June: Loropetalum Bonsai Three Ways

This month’s find is a loropetalum. I’ve had them on the brain since they were done a couple weeks ago at my local bonsai club. As such it was no surprise that I found this as my pick for the month. I found it at Home Depot for $10.98.

 

Why Did I Pick This One?

All the others were spindly, with four or five pencil sized trunks per pot.
This one had two larger trunks, a bit larger than a thumb. That isn’t massive but it’s at least twice the size of the others. I’m guessing it was a left over from a previous batch of plants out there because none of the others near it looked like this.

The trunk isn’t wide and gnarled with pronounced nebari, but it does have some character. Which is pretty good for $10. The trunk has a long scar and a nice curve with a decently placed and sized primary branch.

 

 

Structural Pruning, Round 1

As noted, my purchase actually had two trunks. Looking over the material, both trees aren’t equal. The second tree in the pot has too long and straight a trunk before it bends at all, and when it does, it forms a pretty clear upper case Y. Not ideal bonsai material, and crowding out my pot. I’m not repotting right now so I just removed that.

Now that we’re down to one trunk I look at the branch structure, from what I feel is the current front. The first branch is on the left, and is fine. The second branch and the third are on the right. Together they make a F shape with the trunk, which is problematic. Two branches placed so closely together on one side usually just looks awkward, which means something over there has to go.

Of the two I kept the top and ditched the bottom. It is stiff and lacks movement. The lower branch is also angled downward, as opposed to the first branch on the left which angled upward. Generally in nature you see trees with branches angled up, and those with branches angled down, and even those say that have lower branches angled down with age and weight of the branches and higher younger branches angled up. But we generally don’t see trees with branches pointed in random directions. Also, the higher branch on the F has nice movement and is the potential top to the tree. So I removed the lower branch.

The higher branch I removed was too vertical in orientation for my taste, and lacked movement again. I removed this as well, and stopped removing here. Probably your expert bonsai artist would have removed more. But, once bitten twice shy. The loropedulum from bonsai club looks terrible, and might be dead already. I didn’t touch it except to water it. I heard several comments and suggestions that too much foliage was removed from the trees for them to survive, that loropedulum is picky about loosing too much foliage (or messing with it’s roots too much).  There are three branches up there at the top, and at least one and quite possibly two will go.  But I’ll decide that later.

Another sign of caution (perhaps to the point of foolishness) is that I left a generous portion of the branches I removed as stumps for possible dieback.  That’s probably overly cautious and unnecessary but I’ll talk about why I’m cautious about too much pruning and shaping in a few minutes.  I’ll go back in later and cut them to the trunk.  For now I put cut paste on my two largest wounds and moved on to wiring.

I didn’t wire the whole thing, just a bit here and there to start the process and encourage growing in the right direction.  The primary branch is straight as a stick, and the main trunk curve is nice, but needs some more movement and smoothing out.  I also trimmed back a few long young shoots that weren’t providing any value.  They were in the wrong place to make a branch, or provide taper, so a trimmed off just a little bit.  I removed some dead twigs too.  What I have left is probably around half the volume of foliage that I started with so I’m going to leave it alone for awhile and let it recover.  I’ll check the wire and come back at it later for round two where I’ll get a more defined tree top and start really pulling it together.

 

Loropetalum Two

My second loropetalum was actually the first.  During my last local bonsai club meeting they chose to do a workshop where club members gathered into teams and each worked on a tree.  All four trees were from the same nursery, all large loropetalums.  Bonsai club officers picked them out for the day’s topic.

Our instructions were to not prune too aggressively, as loropetalum won’t take too much disruption.  They also shared the suggestion on whomever got the trees to not root prune too aggressively when later we did that work.  Instead do a light pruning the first go round and cut more thoroughly the next.

I won one of the loropetalum workshop trees in a raffle, took it home, babied it.  After a week or so it started to look sad with drooping leaves. Several days after that it looked pretty dead with all leaves drooping badly.  Several days after that and I’m pretty sure it’s dead.

Perhaps we had too much time on our hands but the club members on all four teams must have taken at least half the foliage.  My tree was wired like crazy too.  This tree though will serve as a warning, which is why I stopped pruning and wiring when I did with my nursery tree above.

 

Loropetalum Three (plus)

While the club was working on the trees, most people mingled here and there, checking out what fellow teams were working on. I found myself in a discussion on if loropetalum could be propagated reasonably easily through cuttings. Members I spoke with hadn’t worked extensively with loropetalum bonsai and weren’t going to speak to the ease of successful propogation from cutting.  (That is I got a “let me know how it works out.”)
Our tree turned out rather disappointing.  The trunk size was two separate trunks that had originally looked like one.  I covertly tucked the fattest base cutting under my chair and brought it home to take a stab at propagation.  Between that round and the second trunk from the nursery stock I have four different pots with cuttings.

My methods were basic.  I trimmed each cutting to what I was going to try to root.  Then I dipped the cutting in rooting medium and then potted in potting soil.

On the fist batch from the bonsai club cutting I used one from the big main stem, and a few smaller twiggy stuff.  Not necessarily because they looked great but just to have another data point.

After a week or so the cuttings aren’t looking great, but squirrels had knocked them over more than once.  Second time I duplicated the process but with less leaves. for the cuttings to support.  I also made some attempts at preventing squirrels.  So far, these are green and holding on.