So we had our first freeze this past week, earlier than normal and earlier than I would have wanted, but that’s the way it goes. What that meant in practical terms is that it was time to bring in the tropicals I’m planning to keep for myself. A couple ended up on my desk where they’ll keep me company through the winter. One was this nice Green island ficus, Ficus microcarpa.

I’ve been looking at this tree for almost a week now, and frankly it’s been annoying me. Why? Well, though at first glance it just looks healthy and full of foliage it’s overgrown and in great need of pruning. If you spend a minute or two studying the tree, you’ll see the usual suspects: branches pointing downward, branches pointing upward, interior foliage that obscures the trunk or branch base, branches overgrown beyond the proper profile of the tree. This makes for a disorderly bonsai – in fact, you could argue that it makes for a not-bonsai but rather a little bush in a shallow pot. It’s why we put effort and rules into the endeavor in the first place.

After the first cut, that short branch jutting toward the front of the tree. It has no place on this bonsai.

My next cut was an upward-pointing branch coming off the left side first branch.

Same thing happening on the right side first branch, an upward pointing branch that needed to go.

Here I took out the last section of the right side first branch to shorten it.

Another shoot on that right side branch cut off, bringing in the profile a little more.

Here I’ve shortened the branch on the left-hand side up near the apex. It had grown out too far.

I’ve turned the tree here so you can see the long branch on the right. It’s just too long.

One quick snip, and it’s back in line.

Moving upward from this view, now I’ve shortened the branch higher up. It had also gotten overgrown.

This was the toughest decision I had to make today. Looking at the first (left side) branch on this tree, I have a shoot jutting forward that emerges from the bottom of the main branch. I can keep this one, but if I do I’ll have to lose the one above it. If I do that, I’ll need to wire the keeper and position it properly, as it can’t stay where it is. I think the best choice is to just take it off.

I think I made the right choice. I’ll prune the sub-branch I kept next year in order to direct the growth where I need it. This will work better than the alternative would have.

And after the final touches. I took out some interior growth to open up the tree. Now the structure is a lot easier to see, and I’ve got the profile back in perspective for a tree this size. Of course, it’ll grow a lot more next year (and even some during winter), but that’s okay. It’s all part of the process of creating a bonsai.

Let me know what you think of today’s work and especially the blog layout. I like the format, with photos side by side that are easy to compare. Do you agree?