Lake view jasmine, Orange jasmine (or jessamine, if you’d like. I think it’s still pronounced the same. It’s not in the genus jasminum, so no matter how you pronounce it, it’s still a common name). Murraya paniculata. A cool, flowering tree, with very hard and carvable wood.

It is a client’s tree. I’ve had it for almost a year, and all I did so far was repot it, fertilize, and let it grow. Now it’s time for some styling.

I’m outside my family’s taekwondo dojang, waiting for the class to be done. For the record, I have two children and my wife in taekwondo, and they are all black belts, so you’d better not mess with me, I will be defended.

And yes, I am mixing Asian cultures with Japanese bonsai and Korean taekwondo.

But that’s what the USA is about, accepting different cultures and making them our own. That’s what the phrase “melting pot” means. I wish more people, on all sides, understood that nowadays.

I’ve let this tree grow wild, as you can see, but now it’s time to get it under control.

We don’t need this lower growth.

A very interesting root base, not your classical bonsai nebari, but it looks natural, and old.

I’m not going to remove everything we don’t need just yet. I’ll defoliate it so you can see the growth better, and understand the process better.

The leaf on an orange jasmine is what’s called a “compound leaf”. Meaning that this whole structure is one leaf.

The things that look like leaves are called leaflets.

So when we defoliate, we cut off the whole leaf structure.

The new bud is in the usual place, right where the petiole meets the stem.

On the terminal growth, the new bud is here.

You snip just above it.

Some people don’t like the orange jasmine because of the compound leaf. They say it’s hard to keep them tidy for an exhibit. And that’s true.

Here’s a leaf. For the show you simply….

Snip the leaf in half (or so).

And that’s how you clean it up for show.

I often say that, on tropicals, we defoliate so as to make room for the new buds, and new buds mean new branches, new branches are what we need to ramify our tree to make it look like an old tree.

A tree will push new buds without defoliation, as seen here.

And many people use this to criticise defoliation as a technique, saying it’s not needed. They say it’s better to leave the old leaves because it takes energy to grow new ones.

Well, on tropical trees, new growth is tantamount to staying healthy. In fact, on the ledger book, new growth creates more energy, as the new growth is more efficient than old growth.

And by defoliating, we spur new growth, faster.

I can hear you saying, “That’s fine, being in Florida and all, but here in Iowa, that don’t work!”

It is true that I have a longer growing season, but those of you in the frozen northlands, with a shorter growth cycle, think about this: wouldn’t spurring new growth quicker be a good thing? If you have three months, why not defoliate your ficus more often.

It may seem like I do that a lot but I may only do it once a season. You can probably do it once a month and have that many more branches than I do at the end of the growing season.

I know I keep saying this, but you all up north have an opportunity for year long development of your tropical trees, and it’s not expensive anymore, with cheap LED lighting systems you can put up in your houses. Look at the best developer and stylist of tropical (and every type of tree really) Suthin Sukosolvisit. He lives just South of Boston and has some of the best tropical trees in the USA. I consider him one of the only true Masters in the country, as he can work on anything. He has the setup to grow the trees as they need it.

Back to the jasmine. If you let the flowers get pollinated, you will get fruit. But then that branch stops growing and has to bud back on the branch. This is typical of many trees and plants.

I don’t want fruit at this time, so I just cut off the fruiting structure.

One advantage of getting up and personal defoliating a tree is you get to see flaws, or problems, and, importantly, harmful bugs. Here’s a bug that seems to be everywhere this year. A bag worm.

It attaches itself to the stem and will ring the bark, killing anything beyond that ring. Let’s see…..

… it alive?

Squishy and juicy.

It’s dead now.

On the ground dead, even.

I’ve made a bit of a mess.

Now that I’m done defoliating, we can see the structure.

Here’s a good example of auxin at work. Long branches.

By cutting back, to help the cytokinins take over, I’ll get new branching.

But first, I’ll thin out those branches that are unneeded.

Way too much going on here. And I need some concave cutters to clean up the cuts.

But I only have scissors, Jin pliers, and wire cutters.

Oh well, it can wait. With bonsai, it seems we have only time, sometimes.

speaking of time, it’s time for wire

All wired out.

Where to cut, and why?

There are some long branches, and they could be cut and let to backbud. But I need some thickness on some of them.

I can cut here because the branch is thick enough.

Here as well.


And here…


But not here. This is the apex, and I need more thickness up top.

The only other main branch I am letting run is the first branch on the left.

The tree gifted me some good branches to set the structure.

I’m happy with it now.

I just need to do some carving on some small areas. Which can wait as well.

Here we are today….

….and how I see the tree in a year.

You’ll notice the length of the left branch and apex are shorter in the final design. Sometimes you have to let it grow wild before you train it. There’s a life lesson there, I think.

That’s all for this tree. Let’s see what else I have to work on hanging around.

4 thoughts

  1. “But that’s what the USA is about, accepting different cultures and making them our own. That’s what the phrase “melting pot” means. I wish more people, on all sides, understood that nowadays.”
    Well said. Thanks.
    From your post I learned you wire an entire branch and shape it before you make a decision as to where to cut. Do you use this procedure for all species? Only defoliated trees? Only tropical trees?
    Thanks again.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s