I don’t often grow exposed-root style bonsai – also known as neagari to the Japanese – but when I run across a specimen that lends itself to the style it’s hard to say no. While you probably wouldn’t want a whole bench full of nearagi, one or two can make a cool addition to any collection.
This last photo, just three months after the initial potting, shows how quickly a Crape myrtle will grow. “Weed-like” is a good way to put it. Plus … take a close look at this tree and you’ll see flower buds about to open. I’ll post a photo later this week when it comes into bloom.
Here’s another neagari, this time a Twisted Pomegranate, Punica granatum Nejikan. This one has a story attached to it. Back in 2012 I made a trip to the Los Angeles area, and while I was there I visited my (then new) friend and fellow bonsai nurseryman Bob Pressler. We had a nice visit, and before I left he asked if I could send him some bald cypress seeds. That was certainly not a problem, as I have access to plenty. So I mailed off a dozen or more cones to him. In return he sent me a few plants, among which were two Twisted Pomegranates. I potted them up in cut-down 3-gallon nursery pots and more or less neglected them. Winter 2014 killed one, so that left me with this specimen.
This past spring I brought the tree to the Louisiana Bonsai Society’s Spring Show. I had been asked to do the Saturday demonstration, and had a couple of pieces of nursery stock to work on. At the end of the demo, I wanted to illustrate how much you can hack back the root system of a tree and have it survive. To say that going from a 3-gallon nursery pot to this shallow 6″ Chuck Iker round amazed the observers is an understatement!
But here’s the really interesting part. I brought the tree home and set it on the bench, where it could get watered but otherwise famously neglected. I mean, I really beat up on the poor thing at the show. Then I waited. And waited. And … waited. Two weeks went by. Nothing. Three weeks. Nothing. Four … Five … Six. I had just about given up (and resolved to being chagrined at the next club meeting) when one day I was passing it on the bench and thought I noticed a tiny bit of red. Upon closer inspection, I saw it was a bud! Sure enough, this little guy had defied all the cutting and recovered.
I really love the exposed roots on this one. Though it’s a small specimen, with a trunk base of only 1″, I think it’s developing into a pretty cool little bonsai.
I’m working on propagating this species, and hopefully will be able to offer some in the coming years.