Why Do I Repot a Big Ficus From a Ceramic Pot into a Wooden Box?

Bonsai Penjing & More

This Ficus microcarpa was potted into a 24″ round ceramic pot in 2015. By 2018, it needed repotting again but I procrastinated and did not do it in 2019 either. I finally repotted it a few days ago, but into a wooden box.  I jokingly said it was because I needed to reduce the overall weight. That is true but there are more important horticultural reasons repotting it into a wooden box, like rejuvenating the roots, regaining the tree’s health, and working on the overgrown aerial roots and nebari.

20150504_195613 Potted into a 24″ round ceramic pot, May 2015.

IMG_8165 July, 2018. Ready for a repot but did not do it.

Why Use a Wooden Box?

To restore a bonsai’s health, it is a good idea to repot the tree into a slightly larger container, preferably in a terra cotta pot, a wooden box or a Styrofoam box.  A slightly larger container provides…

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Bonsai Heresy…(tantalizingly close)…

michael hagedorn

As I’m writing this a ship is docking with cartons of Bonsai Heresy: 56 Myths Exposed Using Science and Tradition. The frugal and impatient among you who pre-ordered a copy (some of you ordered several) now have just a little less time to wait.

Having received an advance copy last month, I signed it to myself. I wasn’t sure if the book or myself should be scolded for taking up so much of my time last year, but it was great fun to write, and it does look smashing with the hilarious illustrations of animator Sergio Cuan (who works for Nickelodeon).

The traditional beer upon completion of a book is likely common to all but wine drinkers. It is a stout little book—360 pages of weightiness.

One of my favorite Sergio illustrations. I won’t tell you what chapter it illustrates, though, that’s just giving EVERYTHING away…

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Spring accents—(and seasonal bamboo clean up technique)—

michael hagedorn

Sharing several accents which look their best in the bright washed greens and tentative flowers of the early days of the year-

Equisetum, violet and lady fern

Slug bait is a near prerequisite for keeping your iris fresh looking and nibble-free

Maidenhair fern is a dainty, rather vain early growing accent that appreciates shade

At the end of summer your dwarf bamboo, or sasa, may look a mess, full of dead stems and burned leaf tips

Halfway through a spring cleanup with scissors and tweezers, having taken out any dead leaves and shoots and leaving only those with just opening spring shoots

The finished sasa bamboo offers a fresh-feeling spring display with only the newest leaves and stems left, which offers a feeling of breeziness and possibility that might entice a spring insect like a mayfly to alight for a rest

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Trident Forest Re-imagining—

michael hagedorn

Several years ago I came across this older trident forest being sold at a bonsai nursery, and was interested in its relaxed, natural-looking lines. The trunks all looked about the same size, roughly, and I suspected we’d be fiddling with it some day to correct that.

Earlier this spring we finally got around to correcting the homogeneity of the old forest’s trunks simply by the addition of younger ones.

Photo from last summer, with chopsticks representing where minor trunks might go. This tree ended up being a quick quiz for Seasonal students over the next few months…’Where do the new trunks go?’

David, Garen and Larry excavate areas for the trunks at a Seasonal class in late winter. Sometimes it’s easier to do such simple additions without taking the bonsai out of the pot.

Close up of our excavations. Chopsticks remain in place so we don’t have the squirrel problem…

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On Beauty in Bonsai-

michael hagedorn

If we check in with our natural instincts around beauty, most of us prefer the pristine lake over the muddy swamp. 

Those who have been to Crater Lake in Oregon will remember the brilliantly clear water contrasted with the arid surrounding landscape, and it probably struck you as speechlessly beautiful. Wetlands, with their reeds and mucky shorelines—and unknown slimy things that might attach themselves to you—are distasteful. If we get too close our shoes get dirty. Mosquitos abound. So, generally, we route our vacations to avoid swamps and move on to pristine lakes.

And although not many of us are moved to appreciate the qualities of the swamp, the biological truths of the swamp vs. Crater Lake are stark. At Crater Lake the only fish present were stocked long ago; none are native. Aquatic plants are scarce, mostly a moss that grows between 100-400 feet down. And the lake…

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