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

I purchased this Tiger Bark Ficus microcarpa as a pre-bonsai in 1997, and had worked on it for about 19 years. Over these years, it transformed from an ordinary looking pre-bonsai to one which won a place among the 25 Exceptional Tress Award in the 2013 World Bonsai Friendship Federation (WBFF) Photo Contest. It also won the Best Tropical Bonsai and Best of Show awards in the 2014 Lone Star State Bonsai Convention. I thought I would document its journey; and shared what I had learned working on this tree, both 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 base, about 3″, and it tapered nicely with a low first curve suitable for a moyogi style bonsai. Although the front looked good there was a severe flaw at the back, the back trunk base beveled inwards, no exposed roots at all. The whole tree looked highly unstable as if it would fall backwards with a slight push. Several large and disproportionate branches were at undesirable positions for a moyogi bonsai design. The attractive part of this pre-bonsai was the good looking front with a tapered trunk. It was also inexpensive and had potentials.

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