Ficus stock taper advice

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Ficus stock taper advice

Postby DangerousDave » September 11th, 2018, 1:08 pm

Hi there. Me again, chasing some more advice about some young focus stock..

Picked this up recently. Nothing done since I got it apart from slip pot and pest treatment.

I’ll take any pruning advice anybody wants to offer, but plan to prune hard and set the foundation for ramification (resisting that novice urge for some sort of half-arsed instant bonsai).

What I’m here for is some advice about managing this tree to get some better shape into the base of the trunk. I think there’s good potential, and the spread right at the base is better than the photos show, but there’s some reverse issues and some odd semi-aerial roots. No idea what to do here to get the most out of this stock so any advice, thoughts, or don’t-waste-your-time input is welcome.

Thanks
Dave

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Re: Ficus stock taper advice

Postby shibui » September 11th, 2018, 6:57 pm

Roots can cause this reverse taper. You can see that it is thicker above the aerial root than below. I also see this issue in maples where there is one root below soil but higher than all the other roots. I guess that the flow of nutrients up and down the trunk between roots and leaves is what builds trunk thickness. Trunk will be thinner above a major branch. Trunk will be thinner below a major root.
Remedy: get rid of any roots above the area you want to thicken.
To build taper I generally grow and then prune (repeatedly if necessary). I know it seems like a long way round with backward steps but it does seem to work.
With this tree I'd probably prune above the first or second branch. Not only will that give taper but also contributes movement in the trunk without wiring. Also cut back the remaining branch(es) by at least half at the same time then feed it extra well for the next growing season and maybe do similar pruning next year until you are happy with the trunk size and shape.

Figs do seem to thicken even in smaller containers so an alternative approach is just to cut back all the branches you'd like to keep then keep pinching new shoots to build ramification. The trunk will gradually thicken. It will probably take a bit longer than the first grow and prune method but you will have less scars and usually a more elegant shaped tree.
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Re: Ficus stock taper advice

Postby Pearcy001 » September 11th, 2018, 7:32 pm

You should brush back the top soil and have a look at the existing root system. Often directional decisions start from the Nebari (roots)

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Re: Ficus stock taper advice

Postby dansai » September 12th, 2018, 6:25 am

I agree with Shibui that a good place to start with on stock like this is to cut it back and let it grow. If you get good growth through summer you could trim again, or leave for the whole season and cut back again next spring. The advantage of letting g it grow the whole season is the trunk will thicken and any branches will too, then next time there will be more branches so each one will thicken less and give you good taper.

And as Pearcy has mentioned, it would be good to see what the roots are doing below the mix. If they radiate out from the base I would cut off the aerial roots. Over time the roots lower down will then add more flare to the base. If they aren't so good, you can always try and incorporate the aerial roots into the trunk by wrapping with grafting tape and allowing them to fuse.

In the pic below the black lines is where I would probably cut. The blue line is another possibility, but may give you a large wound that will take a long time to close over.

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Re: Ficus stock taper advice

Postby DangerousDave » September 12th, 2018, 9:22 am

Thanks all
I'll take all that - I'll suss out what's below the surface, although I probably don't know enough for that to inform me a lot about how to manage what's above. If it seems right, i'll remove those aerials, they're clearly ruining the taper.
Thanks for another quick virt dansai - blue is a bit too much for me - the black is along the lines of what I was thinking. But i do have a lot of figs that look like that now. I'd be open to options that retain a bit more and produce something a bit quicker, albeit less aesthetically pleasing.
A couple more follow up questions, if you don't mind-
That first branch seems too low to me, I don't think i would want it in future design, but it seems an appropriate location for a sacrifice branch (or is it?). What would be the best way to manage this as a sacrifice? Just leave it and let it grow, or prune as indicated and let grow? I suppose if i prune then I leave the option for sacrifice or inclusion in design?
When you talk about grow and prune, should I manage the post-pruning shoots in any way or just let it grow for a season? I'm imagining a lot of shoots, some likely on opposite nodes resulting in bars - I assume I should remove that sort of thing?
Thanks again
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Re: Ficus stock taper advice

Postby Pearcy001 » September 12th, 2018, 9:46 am

Personally I'm a hard cutter. I'd cut at the blue line in his virt. Figs heal quick and the cut isn't that large, just make sure you deal something of that size if you do

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Re: Ficus stock taper advice

Postby dansai » September 12th, 2018, 11:50 am

If you cut to the black lines you will most probably get heaps of shoots all over the place. The lower branch could be used as a sacrifice branch, or may become part of the design as it will definitely look different once all your new shoots start growing. Either way you could leave it long for now and cut it back next time. This will let it grow thicker and be in better proportion if you decide to keep it.

As for the new shoots, it would be wise to do a little thinning. When figs are cut hard, they can produce 3, 4 or more shoots from the one place. I usually let them grow for a bit and then remove all except one that is pointing in a good direction, not straight up (which there will probably be one that does this and it will be the strongest) or at a side angle to the trunk. Figs have alternate leaves, not opposite, so you won't get bar branches. I would leave one at every point that get shoots. It will give you with more options later and will also disperse the energy so you don't end up with long internodes and large leaves.

It will take a few years to get this tree to start looking like a bonsai, by which time your knowledge and tastes will have grown. Like your trees! It is good to have a number of trees to work on so you don't overwork them. Just keep in mind the stock that you have does not have many options yet for styling, so you are really just growing them on for future styling. No need to make final decisions just yet. I acquired a lot of stock like this when I first started. Some of it has after 5 years or more has started to be good stock. Some which I have not done anything with still looks like what you have. As soon. as it warms up a little more I will be repotting and cutting hard anything that I have not done, so that in 5 years I will be able to have something good to work with.
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