Variegated Fig

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Variegated Fig

Postby taffyman » Mon Mar 26, 2007 11:02 pm

This is a Variegated Ficus Benjamina that has just started life as the top of an aerial-layer. It was kindly given to me yesterday. I've never seen any fig put out roots in an aerial-layer south of Darwin as quick as this one did. From the time the layer was put on it took about two weeks before the ball of moss was full of roots. The aerial-layer was put on round about 28th of February of this year. When the sphagnum moss was full of new roots it was severed and put into the blue pot you can see in the first photo. Today, I took it out of the blue pot and the roots are already out to the sides of the pot - this is one tough cookie :shock: I didn't disturb the roots at all because they are still very tender and easily broken, so they are still wrapped up in the sphagnum moss. I just put it straight into the styrene box to grow it on a bit quicker. Image You can see by the second photo taken from the side that it doesn't have much depth to it (very little on the back): Image
The third photo shows where some of the branches at the back have been wired down to give it more depth: Image
The next photo is from the front and the low branch on the right is an example of what I said on Dr. Dunc's Juniper about not having anything growing below a branch unless you want to change the direction of the branch. The branch marked by the yellow arrow will be removed and the branch marked by the blue arrow will be wired up a bit to become the new lower branch. Up the top, I want to reduce the height of the tree, and the orange arrow points to a little shoot that will become the new leader The branch angling out to the right will be cut off later on.
From the front between the two branches marked by the red arrow there are no branches growing out that side. I need a branch between them and there are a number of ways of achieving it. I could try injuring the bark where I want the new branch to hopefully encourage the tree to put out a new shoot there (and it does work sometimes), I can graft a branch directly onto the trunk or I can 'thread-graft' another branch on : Image
I'll explain thread-grafting at the end of this post.
I have done very little pruning at this stage - only the odd leaf here and there, because it is still virtually a cutting with some roots on it so I want as much foliage as possible to feed the new root system. That's why it looks so 'scrappy' and the moment. When I know that it has put out some decent roots, then I'll get in and prune and wire it more to shape. Bear in mind what you see here is only the first stage of very basic shaping. I reckon it should start taking shape in about six months and within a year it will be quite a presentable small tree.
Now, I'm sure you'd like to see the tree that is came off so if you ask nicely, I'm sure the lovely lady that gave me this one will be happy to post photos of it (I'm pretty sure she has some photos of the aerial-layer on the tree and when it was severed) :-? . I won't name her, she might not want to :cry: Again, if she does, bear in mind it is in the first stages of training - it isn't a finished tree, but the potential is great.
Now, for those that don't know what a thread-graft is. A shoot is allowed to grow wild for a few months or more. When it is of the desired length, a hole is drilled right through the trunk where the new branch is wanted and just a little bit larger than the thickness of the branch. All the leaves are stripped off the branch back as far as is necessary (but you don't cut off the very tip - that's where it's growing from). The branch is threaded through the hole in the trunk very carefully as far as it will safely go and secured in place - wire the branch where it curves round before going through the trunk. You need to make sure the branch can't move at all otherwise it won't take. If you have any proper 'cut paste' or even plasticine, seal around the branch both sides where it goes through the trunk - even a thin film of silastic will do the job. Then LEAVE IT ALONE - don't try and bend it, don't move it - don't even breath on it - till you can see that the branch coming out of the trunk is thicker than where it goes in. That means it has fused with the trunk and is now being fed by it. You can then cut the branch off from the back and Viola! you have a new branch where you want it. This is a very effective way of grafting. We put four thread grafts on a friends Bougainvillea one afternoon. Three of them took - the fourth would have, but his dog broke it off where it came out of the trunk.
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Postby Pam » Thu Mar 29, 2007 5:10 am

:roll: I was getting to it! Can't rush things, you know! :lol:
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Postby TasV » Thu Apr 26, 2007 10:49 pm

Will that form a buttress as it gets older? I think I remember reading somewhere that bonsai figs struck by cutting don't form buttresses as easily or to the same extent as those raised from seed.
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Postby Mister Wisteria » Thu Apr 26, 2007 11:23 pm

Lovely little tree Taffy, you do them so well. Wish I had the patience (and the time) but alas I haven't. Do enjoy your "Little Trees" :D 8)
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Postby TasV » Thu Apr 26, 2007 11:34 pm

TasV wrote:Will that form a buttress as it gets older? I think I remember reading somewhere that bonsai figs struck by cutting don't form buttresses as easily or to the same extent as those raised from seed.


Having said this my Moreton Bay bonsai is about 12 years old now from cutting and it's just starting to buttress a bit now, just a little bit though. Awesome aerial roots too. So sad that I had to leave it behind with my Mum. I went away for a few years and came back and she had let it bust the pot and shoot and it was about 5 ft tall :( Oh well - so 'judicious prunning' soon brought it back to size a bit :lol:
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Postby taffyman » Thu Apr 26, 2007 11:43 pm

Thanks Mr W. Tas, Benjaminas don't produce much of a buttress in nature until they are quite old, but cuttings or Air-layers can be encouraged to do it quicker by spreading the roots out horizontal when re-potting - especially in a styrene box or similar where the roots can really spread out. Roots can also be grafted on around the trunk which will eventually fuse with the tree and give it that buttress shape. One of the best ways of doing that is to use small rooted cuttings (complete with the foliage), shave a bit of the bark off one side, shave a similar amount off the trunk and plant the cutting with the shaved sections touching. Bind it with grafting tape and leave it for a season. When the cuttings have fused with the trunk, cut the top off them and the bark will grow over the wound. Those cuttings will then feed the main tree. Do that all around the trunk over a season or two and in a short time (2 years or so) you will have a very wide base that narrows down to the original trunk. Another way of doing it especially if you are in a humid area like us is to allow aerial roots to develop - especially low down on the trunk then bind them to the trunk. They will fuse and do the same job as the rooted cuttings.
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Re: Variegated Fig

Postby taffyman » Sat Apr 26, 2008 8:12 pm

Well, 12 months have gone by now and instead of thread-grafting a branch on, about 6 months ago I 'approach' or 'in-arch' grafted one. I let a branch grow long enough, shaved some bark off the trunk and some off the branch where it was going to be grafted, then tied it in place with grafting tape. I had a look at it yesterday and found it had far exceeded my expectations. Not only had the graft taken but it had flattened out to become a complete part of the trunk.
Pic 1 shows the tree before I attacked it. In Pic 2 the lower blue arrow is the donor branch and the upper one is the branch above the graft. Pic 3 is the donor branch below and above (red arrows) and the length of the fused graft between the blue arrows. Pic 4 is where I severed the donor from the graft and its parent branch. Pic 5 is both wounds sealed over and the tree wired. Next Pic 6 is from the back. You can see the cut paste on the graft - and where the branch is on the tree. Pic 7 is from the front after it had all been wired and a bit of drastic pruning. This one Pic 8, is taken from the side. The red arrow is the grafted branch. The blue arrowed branch doesn't come out the back of the tree, it's actually a side branch pointing to the far left corner of the box. Finally, Pic 9 is the root spread just under the gravel. There are a whole lot more roots below them. As it was an aerial layer, I put the whole thing into the styrene box (sphagnum moss and all), complete with the stub below the aerial layer. It goes almost to the bottom of the box. I'll now most likely leave this one until spring before I do any more to it, but even between now and then I will fertilize it regularly. Although the growth will slow down with the cooler weather, figs in particular never stop growing here. The only thing I'll be constantly doing is checking the wire to make sure it isn't cutting in (I hate wire marks - very unsightly :shock: ).
If you have a look at the first photos of this when I got it from Pam, it'll give you more of an idea of the development it has gone through up till now.


Image Image
Image Image Image Image Image Image Image
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Re: Variegated Fig

Postby veg gardener » Sat Apr 26, 2008 8:17 pm

very nice =D
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Re: Variegated Fig

Postby Pam » Sat Apr 26, 2008 8:45 pm

That top was always going to make a good-looking tree, Taffy. :)
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Re: Variegated Fig

Postby taffyman » Sat Apr 26, 2008 10:29 pm

It's going that way Pam. I reckon it will end up a very nice tree. I'm of the opinion that if it develops as I think it will then I may end up taking off the lower left, second left and second right branches otherwise it will be too crowded - but that's a couple of years down the track when the trunk is about 4 times the thickness it is now.
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Re: Variegated Fig

Postby taffyman » Wed Nov 18, 2009 10:38 pm

Done some more work on this one. The in-arch graft has fused and thickened up very well. The first photo shows the fused branch.

Image


The next one shows the fully fused branch up close. the red arrow points to the actual fused area. The blue arrow is the actual grafted branch.

Image

Photo three shows the graft after some drastic pruning. The yellow arrow is the grafted branch. The blue arrow is where I want to apply another in-arch graft and the red arrow points to the branch that I intend using.

Image

Photo four is before I did some pruning. Notice how the top of the tree is thick with foliage, but the lower branches are looking pretty weak. It seems to be a characteristic of the Benjaminas to do it. Most other trees will, but not as aggressively as these.

Image

I need the lower ones to thicken up considerably. So, the best way to do it is to drastically cut the top back and keep it under control by continually pinching out the new growth and allowing the lower ones to develop a lot more. The next photo shows it after its 'surgery'. I also reduced the height of the tree.

Image

Next is from the back of the tree. The yellow arrow is pointing to the grafted branch, but I also need another one below where the blue arrow is. The branch shown by the red arrow is the one I'll use - when it is long enough to bend round to the trunk.

Image

Final photo is of the root structure. Compare it with the earlier photos. They've developed and thickened considerably since then. The one on the right is way too thick and long (it goes almost to the end of the styrene box). I was going to leave there for now, but I've just changed my mind. It will get too thick while I'm waiting for those lower branches to thicken up. I'll cut it off tomorrow. Apart from that root, the rest of the roots radiating out from the trunk are in a good 'star' pattern. I've also wired the branches down, but I forgot to take a photo of it :oops: Have to do that tomorrow as well :evil:

Image

The trunk has more than doubled in diameter compared to the earlier photos, and although it looks like I've wrecked a potentially good tree, I believe it will be all the better for it eventually. I might even put this one in my 'growing on' bed for a year or so. It should thicken up and produce more foliage if the roots are allowed to run riot for a while. I don't want this to be a tall narrow tree, I want it to have a nice thick trunk but be fairly squat with a wide canopy. Hopefully it will achieve that aim (Y)
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Re: Variegated Fig

Postby Pam » Thu Nov 19, 2009 5:53 am

Nice tree! I'm wondering, Taffy - with regard to those lower branches that needed to fatten up, could you have found a way to have brought that top leaf mass down lower so that it was no longer higher than the other branches, but would continue to feed the plant while the others thickened up? It's such a robust little thing that even if you snapped it most of the way through it would probably have hardly noticed it.
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Re: Variegated Fig

Postby taffyman » Thu Nov 19, 2009 11:41 pm

I could have done Pam, but the main branch structure has good symmetry to it. If I pulled branches down from above, I'd have to remove some of the branches underneath and then I'd lose that symmetry. Pines look good with their branches drooping down, but that's the way they grow naturally as they get older. Most figs have more horizontal branches as they get older, especially lower down on the tree.

Demolishing the top as I have done won't stop a Benjamina. It will try and go crazy up top again, but if I keep it under control it will hopefully 'persuade' the tree into putting more energy into those lower branches.

With a lot of trees, if the top is too 'heavy' with foliage, it cuts down the light to the branches directly underneath which results in leaf drop along the branch, leaving just a bit of foliage on the tips. Eventually, there will be only about half the branches on this one that there are now - but that will be a couple of years down the track. At the moment, the more branching, it will hopefully encourage the trunk to thicken more. Even grown in the ground, Benjaminas tend to have fairly slender tall trunks, but I want this one to thicken considerably. It's basically a good tree so I want to make the most of it.

The branch that I intend using for that second in-arch graft will be removed when the graft has fused because it's a bit too low down on the trunk.
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