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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.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Successful Willow-leaf Fig Root Cutting

I've spent a lot of time in the last six weeks on a major health issue of my father's. It's winter here, too, so my hardy and half-hardy trees are in their winter quarters. Thus the brief "dormancy" of this blog. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

But matters are now on an even keel with my dad. And even in winter, things are going on with the tropical trees in the Bonsai Crate.

The "gnarly turnip. What did I have to lose?
     Last summer, I used the flat-cut technique on a willow-leaf fig (Ficus salicaria) that needed a better nebari. (I described the process in this post.) The part of the root system that I removed resembled a gnarly turnip, about the size of a small woman's fist, and at first I saw no reason to keep it. But Mary C. Miller of Miami, FL, (a.k.a. "Bonsai Mary") pointed out to me that it could make a nice root cutting. So I dug it back out of the compost pile and potted it up, to see what would happen.

Within a few weeks new shoots began to appear around the perimeter of the cut, and as time passed more and more shoots appeared. This afternoon I went down to the Bonsai Crate to thin them out.


Before thinning.
Before I started thinning, I took a stab at counting the shoots. I quit at 35, and I'd counted a little over half. I'm sure this root threw more than 50 new shoots in its effort to survive, and I have no reason to think it has stopped even now.

The biggest stems were growing from a thick bulge of callus on one side of the "turnip." But there were shoots all around the perimeter of the cut face, and even some coming up thru cracks in the center of the face.

My main reason for thinning the shoots was to reduce competition for light. The fluorescent lights I use in the Crate are adequate to keep trees alive and growing slowly, but there aren't many extra photons to go around. I don't plan to have more than seven trunks in this clump planting eventually, maybe less. So eliminating the smallest and weakest made sense.

This gives you an idea of the abandon with which this root has been throwing new shoots!
Close-up of the cut face after thinning. The blue arrow indicates the bulge of callus mentioned above.

I left about 15 shoots, give or take a few, including the most vigorous. I'll need to thin them at least once more, but I'd like to leave the next thinning until after they lignify. My own experience, and what I have read of others', show that Ficus cuttings are more likely to root if they are woody. And this project just might give me enough cuttings to supply club auctions and sales for several years to come!

I may get another clump planting out of this, too. The "gnarly turnip" was thick enough that I can probably cut off its bottom half this summer, and repeat the whole process!

And before I go -- Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!




:-)  :-)  :-)

2 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Ian. :-) I noticed you were doing a pretty good job of keeping the blogosphere active while I was "away." I particularly appreciated the videos from Ryan Neil's visit to Willowbog.

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