Ficus Techniques : 35

How to pick an apex?

by Jerry Meislik

Tom Davis, OSA, wrties:

"When I purchased this tree, it was a tall broom style. My original intention was to try and make it a bunjin style tree, using one of the top branches as the apex. After wrapping and wiring the trunk and shaping it along with pruning the top, I had it at the beginning of the style. I carefully placed a large plastic over it to keep the humidity up and for a week all seemed well. The following week all the leaves began to fall off. As sometimes will happen I thought, it might be from the shock of the process, so I kept and eye on it. The next week the branches began to shrivel up, and I knew something wasn't right. I took the tree out of the bag and began to remove the wire as well as the wrap I used to protect the trunk. To my surprise, the truck had begun to rot with a cover of mold on the upper 2/3rds of it. The roots I had never touched so they were fine, but now the only thing I thought I could do to save it was do a drastic trunk chop, and so I chopped it about a half an inch below where the mold was. I sealed the chop with cut paste and hoped for the best. This was done in the middle of this past Oct.

After about two weeks I began to see a couple of shoots growing lower than I had hoped for. After about a month and a half I decided to pinch-off the lower one and let all the tree's energy focus on the upper one. So far now, it has produced many shoots out of it and I have pinched some off so as to have a few strong ones continue to grow. What I have now is two good shoots, one tall like a branch and the other like a clump of branches. My question is, drum roll after this long intro please.... which one would be a better choice to keep to produce a strong tapered shohin?


It appears that there are 3 sprouts at the apex point. One, on the back is quite small while the other two are quite nice in size but still very immature sprouts.
I think either of the two larger sprouts could work, number two or three. Number 3, the shorter one in the front has more sub-branches at this point so that is the one that I would keep. That should give you more branches with which to shape a small tree.

If you wish a taller tree the longer apex would work.
However, since the tree is still in recovery mode from the chop back removing any foliage at this stage could be detrimental to the health of the tree. Personally, I would remove the tiny back sprout at this time and leave the two larger ones to grow a while and get a little woody at the base. This could take another 3-or 4 months. At that time I would remove the taller one keeping the short branched one as your potential future apex for a small tree.

Three potential apices


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