Defoliating ficus bonsai can be tedious as there are literally thousands of leaves to remove. For a shohin, this could be easily done in half an hour or less but for a large tree, it would take several hours depending on how big and how ramified the tree is. When I prepared the Ficus microcarpa (19′ H x 36″ W) for last year’s 5th US Nationals , it took me 6 hours, spread over two days. But there are short cuts.
This microcarpa measures about 54″ across and is a large tree. I have been working on it for at least 15 years from an imported raw material, basically a cut-down bare-rooted tree with stubby trunks. I have been concentrating on developing branches with good taper. The tree has developed reasonably good secondary and tertiary branch ramifications, and now is the time for finer ramifications to fill out gaps between those branches.
Since it had been growing freely from last defoliation about a year ago, there were a lot of new growths and it looked bushy. I am not going to start cutting off each leaf from such a large tree, it would take me several days! As I am familiar with the tree’s branch structures from previous works, I just treated it like an overgrown bonsai and simply cut off all the branches back to the tree’s silhouette, a quick hatchet job.Continue reading