Last Sunday I was feeling a little lazy and didn’t want to do much. So I sat on a milk crate, set up a backdrop for some photos, got a long extension cord and plugged in the fan, and did a little trimming. Got some cold beverages too.


This is the area in my garden where the small shohin (that dry out quickly) are kept.
Crepe myrtles mostly. Some boxwood, some ficus.

This is my photo setup. It’s not much, but it worked.
This pic came from here

So I crack open my cold beverage and get to work.

This is a cultivar of a crepe myrtle that was advertised a few years ago as “firecracker” or something silly like that. It is actually the new leaves that are the characteristic that was bred into it. They come out a severe, deep red. The flowers happen to be red too.
I got the tree from my friend Ryan Frye, or, Thor, if you’ve met him.
He did a great job in the initial stages. There has been die back on the branches from when I got them from him but it has recovered.

Really good structure and the major wounds are healed

Next year it will shine.
If you are paying attention to the date (early September) you should be asking yourself why is this fool doing this kind of work on a deciduous tree this late in the year. Well, firstly, I am only doing this to the crepes. And secondly, I am in Orlando.
Here in Orlando, I will get one more “seasons” worth of growth from them.
The two points worth noting: crepe myrtle and Orlando. Don’t do this to a maple and definitely not in Indianapolis.
Next tree:

I got this crepe from Mike Lebanik, dedicated student of Mary Madison. It is the most vigorous little tree I own. I have literally cut it back (since March) 5 times. This will be the sixth. I can see why he got rid of it. It’s hard to keep up with. But the trunk shape is so good I can’t imagine why he got rid of it.

I was mainly just topiary trimming it This time it’s for some structure.

Cleaned up and the branch shape simplified.

Before wiring

I didn’t want to do much wiring but, as you see from the previous photo, it needed a little. It needs more but this is not going in a show anytime soon so….

Another crepe; this one is from a batch that came, in a roundabout way, from Mike Rogers.
The study group all got one to work on. I think mine might be the only one left.

You can see where I “trunk chopped” it.

And the new buds beginning to pop.
In Orlando, a deciduous tree will go dormant in the heat of the summer. If you time it right and defoliate in about June, you will get a growth spurt during and extra season we in Central Florida enjoy. Not counting the 6th one I’m taking advantage of now.
The crepes , though, will grow later than most deciduous trees; thus, we exploit it.

In a couple of years this will be nice.

My son’s boxwood. He got it from CFBC club member Alan Chryst.
I’m just gonna give it a little trim and remove the wires.

It’s not really the ideal time to work on them. You can trim them a bit now but I’m not going too. I’ll let it gain more energy for the winter. Winter is a bit stressful on them (even in Central Florida, but that’s another post)

Another crepe from Ryan. The structure on this one is unique. That first branch is very distinct. I like it a lot.
The story behind it is this: it’s a seedling off of a giant one he collected (that will be a masterpiece when matured). Ryan is a good artist. I wish he did more bonsai.

It’s still being developed so I cut it hard this time. As you see, I have the primary branches,and some good secondaries. This will look good next year. I’ll document it and post updates.

I got this at a convention a few years back. I haven’t developed it much though. I was attracted to the near perfect nebari it has. The proportions are somewhat classical and it has branching in some good spots. I promise I’ll work it.

I could trunk chop it, regrow all the branches and leader,but I think I’ll keep it like this.

This one is my favorite. Why?
I think that, in the world of bonsai (and more so with the advent of Facebook and such) there are so many images of the “perfect” tree that this perfection seems to be not so rare anymore. For myself though, I have a preference for material that is unique and different and the challenge for me is trying to make those qualities into a tree that is coherent and believable.
This crepe has a challenging nebari (base) to say the least.

It looks almost like a griffins foot.

I could bury it deeper but then it would look like every other tree.

Some, if not most, would bury it. I’m not going to.
The branch structure is a bit unique as well. The top of the tree especially.

The top of the photo is the front of the tree.
I’ve wired all those branches that way.
I do have a plan for it but for now it just has to grow.
That’s the special thing about Bonsai as an Art. It is never finished. And art, if you are an artist, is really the process of creation. And by the tree growing and changing, it makes that process more than a fleeting thing. It’s more like music or theatre. A composer may write a piece of music but every time he plays it it is different.
(I do believe a ” Philosophy and Art ” post must be written. That will be a hard one to write, probably as hard as that long-promised soil post will be.)
Anyway, next

Bunjin boxwood. I got this from my friend Steve Smith of Smitty’s Bonsai.

This is the slowest growing tree I have. Its a boxwood and I’m not sure why I like it but I do. I know it’s old. It’s in a Sarah Raynor pot. It makes it worth something. At least.

Another boxwood. I call this style “Florida Pine Tree Style”. It is reminiscent of the slash pines we have here. The forestry service calls them lightening rods. They will grow straight and tall and then, after getting too close to the harsh Florida sun, start to twist and get all gnarly. (It actually has to do with the roots. When the root tips and the top growth get too far apart, the tree will begin to grow down, allowing gravity to pull the water to the growing tips. The process of moving water through a tube (tree) gets more difficult as the tube (tree) gets longer. Mythbusters did a show on it. Look it up.)
I can’t remember how many more trees I worked on but, here is the final result.



All neat and pretty! Ready for the show! (pop culture reference, a prize to whomever can guess it)
I also moved some more trees into the area, and some other trees out.
(There’s that carved Brazilian rain tree I posted about and some more of the trees I’ve shown.)
I did get some really good pics too.

Here and there.

And I did get to work on my ginkgo too.
Not too much as its almost time to put it to bed for the winter but I did clean it up a bit.
I’ll save that posting for next year.
It was such a hot day, and I had so many cold beverages, I had to have Dave bring me more when he came over.
Thanks Dave!
See ya’ !

9 thoughts

  1. I have several CM bonsai here in Louisiana developed from trunk chopped nursery material. How often can you defoliate the Crepe Myrtle for ramification purposes in a growing season? Also, how early after new shoots begin to wooden off? Any advice greatly appreciated and have learned tons from your blog posts…. Thank you


    1. I’ve defoliated up to three times on a crepe myrtle. They’re very fast growers. You could defoliate when they’re still green if you needed to.
      Thanks for reading!


  2. One more question about the Crepe Myrtles … when defoliating, do you pull the leaves or clip at base? There isn’t really a stem or petiole between leaf and bud. Not much room there. Thanks again!!


    1. I always leave the petiole (stem). There is a bud at the base of that leaf, you just can’t see it yet. It’s on the acute angle, the inside or top of the junction.


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