I mentioned recently that it was time to repot this nice old Crape myrtle bonsai, Lagerstoemia indica, that was gifted to me by my late friend Allen Gautreau. In addition to the needed repotting, this tree is also seriously overgrown and needs to be brought back in. Though it does look nice, and you can see the many years of care that have gone into creating and maintaining this bonsai, it’s just gotten out of proportion.
Another thing you many have noticed about this tree is that it’s in a container much too large for it. The trunk base of the tree is 1.75″ above the root crown, while the container is a substantial 4″ from foot to rim. Those are not good proportions.
In this photo you can see I’ve already brought in the silhouette of this tree. It’s a good start, but there’s more to be done. Of particular concern to me is that really large right-hand branch up in the crown of the tree. It’s every bit as thick as the trunk at that point, so in order to correct that proportion the best thing I can do is remove the branch entirely and start over with it.
You can also see in this photo that the tree has been turned a bit, in order to make for a better potting angle. That large root coming straight toward you in the first photo is now not so glaring. Allen had identified the new potting angle, by the way, a few years ago. So I’m going to make this happen.
A quick whack later, and the offending branch is gone. Most deciduous species will produce buds at the point where a branch has been removed, so I’m counting on this characteristic to give me a new shoot to rework into the branch that’s now missing.
Notice that I’ve also drastically reduced the silhouette of the tree, especially in the crown. The illusion of height for this specimen is back.
Crape myrtles can make some roots! I don’t know when the last repotting was, but I can guarantee you that before this season’s over, everything I cut off today will have regrown.
Now the roots are combed out. For old, established bonsai such as this one, you usually only need to worry about creating some peripheral room for new, young roots to grow. The main surface roots are usually fine, so you can limit the cutting to around the edges and off the bottom.
Here’s the tree’s new home, a nice Byron Myrick oval. You can see how much root I took off to make the tree fit right. Now I just need to tie it down and fill in with fresh bonsai soil.
The final result after the repotting is done. Now tree and pot are in much better proportion. The root base of this crape is really nice, measuring 3.5″ across at the soil. This produces the impression of the tree gripping the soil, plus there’s real age (35+ years) along with training age (25+ years) that gives this bonsai super character. You can see how much loving care has gone into it over the decades.
Always remember to seal those big cuts!
This is one of those trees that also looks good from the back. Though I think the other viewing angle is best, there’s a lot going for this one as well.
Before we leave today’s study of this Crape myrtle bonsai, there’s one more reminder about working on your trees. If at all possible, take photos and study your work. The camera will show you things you may have missed in person. Case in point, notice that sub-branch pointing straight up on the lowest left branch? Ugly!
So a little wire and a little bending makes this problem go away. Today’s work is done …
… or is it? Now I can see that sub-branch on the lowest right-hand branch that’s running way too far across the tree. So once I post this blog, I’m off to grab the concave cutters and fix that problem.
What do you think of this Crape myrtle bonsai? I’m really pleased with it personally, and I think Allen would be as well.