Judge #3: Cuphea is an challenging choice. Well done.
False Heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia)
I have been experimenting with cuphea for roughly a year or so now.
Its small leaves and small flowers are ideal for shohin bonsai, but it has a huge drawback.
The trunk does not thicken significantly even if grown in the ground.
I have been looking for a starter material with a relatively thick trunk and primary branches starting low enough to be of any decent bonsai use.
I finally managed to find this material in a nursery forgotten in a corner.
One Quarter Progression
I started with a quick check on the root system. I had already identified the branches that I would be keeping and that meant that I estimated I could do away with roughly 2/3 of the root ball.
The plant was then placed in a training pot, and all leggy branches/structures without any foliage close to the trunk was removed. The end result is definitely not attractive, but I’m confident that the tree will produce lots of new growth in the weeks that follows.
The only concern that I have is the location where those new shoots will appear. From my experience cuphea tends to favor new growth at the base rather than at the apex. I did my best to leave the apex with enough buds and some foliage to encourage growth at those areas.
I’ve proceeded with starting with the ramification process, which is pretty straight forward: Let grow, then cut where you want new shoots to appear.
This should produce lots of new growth at the locations where the cuts were made.
In addition to those desired new growth, I also get the usual undesired suckers (not swearing here, only using the proper name ) on the roots/nebari or base of the trunk.
After the second flush, I took a long shoot and bend it downward to get my base for my lower left foliage pad in my design.
At this stage, I ran out of wires, so I held it in place by simply bending the branch, and placing it on the pot’s edge.
The resulting spring effect of the branch trying to get back into position was stopped by the edge and kept the branch in place.
By the time my wires reached me, the branch had already adopted the new position. I had further secured it by placing a rock on the tip of the branch, which was acting as a sacrificial branch. Instead I wired one of the back branches and positioned it so that it was not so close to the main trunk.
Three Quarter Progression
There’s nothing really new at this stage. The plant is growing strong with shoots.
Its just a repetitive process of letting the plant grow and cutting back to first pair of leaves or so to toughen the ramification.
Slowly the shape is emerging, but there’s still a long way to go before the ramification in the top left branch balances the ramification on the lower right section.
I have not yet checked on the roots since my initial repotting session.
With the amount of growth that it has pulled, the plant is bound to have toughen its roots system.
The repotting session will most likely take place mid January (mid summer) or later.
Below is the current shape of the cuphea for the final entry.
Overall impression of the work done:
Since the last quarter’s entry the tree was repotted in January into this brown shohin pot which I am considering on using as the final pot.
There is still a long way to go towards my initial goal, but so far it is a big improvement over such a short period of time and I’m very satisfied.
The clip and grow method has given outstanding results on the lower right foliage pad that was being developped.
The other areas have been given the same treatment and has responded well too, but there is still a long road ahead to make it more harmonious and better ramified.
I have also been feeding the tree with a flowering feed and it has responded well by throwing several flower buds but those have not yet opened.
What is planned for the future of the tree:
The main branches have already been positionned and I tried my best to give a balanced distribution of the sub branches and subsequent ramification.
Nonetheless the back of the current design is greatly under-developped, right now its mostly the front and sides that are developped properly.
Now I need to encourage more growth on the upper left region and improve its shape and ramification.
In the event that no shoots appears in the back on the tree, I will have to reposition one or more of the current foliage pads to fill up the back.
I might need to perform some yearly defoliation on the foliage pads to allow light to reach the inner structures and to promote adventitious buds.
In addition, the tree still continues to grow basal shoots at every growth cycle that needs to be removed to prevent energy being wasted on those unnecessary shoots.