Ficus Philippinensis Bonsai
A True Story

Just about the time I was ready to move, I discovered a totally neglected, overgrown Ficus Philippinensis bonsai-to-be, way in the back of my nursery.

When I decided to downsize and move from Miami, it was quite a job to dispose of my bonsai collection and years of books, magazines, pots, tools and more. 

Somehow, in over an acre and a half, I had forgotten about this plant.  The roots of this Ficus had grown out of the bonsai pot, over the concrete block and into the ground.  When I discovered it, I didn't have the energy to do what it needed. 

I decided the next person who asked about it, could have it!

Victor Mills came for a visit, and made the mistake of asking about the lonesome tree. Victor was the winner.  First, he eyed the tree to be sure he really wanted it. 

ficus roots

He could see it was going to be quite a project, just to free it from its self imposed lock-up.  We got out the lopers and saws.  Then, the questions was - would it fit in his car?  

Since Victor hadn't decided how severe he would be with the styling, he left as much branching as he could.

Ficus Philippinensis, ficus bonsai

About a month later, I was pleased to receive this photo. 
Although I had no doubt it would live, I was surprised at how quickly it responded to its new home.

As time went on, I continued to receive status photos of this Ficus Philippinensis bonsai. (The same one I was about to leave to the tropical elements.)

What follows is an article meant for anyone who may feel  overwhelmed.  Thanks Victor for the status and honest assessment of this Ficus bonsai and life in general.  

Are You Guilty?

Guest Author
Victor Mills

There are bonsai enthusiasts worldwide, many who read Mary Miller’s “Bonsai Banter.”  I do.  Sometimes, it makes me feel pangs of guilt, for having neglected work on some of the trees I have.

If the pride you have for your collection has been smacked by life’s requirements and you’ve had those feelings too, this is for you, hoping to encourage you.
I’m a realtor in Miami with a large brokerage firm. With the market the way it is, I don’t have a lot of extra time to do some of the things I know I should be doing when it comes to my trees. If your job has you doing overtime or you’re experiencing anything similar in your life, there’s good news.

You can stop the guilt trip right now.

I’m shamelessly showing a Ficus Philippinensis bonsai in need of a lot of work.  Worse, it used to belong to Mary, my bonsai teacher and mentor.

Don’t get me wrong, I love that tree and I’d love to have it in tip top shape, but it’s not.  Frankly, I just haven’t had the time.

We all make choices and time for what’s important and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. Sometimes work or family should have a higher priority.  Now the upside. It’s full of bright red berries (figs). In fact, it has the most berries I’ve seen in any previous year.

(This red fruit is especially showy on Ficus Philippinensis.)

Sometimes we work trees so frequently that we don’t give it enough time to fully recuperate after work is done or we don’t allow it to go into full bloom as it would in naturally. Neither is very good for it.

I know once I have some time, I can work the tree back into shape. I can do the root work and repot it.  I can clean the pot when I do.  I can shape it and get a little more circulation going through it.

I can clean up the trunk and branches of this Ficus Philipinensis bonsai, select the aerial roots I want to keep, and get those weeds out of there.

I can address proportions and anything else I discover it needs when I’m doing those things.  You can too.  All I’m suggesting is, instead of feeling guilt, hang in there, holding on to what attracted you to the art form to begin with.

Remember, how we work on a tree needs to have as much balance as do the foliage and roots or feeding and watering. Too much or too little can have a negative impact.

Know your trees, know your growing zone, and know what your trees can or can’t tolerate.  No need to be discouraged or feel guilt. Keep your priorities right and bear in mind your tree may be enjoying or even benefiting from the time off. 

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