cathy’s massage studio and the elastic fig

Sneak Peek

Some of you know that Cathy is the artist behind the Bonsai South website. Most of you don’t know that she is also a licensed massage therapist. We’ve been working on her studio now since construction began last year, and it’s almost done. She wanted a bonsai she could keep inside, in order to enhance the atmosphere for her clients. I gave it a lot of thought, and the answer just sort of happened.

Cathy’s Massage Studio and the Elastic Fig

Some of you know that my wife, Cathy, is the artist behind the Bonsai South website. Most of you don’t know that Cathy is also a licensed massage therapist (also a naturopathic doctor, though they are not licensed in our state). We started work on her studio last year while she was going to school every other weekend two and a half hours away. It’s been a long construction haul – interrupted by the virus which shall go unnamed – but is now nearing completion. Today the electrician installed the light over her cabinet, and I worked on the trim painting. The plumbing gets installed this coming Friday, we’re hoping the countertop will come in really soon so the contractor can install it, and Cathy will be seeing clients in two weeks. It’s been quite a journey!

One thing Cathy asked me to do for her was to create a bonsai that she could keep in the studio to help foster a relaxing atmosphere (though she does not do relaxation massage, except on rare occasions). I gave it a lot of thought, seeing as how I don’t do a lot of tropical bonsai, and one day the perfect idea struck. Why not an elastic fig?


What the heck is that, right? Ficus elastica, or what we commonly call the Rubber tree, is a very agreeable houseplant. If you tried to think of a species that can survive low light, lack of water and only occasional feeding, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with anything better.

Well, what is this sad-sack looking specimen in the photo to your left? It so happens to be the toughest plant I know, having been in my care/not-care for the past two decades. We originally got this Rubber tree from Cathy’s dad’s funeral, where a well-wisher had sent it as a gesture of condolence. As is common when funerals are over, the plants end up in various homes. This one ended up in ours. We’ve never been big houseplant people, but this one found its spot and has been with us ever since. It did have a close call one year when I decided to plant it out, in a spot near the house I hoped would be warm enough through winter to keep it alive. That was a definite miscalculation. It died back to the ground during a freeze. I thought it was a goner, but when spring came it pushed some new growth from the base, and we now had a multi-trunk Rubber tree. I dug it back up, and never asked it to survive a freeze again.

I’ve taken cuttings from this plant through the years. They always take. One of them I’d had in a pot for a few years actually started looking like something bonsai-ey. So when Cathy asked for an indoor bonsai for her studio, I knew the answer.

This daughter tree did not have all of this branching when I first tackled it a couple of months ago. It backbudded especially well, and I was able to make a nice tree structure from the newly emerging branches. I then root-pruned and potted it into this Lary Howard round. It’s not your classic bonsai, but the leaves do actually reduce with cutting back and ramification, and I’m very confident it’ll be happy in Cathy’s studio.


In case you’re wondering about Sad Sack up there, it was overdue for a root-pruning and repotting. Here it is with some fresh soil and very little foliage. I see new buds already, which means that in about two months this tree will be a solid bush.

And that’s the story of Cathy’s massage studio and the elastic fig. To learn more about what she’s doing, you can go to her website – Cathy Smith ND LMT.