Our first meeting for 2017 was a typical Melbourne hot and humid night. But it was wonderful to come together again to renew friendships and to focus on bonsai. Many BSV Members enjoyed the welcoming and happy atmosphere.
We were provided with an excellent demonstration from Steve and an informative presentation from Tom about growing the many varieties of figs.
For Steve’s demonstration, he had a group of fig trees originally created in about 1988 by Arthur R. The trees are believed to be Port Jackson figs but there was some conjecture about this. Tom believes one of the trees was a Ficus watkinsinia because of the rough bark. One of the trees in the group was quite loose suggesting a root issue which was confirmed after the tree was removed. It only had one tap root so was removed from the group. Steve checked the state of roots of all trees. No pests were found in the soil but there was concern that drainage was poor; perhaps due to too many fine particles in the soil. Steve has now used a more open and coarse soil mix to improve drainage and encourage better root development. The group had been defoliated about a month ago and with some root pruning will improve its vigour and health.
Steve repositioned the group trees, reviewed with Members at the meeting and repotted the group in the same pot. A couple of additional small trees are being considered to enhance the grouping. See the photo of the revised grouping.
Tom provided notes on the wide range of fig varieties and their distinguishing features. He had an extensive range of varieties on display to demonstrate the differences. Some figs are not native to Australia. Tom also talked extensively about the best way to grow and develop fig bonsai. Some guidance from Tom is included below.
Why prune?? To shape a bonsai tree, to stop long branches, to shorten internodes, encourage back budding and to develop taper.
Defoliatation. Tom uses this technique to reduce leaf size and improve ramification. He prefers cutting off the leaves halfway between the leaf and the stem rather than pulling off the leaves to avoid damage to smaller stems. Defoliate between November and before March. If you have a very healthy tree, you may be able to defoliate up to three times in one season but probably not every year. One or two defoliations a season would be a safer option to ensure the tree is not unduly stressed. Water on the cut sections is not considered necessary but make sure you do not get the sap in your eyes.
Repotting – Tom advises to ensure there is at least 6 weeks growing period after repotting and pruning. In Melbourne, generally repot between September and February.
Most figs are frost tender and dislike drafts – hot and cold. Generally, they need filtered light. If indoors, lots of daylight but not direct sun light. Ficus benjamina in particular can survive in indirect light.
For watering, they don’t like wet feet so use a very open mix. Tom uses a mixture of diatomite and sifted pine bark such as orchiata.
For fertilizing he soaks cow manure in a huge barrel and then dilutes the solution. You can use a combination of osmocote, powerfeed , Seasol, Charlie Carp, etc.