I’ve posted blogs about this old Crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, that Allen Gautreau and I collected in the early 90s. He left it to me when he passed. I’ve since done some redesign work and put the tree in a different pot. That’s not the topic of this blog, however; rather, the oversized branch in the crown of the tree, which I removed as part of the redesign, was rooted last year and subsequently placed in a very small pot just for fun. Crapes are hard to kill, so it did its thing last fall, and naturally came through winter despite the really cold temps we had.
Old Crape Myrtle Bonsai
This is what my experiment looked like back in November of 2017. What’s cool about this specimen is the nice curves in the trunk. As with most species, Crape myrtles will grow perfectly straight branches. But Allen had trained this branch over some period of time, most likely cutting it back and allowing it to regrow a number of times. The result was curvy and nice, the sort of effect we strive for in our bonsai.

The only real problem I had with the composition above was simply a practical one. The pot, though nice in its own right, presented a problem in regard to the health of the small bonsai I’d made. For any of you who have worked much with shohin bonsai, perhaps the biggest challenge is keeping them moist. A common way to do this is to bury or partially bury the small pot in a container of soil or sand. This works fine, but you have to be aware that roots will grow through the drain hole of the small pot into the larger one. These you remove when you want to display the tree. And of course, you have to be cognizant of the repotting requirements of the tree. Crapes, being “super rooters,” must be repotted more frequently than most other species. So this small Crape was not going to thrive for long in the very small pot I’d first selected.

To fix the problem, I moved it into a nice Chuck Iker round I had. This additional room should make the difference. I also changed the planting angle, and I think the tree is much improved as a result. To give you an idea of scale, the trunk base of the tree is about 3/8″ in diameter. The style is obviously literati.

But the best part about this very small bonsai is that I think it qualifies as art. As we apply various techniques we’ve learned in the course of our bonsai studies, sometimes the unexpected happens. I think this is one of those cases. I loved the curves of the trunk from the start; finding the right potting angle and the right pot have really made this bonsai shine.