Collected crepe myrtle evolution

Hi folks! I figured y’all might be interested in a running log of my work with a collected crepe myrtle. I’m always open to design and work suggestions, so if you’ve got thoughts, please let me know!

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Acquired 5/19/19

I picked up this crepe myrtle specimen from Underhill Bonsai in Folsom, LA. (If you’re in the neighborhood, give them a look; they’ve got a small but excellent selection, and they might be the nicest folks on the planet.)

I picked this material for two reasons: (1) it strongly reflects my experience of the urban tree landscape in Baton Rouge, LA, where I’ve been living for the last three years and from which I expect soon to depart for Austin, TX, and (2) it has just incredible feminine movement, especially for such a large tree and for a collected deciduous tree.

At first, the owner didn’t want to let the tree go; it’s just getting over some aphid issues, and it’s only a few years out of the ground (and only one season in its current pot). After we talked for an hour and a promise that I was buying “eyes open,” he let me take it home.

The tree and I just barely fit in the passenger seat of my Prius. I held it in my lap with my neck bent around it for an hour. (The tree is something like 18-24" tall and 12-16" wide from its lengthiest points.)

Here it is at home on the bench on its first afternoon:

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Bark Cleanup 5/19/19

The only work I’m doing this season is cleaning up the bark. I mixed up a solution of dish soap and water, got a soft toothbrush, covered the substrate with saran wrap, and got to work.

Here’s how it looked before, all moldy and lichen-y:

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And here’s how it looks after an hour of soft brushing (and rain) (and several rinses):

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Next steps:

(1) Once I see some real vigor, I’m going to trim back to keep the buds well distributed;

(2) Figure out whether and when to lime sulphur the deadwood.

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Hey there, my name is Mike. Great looking tree!!! Lots of potential. I see your moving to the Austin area. We would love to have you come checkout our club when you get here. Lots of great friendly people. We meet the second Wednesday of the month. If you want more info check out our site www.austinbonsaisociety.com

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Thank you so much for reaching out! Getting in contact with the local bonsai club was #1 on my list the moment I get the job offer I’m expecting. I’m mentally filing away your card and I’ll drop you a DM as soon as I know!

Update 2/28/19 – Post-Aphid Treatment and Fertilizer

Two weeks ago, the crepe myrtle was treated for aphids with Bonide systemic and dosed with a bunch of inorganic fertilizer.

All the aphids are gone, and over the last couple of days, I’ve got buds on all the branches and a few on the trunk:

And, as a sign of good health, the root projections that came with the tree are flourishing. (Also pictured: iced oolong in a brand new yunomi from Bell Hill Pottery.)

Also, re: fungus: either I missed some with my first toothbrushing, or living in Louisiana means that it, like the cat, came back the very next day. I’ll monitor for spread, but I don’t want to try again and risk damaging the bark.

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Flowers and Growth 6/22/19

Turns out it flowers pink!

The entire tree is covered in vigorous growth. It should be done flowering and hardening off in about a month, at which point I’ll cut back the leggy growth.

Daytime temperatures are ranging between 90-95F. I’m watering twice daily, which is enough – almost more than enough – since my yard is a partial shade microclimate with limited afternoon sun. (Almost nothing except my shohin look top-layer-dry after 24 hours without water.)

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Summer Flourishing 7/27/19

Not much to report right now. Vigorous flourishing and a second flush of flowers.

Right now, my primary challenge is figuring out watering. My yard’s microclimate is pretty shady, but daytime temperatures range from 90F to 97F. Even on the hottest days, I’m only getting dryness 0.5-1 inches into the substrate, so it SEEMS like I should only be watering once a day, in the evening.

The tree seems fine with it! But I worry.

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Bright green leaves from the last 3 months; dark green leaves from early spring.

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My garden is full of dragonflies. They like perching on the leafless tips of my bonsai.


At some point – probably soon – I’m going to need to carve this sucker’s deadwood. If anybody in/around Louisiana is interested, drop me a line… :wink:

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