Dragon Heart Bonsai Construction Site

Ernie's variegated Ficus benjamina stump before construction.

Ernie picked this five gallon Ficus stump at Home Depot for $5 (U.S.) in February 1997. Most of the tropicals suffered from cold water leaf spot syndrome. If you live in a temperate region, around late winter and early spring are the best times to go urban hunting for tropical bonsai at home improvement centers and large department stores to snag a few choice bargains. Actually, you are probably doing some of the tropicals a big favor by rescuing otherwise wonderful bonsai stock from a sure death by cold water torture and freezing. The transition time between warm-to-cold and cold-to-warm weather is particularly hazardous to tropical plants as they need to be in a warm, humid atmosphere. Unfortunately, while the atmosphere maybe optimal for tropicals, sometimes, the water in the pipes are too cold. Icy cold water droplets which come in contact with tropical leaves, kill chlorophyll cells. Dead leaf spots then attract fungal pathogens which are particularly abundant during the cool season transitions. The winter-into-spring transitional period is the best time to go on an urban tropical safari as you get the pick of tropicals sent to stores before the last frost. The next best is around autumn as the day temperatures begin to cool. However, the selection of tropicals are not as great in autumn as it is in the winter-into-spring period.
Ernie liked this particular ficus because he thought the surface roots, aerial roots and wide trunk girth was so COOL. Unfortunately, the ficus was also suffering from trunk rot where the ficus appeared to have been air layered. I tried to talk Ernie out of it because I knew the the trunk would require lots of work with a high powered, high torque roto tool to clean and hollow-out all the rot. So Ernie's pet ficus would become MOM's cleaning project because Ernie is too young to handle power tools. We moms have for centuries helped our kids clean and raise their assorted pet critters.

Ernie's ficus after I cleaned, hollowed and shaped it. The heart of the stump will need to be treated with lime-sulfer to arrest wood rot.

Sketch of what I thought the ficus should look like (February 1997).

The actual Ficus five months (July 1997) later.

My friend Henry donated the cream colored cloud shaped pot in exchange for helping him babysit, repot and style some of his stuff. Henry was also so kind as to donate large bags of premixed bonsai soil of which I just add additional ingredients (i.e.: horticultural charcoal, crushed egg shells, various grits of sand or gravel, crushed volcanic rock, various organic and inorganic nutrients, chopped willow roots, chopped sphagnum moss...) depending on what I am potting. Henry is a kind and gentle soul with the rich heart and courage of a dragon. He is a survivor of cancer and also of several gunshot wounds.
When I look at this ficus planting, it reminds me of Ernie, Baby Buddha, Henry and the knowledge that there exists people of rare character and courage.
The ficus is still in training with a few branches requiring additional wiring and staking. In autumn, just before bringing all the tropicals into the house for wintering, the remaining wires and twine will be removed. Meanwhile, how about a cup of hot fragrant tea and a warm folktale about the Dragon Heart Bonsai?

Dragon Heart Bonsai Tale


Bonsai Table Scraps

Copyright 1997 Havener
All rights reserved.

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