A 19-Year Journey of a Ficus Microcarpa – From Pre-bonsai to Winning Awards

Bonsai Penjing & More

I purchased this Tiger Bark Ficus microcarpa as a pre-bonsai in 1997, and continued to train it for about 19 years. Over these years, I saw it transformed from an ordinary looking pre-bonsai to one winning a place among the 25 Exceptional Tress Award in the 2013 World Bonsai Friendship Federation (WBFF) Photo Contest. It also won the Best Tropical Category and Best of Show awards in the 2014 Lone Star State Bonsai Convention. I thought I would document its journey; sharing what I learned from working on this tree, the good and the bad, and what would I do in the future to improve it.

Tiger Bark Ficus Selected as one of the 25 Exceptional Trees Award in the 2013 World Bonsai Friendship Federation Photo Contest.

When I was shopping for a pre-bonsai in the nursery, this tree caught my attention because it had a rather big trunk, abut 3 ½” near the base, and it also…

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Growing better shohin roots and trunk

This is a very useful technique. I applied a tourniquet to the base of a ficus to try to get a new better nebari, but didn’t think to do this.

Shohin Bonsai Europe - Morten Albek

The technique shown in the pictures here and below, is usable for younger trees started as seedlings or cuttings. To develop a good nebari (surface roots) and trunk thickening at deciduous trees like Japanese maples or as shown here, European Beech (Facus sylvatica), a simple technique can be used.

The trick is to let the roots grow over an item, stopping them from growing directly downwards. this will enhance the root spread and lower trunk thickening. In this example a young piece of European Beech is used. A plastic screw cap from a bottle is used. It is fixed underneed the  trunk, forcing roots to spread equally outwards. The growth outwards will enhance the root growth and trunk thickening at once, if correct pruning of the tree is done at the same time. This is dome by pruning back the trunk when in good growth, allowing a low…

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