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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.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Something I Don't Usually Do

     I don't usually try to create jin, shari, or uro on tropical trees, for the simple reason that you rarely see those features on tropical trees in nature. In the rainforest, in particular, dead wood rots away quickly.

But I have one tropical tree that I acquired with the specific intent of turning it into a hollow-trunk bonsai. I saw it in Meehan's on-line catalog, and realized that a major flaw could make an interesting feature if my skills were up to it. When my lovely wife asked me what I wanted for Christmas that year, I was ready!

The tree is a veldt fig, Ficus burtt-davyi. The species is a strong grower, which means a cavity has to kept open rather aggressively. Three days ago, I took my Dremel to it for the second time, renewing and deepening the hollow. Eventually I plan to leave at least one hole all the way thru to the back of the tree, but I don't want to take off too much at once. If the wood around the hollow gets too thin, it could spontaneously deform.

After the Dremel work, I treated the inside of the hollow with lime-sulfur, diluted roughly 1-to-1 with water and darkened with india ink. This evening I applied the lime-sulfur-and-ink again, to darken the wood more. Here are a few pictures.

Before work began Friday. You can see that the tree has been closing the cavity.
After enlarging the cavity and applying the first new coat of lime-sulfur-and-ink.
After the second application of lime-sulfur-and-ink, today.
Closeup of hollow, after second application.

At least one more major carving-and-grinding session will be needed. I'm going to let the tree recover for six months to a year before I carry that out. (For any who don't know, carving and grinding is traumatic to the tree, as surgery is traumatic to a human.) Another reason to wait is that deadwood looks more natural, in the long run, if it's created in stages.

This tree is a mame. I'm trying to develop the image of a full-sized hollow-trunk tree; but in fact the cavity isn't quite big enough for my little finger!

The fourth picture shows an aerial root sprouting from the base of the first branch. After that root matures enough to be handled, it will be moved to the left to add, I hope, another element of interest.

:-)  :-)  :-)


  1. I love this tree. The trunk hollow looks cool, I could easily imagine seeing something like it on the set of some spooky movie set in a jungle.

    1. Thanks, Charles. It's one of my favorites. One of these days I'll write up a progression with its story (since it's been in my possession.)