Monday, April 25, 2011

Ficus - Air Layering

I had brought this ficus tree already last year from IKEA of all places. It was on offer in the sale section for only 40€. The condition of it then was much the same as it is now with growth at the top and the obvious lost branch at the bottom. The tree has many faults but the size of the trunk was the main reason I decided to buy it and then see what I could do to correct those mistakes.

The main faults with the tree are the clear marks in the bark made by the wire that was used to shape it, the unnaturally looking shape, which is not what I like personally, and then the large untreated cuts.

I was originally planning to repot the tree in a more shallow pot so that I could replace the soil with my own bonsai soil mix, but I have now decided to leave that until later in the year and instead start with phase one of my plan to turn this ficus into a better looking bonsai.

This first phase is to remove the top section of the tree that is clearly out of style with the lower part of the tree. I could simply just cut the top section off and throw it away but this straight section offers the possibility for me to get two bonsai from this one tree. To achieve this because of the size of the truck I would need make an air layering. This requires me to remove a section of the bark and then surround this area with a plastic bag filled with moss so that the new roots can grow.

I wanted to remove as much of the straight section as possible so I made a cut quite close to the join with the lower part of the tree. There was a untreated cut in that area that I removed before making two cuts approximately 2 times the diameter of the trunk.

Then using a sharp knife I removed the bark completely. It is important to remove all the underlying cambium layer, which is the green material under the bark. Failure to remove this completely could result in a lack of roots and therefore an unsuccessful air layering.

After the plastic bag was placed around the cut it was filled with moss and then the top closed. Small holes were made in the top in a few places for me to water the moss. During the next 6-8 weeks I will need to keep the moss nice and moist.

Once the top section has been removed I will review again what is the next phase. Personally I do not like the look of the unnatural bends so if my first attempt at an air layer is successful then I may do another to remove another section by cuttin the trunck as shown in the photo below. Let's see first how the first one turns out.