The training of "MAHALO!"

       By Jerry Meislik, Whitefish, Montana

Meislik MPBF BEFORE.jpg (17702 bytes)        I am honored to be the guest trainer to design and guide the future of this tree. The photo shows the tree prior to beginning any work. The tree’s main attraction was a nice base and flowing trunk. From the very start it was apparent that two different bonsai could be designed. The tree was removed from the pot to better examine the root system and buttress and to assess the viability of both options. The aerial roots that blocked the view of the significant roots and the base of the tree were quickly removed.
Meislik MPBF Option 1.jpg (17694 bytes)        The first major option would remove most of the top growth and feature the roots. I felt that this would result in lots of taper but with a huge scar to heal. We would also have lost the very attractive heavy left trunk which I considered the essence of this tree.
Meislik MPBF Option #2.jpg (17467 bytes)       I selected the second major option to feature the leftward moving trunk as the flow and movement of the left trunk was the distinctive part of the tree.  The competing right trunk was too thick, too low. and lacked the dramatic movement of the main trunk. I decided to emphasize the massive buttress and to commit to design option two. The main right branch was removed and the raw stub was chiseled back to the trunk line. The cuts are indicated with red lines.
MPBF-Meislik ficus 2.jpg (9361 bytes)       The tree was quickly trimmed back to only two stubs. The stubs were both retained to keep options open for the future styling of the tree. One or the other could become the tree’s future apex should the tree grow back in a certain way. The original potting had been done in a manner to preserve the two major options and to rejuvenate the root system. My preferred option #2 emphasizes trunk movement and required removal of much of the root system.
Meislik MPBF 4 after root pruning.jpg (16921 bytes)         Various tools were used to remove the bottom of the root ball creating a flat plane and giving the trunk the proper orientation. Crossing or miss-directed roots were removed. Roots that were too straight and not in keeping with the curved character of the trunk were also removed. The dense root system was combed out and the long roots were shortened. Residual soil was picked out with a stainless steel root hook, small iron pick, and a bamboo hand tool.
Meislik MPBF 5 washing roots.jpg (15729 bytes)           A forceful stream of water from a hose blasted away much of the old soil and allowed even better inspection of the deeper root system. When the plant was originally donated, it was extremely pot bound and extensive preparation work removed many roots and much of the old media. This was the key to the creation of a healthy root system and the very vigorous growth that that plant had assumed since its initial donation. In removing any remaining old media we create the basis for optimum future tree vigor and growth.
Meislik MPBF 8 before tie-dow.jpg (13847 bytes)            The tree must be secured into its container to avoid being blown out of the pot or movement damaging the fine hair roots.  Several long plastic ties were  knotted in the center to form a "spider" with each "leg" inserted through different drain holes in the container¹s bottom. Because of the knot, any two ends could be used to secure the plant to the pot.
Meislik MPBF 7 tying down.jpg (19797 bytes)         Very coarse 3/4" - 1" drainage material covered the area below the tree, compacted, and a layer of spaghnum moss was placed over it to assure that the finer potting media would not clog any drainage. Sphagnum moss was also placed around large cuts on the roots. Potting was completed with Fuku-Bonsai's "soil-less" body mix of finer volcanic pumice and peat-moss. It was dibbled into and around the root system and firmed into place, then finished with 1/16" to 1/8" size fine pumice top-dressing.
MPBF-Meislik ficus 4.jpg (11800 bytes)          The fig has received its initial training on the way to becoming a refined bonsai. I received input from the tree as well as inspiration from the marvelous Ficus growing around Hilo and the creative energies of those associated with Fuku-Bonsai and the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation.  
                NAMING THE BONSAI:   The tree is thankful for its new future and a chance to assume a coveted place in the Hawaii State Bonsai Repository. I am also thankful for the opportunity to have helped move this tree on its journey. I've, therefore, named the tree:  "Mahalo"  (thank you in Hawaiian).
***    Go back to Introduction to the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation guest trainer program
***    Continue to "MAHALO" IN THE FUTURE!
***    Continue to Introduction and Book Review of FICUS; THE EXOTIC BONSAI by Jerry Meislik
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