Fig Tree

A forum dedicated to bonsai, the art of growing dwarfed, ornamentally shaped trees or shrubs in small shallow containers.

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Fig Tree

Postby DamienO'Connor » Wed Oct 24, 2007 3:08 pm

As I've said in another thread, I have a fig tree. I'm pretty sure it is a narrow leaf port jackson fig - much the same as this one, same size pot too:
http://www.gardenexpress.com.au/forum/v ... php?t=8186
I can easily get a photo if you want.
I want to know if I should put it in a bigger pot to let it develop, I think I saw that taffy uses foam boxes for this. Should I do the same? What soil should I use, because it seems like a lot of soil to fill a foam box.
Thanks. Damien.

[EDIT] I just saw a photo of one of taffy's plants in a foam box and they aren't as big as I thought they were, so I'll assume you use the same mix. While on that topic though, do you use that same mix when growing cuttings and seeds?
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Postby taffyman » Wed Oct 24, 2007 8:45 pm

Mm, be interested to see a photo of your tree Damien. Yes, if you want to let your tree develop more, it would be good to put it into a larger pot or a styrene box - and yes, a styrene box does take a fair amount of mix. The difference between the two is that in a plastic pot the roots can't spread out too far sideways and tend to grow down - you end up with a big knot of roots at the bottom of the pot, and some very thick roots that are difficult to control. Most of the feeder roots tend to grow from these thick roots which gives you problems when you go to pot it up into a Bonsai pot again because these thick roots have to be removed leaving you with very little in the way of useful feeders. In a styrene box the roots can spread out radially sideways and because these are the roots that will thicken up it gives you the look you need when potting up again in a Bonsai pot. Also, by growing it on in a styrene box, when enough roots have formed throughout the box, you can remove the whole thing - tree, roots and soil in one 'lump' and any thick roots growing downwards can be pruned off a lot easier than in a Black plastic pot. If you do that, it's also a good idea to take off any roots growing directly under the trunk. You can even put a flat rock or ceramic tile directly under the trunk when the roots have been cleared away and it will make it a lot easier when you come to re-pot it into a Bonsai pot - there will be no roots directly under the trunk to get in the way of seating the tree in its new pot. A styrene box will give you a lot more roots a lot quicker.
If you put your tree in a black plastic or a styrene box, wash all the soil mix off the roots first (you won't hurt it - it's a fig!) and cut out as many heavy roots as you can without removing too many of the fine roots, and when you pot it, spread the roots out as horizontally as possible radially around the trunk. It will eventually give you a good looking spread of roots and trees tend to put out branches directly above a root, so you should get more shoots/branches to select from when shaping your tree.
A word of caution about bare-rooting trees. Some trees have a beneficial fungus on the roots called Mychorriza. It converts mainly nitrogen into a form that the tree can more readily absorb, and in return feeds off nutrients the tree supplies it. NEVER bare-root any of the Pine family - you will kill them. They cannot survive without the Mychorriza. If for some reason you do need to bare-root a pine, ALWAYS save some of the old soil and pack it round the roots before adding any new soil mix. The Mychorriza in the old mix will quickly find the roots again. Most trees and shrubs (including, I believe - Roses) have Mychorriza in some form or another but it isn't as essential to the host plant as it is to pines. Beech is another one that needs its Mychorriza. Old gardeners have said for years - that if you transplant a Beech, always put some of the old soil in with the transplanted tree.
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Postby DamienO'Connor » Wed Oct 24, 2007 9:54 pm

Okay great, thank you again taffy. I will have to pop into a fruit shop during the week to get a styrene box if I can. I will put a photo up tomorrow afternoon of my fig, I might show you my gravel and soil too while I'm at it, to see what you think of it. How long do you usually keep your figs in styrene boxes for? I don't really know how big I want it, because I've never styled a bonsai before, I've never really grown any plants before either to be honest.
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Postby taffyman » Wed Oct 24, 2007 10:27 pm

That'd be good Damien.
It depends how big you want your tree to grow. A year in a styrene box will make a huge difference to it - especially if it's a Port Jackson. Some of mine I've left for a year or so and others have been in a styrene box for the last four years. Port Jacksons will quickly grow a nice tapered trunk whereas a Benjamina seems to take forever - and sometimes not at all - especially if grown from a cutting. A friend of mine in Darwin had one growing in his front garden for over ten years. It grew to a height of at least 20 metres, the roots destroyed his driveway and were also found near the foundations of the house close to 20 metres away but the trunks (three of them) were virtually the same thickness at the base as they were 10 metres up the tree. Eventually, they cut it down and dug it out - it was far too invasive. Big Hint: unless you have a huge amount of space, never put a Benjamina in the ground - you will regret it! :shock:
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Postby DamienO'Connor » Thu Oct 25, 2007 5:49 pm

Okay so I've just taken photos of the fig. The first photo is of the front of the plant and the second is from the other side of it. The third is a photo of some of my gravel.
When I went to get my soil I realised it has started get all moss forming around the inside edge of the bag (photo 4), but I've had a look inside and it all seems to be okay (photo 5). Should I still use it?

Image Image Image Image Image

I've added the photos of the gravel and soil, just to verify that I'm on the right track. What ratio should I use for gravel and soil, or is the gravel too big. I got it given to me, so I am happy to get more.
Thanks again,
Damien.
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Postby taffyman » Thu Oct 25, 2007 8:22 pm

Your grit/gravel looks just fine Damien. It's nice and sharp with plenty of edges and corners on it. Grit like this helps to hold more moisture than round ones owing to the larger surface area and the pits and grooves in it. It is also suggested that sharp grit encourages roots to split when they hit it whereas a root will just slide over a round pebble. Your soil mix looks fine as well. Don't worry about the green 'moss' on the inside of the bag - that's only formed because it's moist, is in a clear bag and the light has activated it. I keep mine in the original potting mix bags I buy it in and also a green plastic dustbin. In the dustbin I get a lot of what looks like spiders web growing over the top of the mix. It's some sort of fungus that the moisture and complete darkness has activated. It's never been a problem with me - I just dig it back in to the mix and use as normal. That green moss will most likely die off when you use the mix and the sun gets to it. If it is real moss, then you may get a layer of moss on the surface of your pots which again won't be a problem - trees look good with moss around them. Just make sure that if it does grow to keep it back a bit from the trunk - it can cause the trunk to rot right at the base.
A mix of about 4 parts mix to 1 part grit would be a suitable mix. It will give you good drainage, keep the mix free and lighter and have good moisture retention.
Your Fig would benefit greatly from being put into a styrene box for a while Damien. It's already starting to thicken out at the base (Port Jackson is a good fig for doing this). Just remember to cut away as much of any heavy roots as you can without removing too many of the finer roots and spread the roots out as horizontally as you can all round the tree. Whatever pot/box you put it in, it will also benefit from having those new shoots removed as well - not the ones on the bare branches, just the ones growing from the centre of the leaf clusters. It will encourage the tree to send out more shoots. If you do decide to use a styrene box, make sure there are drainage holes in the bottom. Some boxes have them, some don't. If you get one that doesn't, just punch some holes in with a screwdriver or even a sharp stick. If you use a screwdriver, the holes will be small enough not to need covering with mesh (to hold the potting mix in), but make sure you put quite a few in. 18-20 holes would be about right. Larger (and less) holes will need a bit of mesh covering them - flywire will be sufficient. I use a particular mesh called 'Oyster Mesh' which has larger gaps than flywire, but for many years I used flywire without any problems at all. For a styrene box, I would suggest you don't use your special Bonsai potting mix - it's too expensive to use in that amount. Living in Brissie you should be able to get Searles Premium ($14.50 - $16.50 for a 65 litre bag) or Katek (made in Gympie and slightly cheaper, but still an excellent potting mix) from most garden nurseries or Bunnings (although, I think Bunnings only has it in 30 litre bags now).
Within 2-3 years Damien, your fig has the potential to become an excellent well formed and styled tree.
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Postby DamienO'Connor » Thu Oct 25, 2007 9:05 pm

Whatever pot/box you put it in, it will also benefit from having those new shoots removed as well


Okay, so will I use bonsai scissors for this? I did buy some when I got the bonsai mix, not an expensive pair. This is the pair, I got the pic from their site.

Image

I noticed you had a thread on bonsai tools taffy. Do you think I should get that set of tools? I wouldn't mind going to a nursery and getting some more plants and doing the same to them.
About that potting mix, what do you use for cuttings and seeds? Should I just use the searles/gravel mix?
Thanks for all your help.
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Postby taffyman » Thu Oct 25, 2007 9:34 pm

Those scissors are fine for trimming the roots Damien, although, if you do find some heavy roots in your pot you may need something a bit more substantial like a pair of secateurs.
If you intend to have more trees then yes, that set is a good choice.
I haven't done many seeds but when I have, I've used a proper seed raising mix as it's a lot finer and covers the seeds better - it also allows them to break through the surface easier. Cuttings are debatable. I did some Lillipilli cuttings recently and tried an experiment. I did some in pure sand and some in my normal Bonsai mix and there appeared to be no difference in the strike rate. In the same experiment I used old wood, young wood and tip cuttings to see which was the better. Don't know what to make of the results though because I had about the same amount of strikes from all three. Perhaps it would be worth trying both pure sand and your potting mix in separate pots for cuttings and see what happens.
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Postby DamienO'Connor » Sun Nov 04, 2007 8:30 pm

Hi again Taffy.
I've snipped off those new shots on my fig. But I'm still looking for styrene boxes to repot it into. In the meantime I've bought searles premium, and 2 junipers. One was about $8 and is a Juniperus x media, the other was $2 but I don't know what type it is (it has needle like foliage). I've got 2 black pots I'm planning on putting them into to grow. The first juniper has already started to cascade so I will eventually try and train it. The second I will let grow for a bit because it is rather small, I don't think I will cascade that one.
Do you put all your plants in styrene boxes?
Should I use my gravel as a topdressing when I repot my plants?
Damien
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Postby taffyman » Sun Nov 04, 2007 9:59 pm

No, I don't put everything in styrene boxes Damien - only stuff I want to thicken up trunks on or that I think will benefit from some freedom to grow laterally. The Juniper with needle like foliage - is it like the photo below? if it is, then it could be a Shore Juniper (Juniperus Conferta) and is quite frequently sold in garden and Bonsai nurseries. There are so many Junipers and cultivars that it can be difficult to identify them correctly.

Image

I use gravel as a top dressing on all my pots - Bonsai, Black plastic and Styrene boxes. It acts as a mulch keeping the heat off the potting mix and helping to retain a lot more moisture in the mix. Your climate in Brisbane is like ours here in Maryborough and pots can dry out very quickly in our heat. If you have pots that are only a few centimetres deep, you need all the help you can get with moisture retention. When I am going to enter trees in a show then I take it all off and put on some moss and finer grit to make then look more attractive and presentable. Trees can also look very presentable with just some sifted potting mix (to take out all the larger bits) as a top dressing for shows.
Two bits of advice: First, if you can't get styrene boxes, go to your nearest Warehouse or Bunnings and get a decent size plastic washing bowl - blue, white, green, pink, red - whatever colour takes your fancy. Drill some holes in the bottom (5-6mm will be fine - and you won't need any mesh over holes that size) then stand it on a couple of bricks, bits of treated pine or something to keep it off the ground a bit so that it can drain freely (and no nasties climbing in through the holes from the garden soil). Second, for your Junipers, finely crush some eggshells and mix it in with your potting mix. Junipers love calcium. For a normal washing bowl, about 1/2 cup would be good. They also like sand in the mix as well. Not fine brickies sand, something a bit more coarse like the sand you'd use for mixing concrete. Most books will tell you to use up to 50% or more sand but up here, because we need more moisture retention, about 20-25% sand is quite adequate.
Bit of info. Junipers are a fairly unique sort of woody plant. In most trees the sap lines run near enough vertical up and down the tree, so if you took a strip of bark off in a coil from the bottom to the top of the tree you will most likely kill it because you've cut across all the sap lines. Junipers though have their sap lines going all over the place, up and down and criss-crossing. If you take a coil of bark off a Juniper it will just find a different path for the sap to run. That's why you see so many photos of Junipers in Bonsai with that beautiful white 'driftwood' on them. As long as there is a continuous link of bark from the top of the tree to the bottom - no matter where it runs, it will grow quite happily. If that's a bit confusing, imagine the trunk and every branch completely wrapped in flywire, and that is what the sap lines are like in a Juniper.
Last edited by taffyman on Sun Nov 04, 2007 10:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby DamienO'Connor » Thu Nov 08, 2007 7:34 pm

Hi taffy, sorry I havn't been back to you. I've been pretty busy with school work. I will take a photo of both the junipers tomorrow afternoon to show you. I will start to collect egg shells for the junipers, do I need to wash them at all? Also why is it that junipers like sand in the mix?
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Postby taffyman » Thu Nov 08, 2007 8:11 pm

No problems Damien. School should always come first - it's important. Junipers prefer to be slightly on the dry side of moist, so extra sand helps drainage but also does retain some moisture. In the wild - especially in US a lot of Junipers are growing naturally in quite sandy soil especially on coastlines etc. Don't worry about washing your eggshells unless you want to, just crush them up and mix it in. For one 200mm pot you'd only need about 1-2 tablespoons of shell. Don't pulverize the shells into a fine powder - down to pieces about 3mm or a bit smaller will be fine enough. The calcium will gradually leach off the shells with normal watering. If they are pulverized to a fine powder it could either wash through and out the bottom of the pot or end up collecting in the bottom and make it very 'pasty'.
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Postby DamienO'Connor » Mon Nov 12, 2007 9:29 am

I've finally taken a few photos. The first two is of the Juniperus x media, and the last two of the unknown juniper.

Image Image Image Image

I might be a little slow to reply again taffy. I'm planning on potting them up and everything on the school holidays (2 or 3 weeks away). Do you think I could separate the first juniper so I have another one.
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Postby taffyman » Mon Nov 12, 2007 1:47 pm

No problems with delays in your replies Damien - I've got all the time in the world 8) - and your post will always be here for when you are able to get back to it. As I said previously - School should always come first.
Yes, you can make two trees out of the one - and that's a pretty good idea to do it. If you take it out of the pot and cut it directly down between the two trunks, then you will have roots on both pieces - and each set of roots will already be feeding that particular trunk so it won't suffer from the surgery. Leave as much soil as you can on each trunk when you do your re-pots.
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