Chasing sunlight: Ficus microcarpa raft forest

It’s interesting watching how the path of the sun is changing the light and shade in different areas and times in the bonsai garden as spring approaches summer. I move trees around to try and keep up and give them optimal sunlight for whatever species they are.

I had a very good bonsai day the day before yesterday. You may think, of course! but it actually started out a little slow. Looking at a gumbo limbo (a pot with two trees in it, actually) that I had been planning to repot, I decided the tree probably wasn’t good enough for the pot I was going to put it in. So I repotted a Chinese elm instead. I thought maybe I could do a root-over rock in a really nice pot. I imagined I was putting together another post for beginBonsai as I started working on it.

But the tree didn’t really fit over any of the rocks I have. It has two very large roots below the trunk that are set in their shape. All the rocks were either too big or two small for the gap between the roots. So I decided to pot it up without a rock. I still thought I was working on a new post for the webpage.

Once I got the tree wired into the pot and took some pictures, I saw that the flat-top tree looked funny in a wide low pot. So I restyled it, raising a branch that had been horizontal at the top of the tree into a vertical orientation. Then the leaves and branches looked funny because they were at the wrong angle. Chasing sunlight.

I think it will be an improvement once the leaves and branches reorient themselves to the new angle that light now falls on the upper part of the tree, but the tree isn’t web-worthy today. I was disappointed. I started thinking about all my sticks in pots and how I wasn’t interested in working on any of them. Life is meaningless unless we can find meaning created in part by ourselves. I watered all the trees and then just walked aimlessly around the bonsai benches, looking at my little forest. I ended up looking at a raft-style (a trunk laid horizontally on the ground with the branches becoming as a forest of trunks) ficus that I have. I turned it slowly around. I noticed that there is a view of it looking down the old trunk that I hadn’t paid much attention to before that was pretty interesting, especially when I wired two trunks down on one side of the old trunk so that you could see into the cluster of trees better. The trunks were wavy and fanned out from the center along the old trunk.

I decided to repot that one yesterday. I looked for a pot to use with it and found an unglazed oval that I consider to be a perfect fit for the forest. I cleaned and oiled it to get it ready for repotting. I looked forward to getting what is essentially a new clump of trees for me into that pot.

That evening I had a bit of a sunburn on the back of my neck. The next day I repotted the tree.

May 24, 2021;
The tree today. I probably still need to do some drastic branch selection but I will let the tree grow for now.
June 30, 2012:
The tree starting out nine years ago as a cutting laid on its side.
February 22, 2014:
A year and a half later the original trunk is still buried.
August 16, 2014:
Summer growth.
February 14, 2015:
Bare-rooted.
February 14, 2015:
Repotted in a new pot. I was out of pumice so I used only akadama and scoria instead of my usual mix of all three.
February 14, 2015:
Wired to put movement into the trunks.
March 26, 2016:
Growth.
March 26, 2016:
Pruned the tops.
May 20, 2017:
Growth.
January 27, 2018:
View that eventually became the front.
May 26, 2018:
View I was considering as the front.
August 10, 2019:
Repotting. I may still cut off the bulbous half of the old horizontal trunk.
July 13, 2020:
The tree last summer with a root crossing what is now the front.
May 23, 2021:
Repotting the tree yesterday.
May 24, 2021:
Another potential front, currently the left side of the tree.

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