I love spring because there’s always new material to work on. That’s one great thing about bonsai: no two are exactly alike. Even though any given species has a particular growth habit, when you start building a bonsai you don’t know for sure exactly where your branches will be. So you style around this uniqueness in each tree, which is what ultimately makes them all different from one another.
I’ve come to appreciate crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, as a species for bonsai. Their easy growth habit, rapid growth and vigorous rooting ability set the species apart from many. They have beautiful spring and fall foliage, and will bloom in a container. What’s not to like?
I grew this crape myrtle from a cutting I made years ago. At some point I potted it in a large nursery container, set it with some other raw material and ignored it. It grew out and got taller as it thickened up. Crapes will produce long, straight, stiff, non-tapering trunks if left alone. That’s just what this one did, except it also produced a low branch and an interesting set of surface roots, which you can see in this photo. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but when I bought this shallow tray from Chuck Iker it struck me that I had the makings of a neat exposed root bonsai.
I cut off the bulk of the trunk and of course the roots – crape myrtles root more vigorously than just about any non-tropical species I can think of. I had a couple of shoots to work with in starting a design. No, it doesn’t look like much right now but I think you can see the potential. The proper design for this tree, to my way of thinking, is a broad spreading specimen with a classic crape myrtle shape. In this case I want to make it “low-slung,” complementing the shallow tray and the exposed roots.
The trunk base on this specimen is just under 1″. It’s 15″ in length to the end of the long shoot.
I’d love to hear what you think of this bonsai-in-the-making.
I’m blessed with oaks where I live, and these guys were volunteers near my garden. I’ve let them grow for the past several years, thinking that one day I’d do something with them. I had this Byron Myrick tray sitting idle, and its depth happened to match the basal thickness of largest of the trees I had available. Couldn’t ask for a better sign. So two weeks ago I dug this group and assembled a fledgling forest.
You can probably see some unhappy foliage on the trees. I left some in order to gauge my success in lifting the trees. While some of it withered, each tree with foliage (all but one) kept some green so I was confident they would make it. Now they’re pushing new buds, so I can get down to the next stage of forest building beginning next month.
The base of the largest of these trees is 1.25″, and it’s 26″ tall. I’m very fond of tall forests, so I’m really looking forward to watching this one develop.
Let me know what you think of it.