Thursday, June 3, 2010

And in the Red Corner...

So yesterday I noticed that the ficus absolutely must be root pruned or it would fade away entirely. Root pruning is one of those things you put off for years, largely because it's heavy work, and you need space, access to the outdoors, the right temperature if it's a houseplant which ficus definitely is in this climate, tools, where the heck did they go, and stamina.

The reason to root prune rather than just repot in a bigger container is that there's a limit to the size of container you can manage in a house, at least in this house. Root pruning allows the plant to continue in its current digs (gardening pun...)and no more awkward to manage.

So the Fight of the Century, the Palaver on the Patio is On.

In the Red Corner, ladies and gennumen, we have Ficus Benjamina, the smallest leaved of the ficus trees, age approximately 27, grown from a teeny sprig by its current custodian, who remembers bringing her home from the hosp- the garden center 25 years ago. She's now over six feet tall and needs her third root pruning. She's whining and fussing I'm hunnnnnngry, I can't get anything out of the soil, my rooooooots are filling up everywhere, I need spaaaaace...

And in the Blue Corner, we have Boud Benjamina (in French this means the youngest of the FOO, so this works perfectly in here), approximately five foot three, age 71, and heavily armed with japanese saw, clippers, scooping tool thing, bag of potting soil, determination.

Round One

Removing from pot. Many tugs and pulls and accidental knocking over of other container plants on the limited space on the patio, the tree needing to be lying down for this surgery, no joy. Digging around the edges to loosen roots clinging to the sides, little joy. Popping off of base of container, ah, umptygazillion fat little roots, this is a healthy tree, clustered tightly around the base outside the pot. Saw them off. More tugging and digging and cursing.

Round Two

Tree comes out like cork from bottle sending Boud staggering back into the patio table, dirty but undaunted. Solid mass of roots emerges, not a bit of soil left in there no wonder she was whining.

Round Three

Sawing down all sides of the root mass to reduce it, and across the base to get all the mass of roots off there, uncovering the inner saucer which had vanished into the undergrowth. Thankful for japanese saw, folding type, perfect for this job, and wondering what else to do with it today while it's out....firmly return to job at hand.

Round Three B

New pad of potting soil in big container, balance ficus in there with new space around sides, fill this in with new soil, tamp it down, cursing when the branches grab my hair and glasses.

Round Four

Water in the new soil, add more as it vanishes down into the maw of the pot.

Round Five

Wrestle tree in pot back into place off the deck and out among pachysandra on patio -- she's at camp for the summer, will return to the living room in September -- and pause, sweating and panting and triumphant.

Round Five B

Wipe tools, find ones that vanished in the fray, sweep patio, put tools away before tempted to do more work with them, wipe face, make tea.

Round Six

Explain to HP who has a hard time grasping what's what these days, what the heck I was doing and did he really see that, and is the tree okay now.

Yes, she's okay now.

So am I. Just.

Round Seven

Declare the contest a draw. Admire the wall o' plants out on the patio, at camp for the summer like ficus, noticing how many of them were rescued from the dumpster or the rockery out front or freecycled. Take their portraits. Two portraits,

one at an exciting angle, and one more sober as befits a rescued Boston fern.

Back indoors, admire the little dish garden, such advantages to being a miniature.

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