Jerry's URL was removed by Blogger. Just Google "Bonsaihunk."