bonsai odds & ends – bc defoliation + styling, pocomoke crape styling

Sneak Peek

We’re on the cusp of Bald cypress defoliation season. I did one today. I also did the next round of styling on a Pocomoke Crape myrtle.

Bald Cypress Defoliation + Styling, Pocomoke Crape Myrtle Styling

It’s Bald cypress defoliation time, that time of year when we get to remove all of the foliage from our BC’s and get a fresh new round of growth before the end of summer and fall show time. This is important because most of the time, most BC’s will get “shaggy” foliage by about August. If left alone, it really doesn’t get better and you won’t want to show your tree if you belong to a local club and they put on a fall show.

The problem of shaggy foliage is easily rectified by taking all of it off. For us down South, it’s often a July 4th event as that makes for good timing as the new growth takes a few weeks to really kick in. As long as your tree is strong, you can do this every year.

This specimen is going on to a new home in a few weeks. Not only is this the perfect time to take all the foliage off, it also allows for some styling work as the tree’s structure will be easy to see.

While you do have to exercise some caution when pulling off the foliage (always away from the base of the branch, and you need to hold the base of new shoots or you’ll pull them right off), this work goes quickly. Here you can see that I’ve allowed the “vestigial” branches to throw some up-pointing shoots. Why? Because this BC, just like every last one of them, is powerfully apically dominant. Lower branches get less energy as a result, so one way to remedy the situation is to encourage and allow upward-pointing sub-branches. This helps thicken up those vestigials quickly. But … time to take them off (for this round).

Here’s where I ended up after a final trim and some wiring. This bonsai has come a long way in a short time, and is pretty much at the pinching and light pruning stage. The trunk chop will be completely healed over in another year or so, and at that point the tree will be in its maturing phase as a bonsai.

While we’re on the subject of Bald cypress, here’s my big forest experiment I wrote about not too long ago. I’ve been waiting patiently for the new main tree to resume growth, and especially to push some strong buds/shoots near the trunk chop point. My patience has now paid off.

And a closeup of the main tree. I have four shoots to choose from, and I’ll be making my selection very soon. That shoot will be allowed to run for the rest of the growing season, probably with a bit of wire to guide it as needed.

You probably remember this Pocomoke Crape myrtle from earlier in the season. I did the initial styling and potting back in March, and I’ve been letting the tree grow out since then.

That low left branch was a big question mark. I even had a comment from a reader to the effect that it needed to go. I like having options, especially when I’m unsure of a design move, so I left it alone at the time.

Fast-forward a few months, and the tree has definitely settled happily into its new home. I recently did a little selective pruning, but today it’s time for some additional work.

So what about that low left branch? I was just about to remove it, and then I studied the tree some more and noticed something about the branch above it that I had initially wired and positioned downward. What if that branch went away? In this photo I’ve moved it up out of the way, and did some styling work on that low left branch. Hmm. Now I think I see why I left the branch there. The branch higher up has the challenge of emerging from what is the bottom of the trunk. While I’m sure this could work all right, it remains an awkward and not necessarily aesthetically sound location for a branch. I think it has to go.

Now that branch is gone, the one above it makes more sense design-wise, and that low left branch is exactly in the right spot with a good shape to it. I’m sure this is what I saw in the recesses of my mind when I first started out on this tree. So I’m glad I didn’t cut too quickly.

This tree is a good, strong, beautiful Crape myrtle specimen and is now posted for sale in our Shop. It’s going to make a great addition to someone’s collection.