Fixing the root structure

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Fixing the root structure

Postby taffyman » Thu Mar 06, 2008 10:56 pm

I've had this Benjamina for quite a few years, but it hasn't really done anything. It only has two main roots coming away from the trunk, so by fixing the root structure and growing it on in the ground for a while, it should develop some good radial roots. It will also help to fill out the canopy considerably. I've done a couple of things to it before I transplanted it. I gave it a good top prune and I clipped away all the roots directly under the trunk. I then got a large terracotta tile (300mm square) and drilled two holes through it about 100mm apart and threaded a length of wire up through the holes. I then sat the tree on it, fed the wire up through and over the rootball and wired the tree to the tile - you can just see the tile bottom right behind the thin roots in Photo 1. I've done this so that the roots can't grow straight down, but have to go sideways at least to the edges of the tile. I've also done five 'wedge layers' on the base of the trunk. A wedge layer is done by making two vertical cuts through the bark and a horizontal one at the bottom between them. The bark is lifted and a small stick or pebble is inserted under the bark to keep it open. The whole lot is then covered with dirt and hopefully new roots will shoot from under the wedges. I also put some rooting hormone gel under the cuts before I put the pepples in. Whether it will help, I've no idea - but it makes me feel good :lol: Anyway, I then dug the hole about 500-600mm deep and about a metre across. I dug it that deep, not because of the fig, but to bury a beautiful possum that our dog caught and killed a couple of nights ago. :evil: I put the tree in the hole, spread all the roots out radially round the trunk and then filled it all in making sure it was mounded above ground level so it has good drainage and ensuring the roots grow down at an angle instead of straight out horizontally. Eventually, they will become the base of the trunk. I've put the 'wall' around the whole lot so that when it gets watered, it will actually go into the ground and not just run off the sides.
Photo 1 shows the tree from the front (and the tile). Photo 2 shows the back of the tree. Photo 3 shows the two ugly and out of place roots. Photo 4 and 5 show the wedge layers (arrowed) but they aren't very clear in 5 and Photo 6 shows the whole project finished for now - and the apex pulled back near enough where it should be. I bent it out of line when I was putting the tree in the hole. While it is in the ground, I'll still keep pruning the foliage so that by the time the roots are ready, I should have quite a good canopy on the tree. At a later date, I may even air-layer the top off and grow a whole new set of branches on it lower down. What I'm aiming for eventually is something like the sketch Photo 7. I'm going to put about a dozen of my figs in the ground to thicken them up. It's far quicker to do it in the ground than in a pot or even a styrene box.

Image Image Image Image Image Image Image
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Re: Fixing the root structure

Postby Pam » Fri Mar 07, 2008 6:15 am

Taffy, what are the benefits of doing it this way as opposed to simply grafting on new roots?

I just love your tutorials they make things seem so easy - which they are when you know how, but the books never explain things as well as you do.
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Re: Fixing the root structure

Postby guzzigirl » Fri Mar 07, 2008 9:00 am

Pam wrote:I just love your tutorials they make things seem so easy - which they are when you know how, but the books never explain things as well as you do.


may Taffy should produce a book? :-?
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Re: Fixing the root structure

Postby taffyman » Fri Mar 07, 2008 7:50 pm

There aren't really any benefits over grafting roots on to the trunk Pam - it's just quicker to do. With some of the others that I'm going to put in the ground, I'm going to graft roots on and then I can see which is the more successful. Proper root grafting should give better results quicker as the roots are already formed, whereas with wedge layering they are starting off from scratch.
When I write these things, I try to do it in a way that I could follow myself - sort of like 'techniques for dummies', which suits me just fine :-P (that's why some of them are so long-winded :shock:). I find with a lot of books on Bonsai that most of them cover the absolute basics but sort of gloss over a lot of it - as if "well, you should know this already so there's no point in covering it in detail" (how are you supposed to learn if no-one tells you?). It means that people trying to do these things often fail because they haven't been given enough information. Of course, that then all adds up to the 'Mysteries of Bonsai' and the 'secret techniques known only to the select few'- How can they do it but I can't? Things like grafting and layering are regularly done in normal horticulture as you know, but most of the grafting is the standard 'V' graft as in roses and fruit trees etc. We just go a little bit further and use a variety of different techniques, mainly to achieve good branching and placement or better root structures - and to shorten otherwise boring trunks and branches.
Nah GG. Don't have the time and anyway, there are moutains of Bonsai books out there - you just have to find the better ones. Unfortunately nearly all the books on Bonsai are written in the Northern Hemisphere and a lot of the information is useless to us here in Oz.
I've just bought what I believe is the best book around purely on Figs. It's titled 'Ficus Bonsai in The Temperate Climate'. It's author is Hoy Leong Kwong - and he lives in Sydney! (Y) It's not a huge book - 189 pages but they are packed with information based entirely on growing figs in our climate, along with all the pests and diseases - and their specific treatment. I heard about it from a friend and he told me I should be able to get it from Bonsai North Side Nursery Brisbane. I emailed them then followed up with a phone call to order the book ($39.95 plus postage). Because I got into a bit of a chat with them, they sent me a signed copy of the book along with a CD of their own visit to a huge Bonsai conference in Bali last year - there are about 500 photos on the CD. If anyone would like to check out their website here's the address - it's well worth looking at:

http://www.bonsainorthsidenursery.com.au/index.htm
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Re: Fixing the root structure

Postby Pam » Sat Mar 08, 2008 5:46 am

Taffy, it's funny you should link to that nursery. I only discovered their site the other day and had earmarked it for a visit at the end of the month. :D
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Re: Fixing the root structure

Postby taffyman » Sun Mar 09, 2008 1:46 pm

When you go down there Pam, tell Tess I said hello and thanks for the book and CD. She sounds like a really friendly person with a wealth of experience in Bonsai. Oh, and don't forget to take your camera - she's got some magnificent trees. You only have to look at her Bougainvillea on her website to see that.
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Re: Fixing the root structure

Postby lmrk » Mon Mar 10, 2008 5:32 pm

taffyman wrote:I dug it that deep, not because of the fig, but to bury a beautiful possum that our dog caught and killed a couple of nights ago. :evil:


So the fig is planted over a dead possum??? :shock: :shock:

Great instructions as usual Taffy!!! Good luck and please keep us updated!!!
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Re: Fixing the root structure

Postby taffyman » Mon Mar 10, 2008 9:18 pm

Unfortunately yes Leah. She caught it in the middle of the night. I didn't hear anything, but Mrs T did. She was able to take the poor thing away from the dog before she chewed it up - don't think I'll go in to any more details. Anyway, Mrs T put it in a plastic bag, and the following morning I put another bag around it and put it in the fridge. Later on, I did this tree then dug the hole. I took the possum out of the plastics and wrapped it in newspaper then buried it. At least in the newspaper it will return to mother nature naturally, not rot away in a stinking plastic bag.
Sure, of course I'll keep you updated. I've done another post on a different way of encouraging roots, and I'm about to do a third one when I resize the photos.
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Re: Fixing the root structure

Postby lmrk » Sun Feb 01, 2009 11:01 am

Hi Taffy

Any updates on how this project is progressing?

Cheers
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Re: Fixing the root structure

Postby taffyman » Sun Feb 01, 2009 12:06 pm

Haven't had a look at them lately Leah. Mmm, must go and do that :-?
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Re: Fixing the root structure

Postby lmrk » Sun Feb 01, 2009 3:36 pm

Just interested to know if it sprouted a possum tail! :mrgreen:
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Re: Fixing the root structure

Postby taffyman » Sun Feb 01, 2009 7:19 pm

lmrk wrote:Just interested to know if it sprouted a possum tail! :mrgreen:


:shock: :lol: :lol: :lol:
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