I remember when I first learned bonsai, quite often I imagined of having giant trees I saw in nature but in a small scale, so that I could carry each of them with my hands. I was so much amazed by that idea, so that I used to travel around to look for big trees of various species and admire their beautiful gigantic trunks, branch distribution, outline of the trees and their strong roots. The dignity of the giant in the in front of me, the old bark, wrecked dead trunks and all of the old aspects that add the beauty and ancient feeling of the tree impressed me so much. I dreamed that some day I would be able to have such beautiful trees in my garden.
In 1995 I got a cutting of a small Brazilian rain tree. I planted it on the pot and later on I was surprised by looking at the shape of the trunk that grew in an uneven shape instead of a slender one. I thought that it would be good material to create as a miniature of a giant rain tree or Samanea saman.
In less than ten years with good care and careful attention, I was able to enjoy my dream of a small rain tree that I can carry on my hands as shown in the picture of a 50 cm Brazilian rain tree below.
The growth of the bonsai was quite good and willing to gain good ramification. It can be seen in the picture below.
Other popular tree in the tropics that I like so much is tamarind or Tamarindus indica. In the wild they tend to grow high and cylindrical.
With time and care the bonsai became more mature. I let it grow taller and shaped it in a cylindrical way. In nature tamarind bear fruit, it means that as a bonsai it must be able to bear fruit as well. To my mind the optimum achievement for a bonsai grower is achieving the best in shape of the tree plus having flowers for flowering trees and fruits for fruiting trees.
After enjoying the bonsai with fruits for some months, it will be the time to get rid of all fruits, reduce the root ball and change the old media with fresh. By doing so, we will let the bonsai have a rest and renew the growth. It will not bear flowers and fruit in the next two to three years at least.
Fig trees or ficus are one of the most popular trees for bonsai in the tropics. Fig trees are common giant trees. They grow everywhere gigantically most with aerial roots.
In 1994, I bought an old bonsai of ficus retusa in the bazaar. You can see the picture below.
I did not do much with this tree. I just changed the outline a little, change the pot to a shallower one and trained the leaves to become smaller.
Other variation of shape could be seen in the picture below. It has a shorter shape with large canopy.
Pemphis acidula is considered as one of the best specimens for tropical bonsai. It usually grows along the coast of rocky or sandy beaches. In one of my trips looking for pemphis material, luckily I could see the material dangling on the rock.
From this simple example I tried to find a suitable material to fulfill my dream. Fortunately I got some nice material to work with. And after several years here is the result I got with this pemphis.
During my trip to India I saw a gigantic baobab. It was a very impressive tree with a very large trunk. Looking at it I really wondered of how if some day I could have a bonsai with such a gigantic trunk.
Later on, I found a thick trunk pemphis acidula in a nursery. Thanks to the nature of Indonesia that provides us with so many materials for bonsai. I started design it to meet my imagination of the Indian baobab.