Possible Big Shift in Bonsai Project

So… things are not looking good for the crape myrtle. The branch structure continues to curl into itself and is clearly dying back. The question is only whether there is enough root health to produce new sprouts when the tree ceases its dormancy phase — if it ceases its dormancy phase.

The good news is that if it doesn’t, I’ve got a back up plan. Some very helpful squirrel planted a mulberry in my back yard which managed to spring up to nearly six feet in just one Summer and already has a stout trunk and some interesting branch structure.

Before the Spring growth begins I’ll get it trimmed down to a primary trunk and prune back the long growth. If the crape myrtle fails, I’ll get this mulberry potted into my tray before growing season begins and we’ll see how things go with that. It will need some serious wiring to have any interesting shapes, though. Right now it is growing straight up.

Or I could pot it half on a rock to get it to slant over.

Crape Myrtle Bonsai Project — Patience Required

First, let me say that the mini crape myrtle cascade bonsai project is over. While the wiring and shaping was going swimmingly well, it became clear very quickly that the plant in question was not a crape myrtle runner, but rather, a simple weed. So, I unwired it, and got rid of it.

Second, let me say that I had just about given up on the big, slanting tree. All the back budding which had occurred and prompted my pruning off the dead leaves utterly failed to sprout, and here we are some months out. When the branches began to tighten together, being less fanned out than they’d been some weeks ago, I assumed root rot had set in, due to an insufficiently draining soil mixture, and so I set about to tear it out, recover the materials, and plan a new project to begin after the holidays.

But lo, and behold, I got the thing out of the soil and the roots were just fine?! A gentle scrape of the trunk revealed green?!

So, I went ahead and added a hearty helping of gravel to the soil mixture, re-wired the thing back into the pot (better this time), and got it re-soiled in (sitting up a bit higher in the pot this time) and well watered.

I may very well have to wait for spring, even with the plant indoors, for any progress to show on new growth. But, now that I’m more confident in the soil mixture, I’ll be able to exhibit more patience.

Here is what things look like now (you can see how much the branches have straightened and tightened).


Re-potted, hopefully still alive, we may not know until Spring.

And here is a bonus photo of my “green house” roma tomatoes. One has finally ripened!!

Roma Tomatoes

The first ripe roma in the green house project!

Crape Myrtle Bonsai Project – Pruning

I noticed over the weekend that the long branches were beginning to actively back bud. This is a good sign. So I decided to remove all that length, full of clearly dead leaves, and let the plant focus on those buds down at the points where I want the branching and twigging to begin in earnest.

This is a bit early. I’d wanted to wait for genuine dormancy. But, perhaps, given the controlled green house conditions, I can get enough new growth in place before that dormancy so that I can do some wiring over the winter.

Notice each cut is just above a bud. Sorry they are hard to see in some cases, it was difficult to get the photos sufficiently close up and still 100% in focus.

Back budding

Back budding

Very dead leaves

Very dead leaves

Counter directional branch

I’m keeping this counter directional branch to offer balance to the shape.

Horizontal Cuts

Each cut is parallel to the floor so that I don’t end up with new branches growing down — which I’d end up removing eventually anyway.

Cut above the bud

Notice each cut is just above a bud.

Proportional lengths

I’m not making each main branch the exact same height, but I am making them all relatively proportional.

All pruned

Yes, this looks drastic, but you should see what people do to crape myrtle in my neighborhood.

Slanting shape

You can see here the slanting shape, set to create balance in the pot, and also the counter directional branch to offer some three dimensional interest.

And there you go!

Hopefully I will have photos of happy, fresh, new growth soon.