Ficus Techniques : 10

Ficus Salicifolia Forest Demonstration

One of the demonstrations during the Bonsai Society of Florida's 2005 convention was a Ficus salcifolia grove created by Jim Smith and Jim Vanlandingham. The two Jims are well known bonsai artists, lecturers and demonstrators. Most days they can be found at Jim Smith's nursery, Durastone, in Vero Beach Florida. They work daily in the Florida sun developing bonsai materials for the bonsai community. A trip to the nursery is a must for all those finding themselves in mid or south Florida.

The planting that they created utilized a number of Ficus salicifolia trees that were grown in the nursery specifically to be used for bonsai. Each tree had been pre-selected for trunk shape, stripped of all its leaves and root pruned prior to the demonstration.

A man-made irregular concrete slab was pre-drilled with drainage holes which could be threaded with wires that would serve to hold the trees in place until they had grown enough roots to make the arrangement stable.

Each tree was selected and placed to harmonize with its neighboring trees as well as to add to the overall visual design of the forest. Roughly the design would be triangular in outline, and sub-groupings within the design would also have a triangular silhouette. No tree would be allowed to be hidden completely behind any other tree. Spacing between trees was varied to provide interest.

More space was left on one end of the slab to allow "breathing room" or visual direction for the grove. An assymetric and pleasing composition was thus assured.

Each tree was trimmed off to a rough silhouette and the bottom of its root system was flattened off to make it stable on the slab. Once the trees were arranged, soil was sifted around the trees roots and the trees were settled in with chopsticks. Watering would be held off for one day.

Jim "V" explaining how each root ball was cut flat to allow the trees to stand upright on the slab.

The Jims fine tuning the root balls.

Jim "V" explaining how the outline would be an asymmetrical triangle.

Jim Smith arranging the two main trees as the focal point for the whole composition.

The composition getting a final "haircut".

The preparation of these trees is normal for growers in tropical or sub-tropical areas of the world. Similar aggressive work done in cooler climates might result in the trees being slowed down in their recovery. This experienced team knows that within weeks these trees will be recovered and lushly foliaged.

Thanks to the Jims for a great demonstration.

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