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Looking To 2020 – Flowering And Fruiting Species

Though the holidays are not yet upon us, it’s not too soon to start thinking of 2020. A lot of the work we do now will have an impact on how our trees develop next year. Today I looked at a few flowering and/or fruiting specimens that will make great progress in 2020.This Crape myrtle was grown from a cutting made a few years ago. It’s a small specimen, but nonetheless it’s developing a nice classic Crape myrtle shape. I’ve been helping it along with some wiring, and added a little today. This one should make a nice starter bonsai this coming year.
Here’s a starter size Muscadine I lifted earlier in the season. The base is very nice, and it has a low leader than I’ll continue to let run to thicken. This is about a two- to three-year project to a bonsai pot. For now, there’s no real benefit to wiring or trunk-chopping. For vines, it’s generally best to trunk-chop in the spring when you can expect strong growth and healing.
I have grown to love Huckleberries. Not only do they flower in a pot, they fruit as well; I even ate some berries off a specimen earlier this year.This one was collected in Winter 2019. I think the tight twin-trunk configuration is pretty cool. I’ve let it grow all year with little interference; today I want to take the next development step.
So I carved down to the respective leaders on the two trunks, then put a little wire on the tree to establish a basic shape.This one is a larger specimen, having a 2″ trunk base. I anticipate a finished height of about 16″ when all is said and done.
And finally, one more Huckleberry I wired and shaped earlier in the season. This one doesn’t need any more work today, but I wanted to show you what can be done at this stage of the process. Huckleberries (blueberries) are good bonsai subjects. They do root slowly, however, so you have to take this into account. The branches also can be brittle, so some extra care is needed when you wire and shape them (you’ll inevitably crack a branch here and there). By the third year in a pot, they get really lush with growth and that’s when you can expect fruiting to begin.Blueberries also like acid soil, so remember to keep some soil acidifier handy.Let me know what you think of these specimens.

Bonsai Odds & Ends – Hawthorn, Water-Elm, Trumpet Vine

Today I did a one on one workshop with a new bonsai enthusiast. One of the specimens we were worked on was a three-tree Parsley hawthorn composition, very similar to this one. I love bonsai forests. The three-tree planting is the smallest expression of this style of bonsai. While this may seem like a real challenge, you can evoke a great deal of emotion in a very small space with just a few items. In this group there’s dramatic tension, complementary movement, depth, and perspective. It doesn’t get much better than that.
(This specimen is available at our Hawthorn Bonsai page.)

Here’s a Water-elm that we collected last August. It had a great trunk, with an unusual secondary trunk in a strategic spot. I saw a great upright bonsai in the making.
What did I tell you! We also studied potting bonsai today, and this tree was definitely ready for its initial styling and first bonsai pot. It turned out even better than I thought it would.
I was clearing an overgrown area near my garden and ran across a few nice Trumpet vines. This one has a trunk base of 1.5″, some nice shari and wonderful movement.
Plenty of new growth, just as you’d expect from a vine,
Well, most of that had to go. I see a semi-cascade specimen in this one, so a little wire and some man-handling and it’s going the way I want it to. I’ll leave it alone for a good while now; it’ll probably grow six or eight feet of new vine before it annoys me enough for another pruning.

Muscadine Redesign

You may remember this Muscadine grape, Vitis rotundifolia, from last summer.  It came out of the ground with two trunks, so I planned to make a twin-trunk bonsai out of it.

Something of a start.  There’s a lot of character in the trunk.  Major development work needed in the structure of the bonsai (it was pretty ho-hum at this point).

Last fall the smaller trunk died.  I have no idea why.  But that completely changed my plan for this bonsai.

Here’s the tree with this year’s spring flush of growth on it.  Obviously strong, so I’ve got something to work with.

I’m not seeing how I can make a viable upright bonsai from this specimen, given how it’s grown out.  So I either have to chop it back and see what happens, or change the design.  I’m thinking a semi-cascade may work.  Let’s find out.  First order of business, change the position of the trunk.

Next, make the leader “semi-cascady.”

Trim back, clear out the overgrowth, find the lines, put on some wire.

Let’s get some movement into the branching.

Adios, dead trunk.

And finally, repot, reduce the weight of the apex and do a final trim.

I think this bonsai in the making is much better than my original vision.  Which just goes to show, when your tree throws you a curve ball just relax and redesign.

Let me know what you think.

Trumpet Vine Bonsai

I lifted this Trumpet vine, Campsis radicans, in June of 2017.  Why not go straight to a bonsai pot with it?  While this is not a good idea most of the time, vines are hard to kill and are reliable at producing roots.

Here’s the tree a year later.  The growth has been good, and it’s shaping up into a nice upright tree form.

So I decided the pot was not quite right for this specimen for a couple of reasons: one, it’s a personal piece in my collection, the tree not necessarily; and two, I felt it was a bit “heavy” for the composition.  So I picked out another pot and lifted the tree to transplant it.  What did I find coiled up in the pot?  Well, it’s not a snake though it sure could pass for one.  This is about two years of Trumpet vine root growth.  It all had to go.

Here’s the tree in its new home, a fine Lary Howard oval.  This pot is a lot “lighter” than the previous one, which I think complements the graceful trunk line much better.

Now we wait and see if the root surgery was a success.

I spotted this specimen recently, growing in a tangle of weeds, Monkey grass and oak saplings.  What could you make out of this?

Ah, there’s the future bonsai!

A few weeks later, the vine is re-establishing itself.  I trimmed off the stubs that weren’t needed, giving me a perfect trunk line.

Now it’s easy to see where this one is going.  It has nice trunk taper and movement, and I already have a start on the leader and branches.  I think I’ll end up keeping this one for myself.

A Few Trees At Year-End

Chinese elm, Ulmus parvifolia, is commonly called Lacebark elm.  This common name was given due to the fact that the species exfoliates its bark annually, revealing a lovely underlayer with a nice orangey-salmonish color.  I was cleaning up this specimen today and for the first time since I potted it the tree has shed some of its bark.  That’s a milestone in this tree’s life as a bonsai, which began in 2014.

I’ve done some trimming on this tree, and will do a little more before spring.  Chinese elms are among the first species to bud out each spring for me.  Even though winter just began, I can’t wait for warmer weather!

I potted up this Trumpet vine, Campsis radicans, in 2017.  Since that time I’ve just let it grow and recover from lifting.  The trunk is nice, as you can see.  Today I rubbed off the shaggy bark, leaving the smooth true bark of the species.  It’ll put on another layer of shag in 2019, as it continues to grow.

The foliage is mostly off of the Cypresses, but this one is clinging to some pretty fronds.  I thought it would be fun to share the image.

In another month or so, I’ll make the year two chop in the apex to continue the development of the tapering transition.  When I do, I’ll post another blog on it.  2019 should be a good year in the life of this future bonsai.

It’s Time To Make Some More Bonsai

There are distinct phases in the bonsai year.  Spring 2018 is just a memory now.  But that’s okay.  Summer is never dull.  While you can’t do everything in summer you can in spring, I guarantee you’ll keep busy if you know what needs doing and how your individual trees will respond.  Here are a few examples to consider.

I lifted this Crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, in May.  True to the species, it came back quickly and with great vigor.  Within a month I had this design under way.

Crapes love summer.  They grow fast and bloom like crazy from about July through August and even into September.  If you’re developing a bonsai, the fast growth is just what you want.

Today I had to do some more trimming (that vigor thing, you know).  While I was cleaning up the chop point and one of the earlier trunk chop points lower down on the tree, I happened to turn it.  What did I see?  I’m thinking a better front.  What’s your preference?

This Hackberry, Celtis laevigata,came home in February.  Spring brought some cool weather, so I’ve been patiently waiting for this and a lot of other specimens to kick into high growth gear.  It finally paid off, and today looked like a good time to do an initial styling on it.  The leader remains thin, so I’ll let it run wild for the remainder of the 2018 growing season.  Next year, this tree should develop quickly.

You may remember this photo from March.  This is a branch on a Sweetbay magnolia, Magnolia virginiana.  That big fat bud at the terminus is not a foliar bud – at least that’s what I thought at the time it set, namely last fall.  I’ve never grown the species, so I wasn’t sure what I was looking at.

The buds are opening now.  And they are definitely flowers!  Pretty awesome.

I decided to advance my knowledge of this species the hard way, by slip-potting this specimen.  Yes, the branches are way too long, but once the flowering is over I should be able to cut them back and reduce the profile of the tree.

I think I’ve got a nice literati bonsai to be, assuming it doesn’t object to the “out of season” potting.

Back in May I posed the question, “Is this a Catbird grape?”  This was because of the leaf shape as the specimen recovered from collecting.  I figured once the initial recovery growth settled down, I’d find out for sure.

It’s not a Catbird grape; it’s a Muscadine.  You can see that very large leaf in the left of the photo.  While the older leaves are of a very different shape, all of the growth now is quite round.  So the scientific name, Vitis rotundifolia (“round leaf”), makes perfect sense.

I decided to slip-pot this specimen too.

Plus some wiring and trimming.  You can see the connecting root of the two trunks, which I’d buried to protect it when I first lifted the specimen.  It’s 3″ across at the base.  This was the time to expose it.  The pot is an exquisite handmade piece by Lary Howard.

I’m planning to keep this one for my personal collection.  If you’d like a Muscadine let me know.  There are plenty around here.

And that’s what I did today.

Let me know what you think.