I’ve just finally joined Mirai this week, spurred to action when I saw that Ryan would be doing work on Bald Cypress. I am now almost 3 years into my Bonsai practice, joined the local club last year and watched a million youtube videos on the subject. I have a pretty good number of nursery stock, and spent this spring really ‘digging in’ to the repotting process. Some went into training pots and a few made it into more proper pots. I look forward to sharing a number of these for feedback!
To begin with, I’d like to see some of your ideas on my Bald Cypresses. They are still quite young, I’ve had them for about a year and hope for them to eventually have the magnificent butressed nebari and unusual character they are famous for. I intend to do a group planting eventually.
When I first got them last summer, I put them into larger nursery containers with organic soil with the goal of thickening the trunks. I might do it differently now, since I’ve learned more about soil but they have thrived and grown a fair amount. I did some very light branch pruning in the winter, and in the spring just a bit of support and wiring to help spread the twin trunks and get the branches less vertical.
My Sensei at the club, Frank Goya, saw one of these this past winter, and had the sage advice to “let it grow” - which is my motto now, the one weird trick to developing all little trees. Of course, the club hasn’t met for months now and I am starving for that feedback and hands-on knowledge from the master.
Having watched the live stream this week, and the other bald cypress videos here, I now know that I missed the window to prune for ramification - all the shoots have hardened and there are no more ruby stems. I think that is probably just fine though, since they have quite a ways to go before they have the girth I am looking for.
I am struggling a bit with the vision for these - it is hard to imagine how they will go from their current state, to a proper looking bonsai. They are so tall and spindly! I’d like to know things I can do in these early years, to set it up for success down the line. My biggest question is - when do I chop the trunk? Right now they are about 4’ tall from ground level. I have resisted the temptation to go for it, not wanting to stunt their growth at all yet. But they are extending over the bamboo windbreak and will get a lot of wind exposure beyond this point - I am near the beach in Los Angeles.
Wade - Did you forget to attach a picture?
Had to switch to my phone to post the pics. They don’t really do justice, and apologies for the busy background. Two of them have twin trunks with a kind of helical twist where they join. Of these, one of those twin trunks has a very different quality of bark, and more evenly spaced, horizontal branches - it shot up very fast from when I got it and quickly grew as tall as the older trunk. The others have that clumpy growth all over them.
Many thanks for looking!
Some older pictures
Earlier this spring
Just coming out of winter
and I think this is from a few months after I got them and they filled out a lot.
I started my bald cypress at about the same stage 20 years ago when it had roots that went straight down the pot walls. I got basal flare by cutting off the bottom and repotting into shallower pots every couple of years. I got good taper by cutting it back and wiring up a new leader. It is now fairly well tapered and about 30" tall with a 3" trunk above the flare.
In your warmer climate and better knowledge than I had you should be able to do the same in about 10 years. However, it will be hard to assemble a forest if you have too much flare developed. I now use wooden boxes with mesh bottoms for getting trees to develop fast vs. pots. I would let the new leader grow for 2 seasons before cutting back to a new leader - you might be able to get by with one. You can probably wire a new leader up now along the current trunk and then make the chop in the spring if you decide to take that approach. The new leader should grow a bit stronger in an upright mode. I also made my chops at an angle to the back and they all worked on the bald cypress, but have not worked on some other species. I now chop square an inch or so above the new leader and cut back once the sap has withdrawn.
Thanks Marty, that is very helpful!
I was thinking to make a box to put them in next spring - would you advise against planting them all together at that time? Or that is something for way further down the line? I’m not totally committed to a forest but couldn’t resist buying more than one.
I haven’t chosen a front yet, and when I first repotted them I didn’t expose very much of their bases. That will surely be revealed in time. Can I do the root work at the same time as the chop?
Great idea to wire up a new leader now, although I may have already pulled down some of the best candidates with guy wires. I’ve had good success with my lemon cypresses getting new leaders into position.
And finally, about how high up should I do the chop? I suppose somewhere below where I’d like the final height of the trees? My big concern was that cutting off the top would stunt the thickening process but with a new leader in place that sounds like its not a problem.
edit - one more kinda dumb question - in Bonsai when they talk about waiting a season, is that Spring to Spring of the next year, or Spring to Summer?
Are any a Peve Minaret cultivar dwarf ? i picked one up a few month ago… i love these. If you do got one the grow about 4- 10" a year in conical form from what i gathered off of google. seem about right so far on mine.
I don’t recall the tag saying anything other than “Bald Cypress”.
They have grown about that much, maybe 8-10" in the last year.
Mine had 2 tags, only one said the dwarf thing. I wont know for sure for a long time lol… both have the same foliage, the bushy botom, naked trunk, and wide top. I am going to let mine grow all year and also maybe next year too… i figure if the bottom sends up tall leaders its the probably the dwarf, its not a bad thing lol, just helps to understand its nature in my opinion… beautiful trees you have btw.
That’s an interesting thought. I mentioned the different quality bark on one of the trunks. Here’s a better pic
So the darker, smoother one on the left was much smaller and thinner when I got it, but it rapidly grew to where it is now taller than the main trunk. It also doesn’t have that shaggy quality of the foliage (most of which falls off in dormancy) but rather regularly spaced branches coming out horizontally. It’s almost like it’s a different species! You reckon that might indicate it’s a dwarf variety?
I would not due the chop and the repot into the box in the same year. I would suggest replanting this coming spring including separating the two that appear to be rather different in case you decide they don’t work that will together in a group. If they grow like weeds, you do do a chop as the foliage just starts to harden, otherwise wait until the following spring. You can probably grow them in the box for 2-3 years before the roots spread too much to be able to plant them together. Of course if you want a really tight group you might want to plant them together in the box now to insure you can mesh the roots.
Where to chop depends upon how much taper you want to develop. To develop lots of taper, chop low (1/4-1/3 of final height), allow to grow a couple of seasons, repeat by chopping the new growth at 1/4-1/3 of the remaining final height (as if the previous chop was ground level), and repeat a few times. I chopped mine at 1/2 and 85% of final height and have some nice taper, but not extreme.
Waiting a season normally means an entire growing year. However, if they are growing like weeds then you may be able to get away with two operations. I am more willing to push when dealing with lower cost material like end of season nursery stock if it grows wild since it is not a huge loss if I set it back or even kill it. I have a trident maple that I did a fairly severe root pruning on this spring and it has grown very well. I was tempted to do the styling this early summer which will entail a very severe cut back of the foliage, but after discussing it with another local member decided that waiting until next late winter is a good idea. In the meantime, I may take some cuttings with the strongest shoots.
Wonderful advice, thank you. Yesterday I gently directed potential new leaders on all the trunks to prep them for the eventual chop. I also went ahead and did this for my Sequoia since that will also need a chop soon.
Drop in a photo of your sequoia. Please.
You tag doesnt say where your located…?
That s gonna be a BIG forest / pot…
There’s the Sequioa. Grown from one of those tourist saplings they sell. I think its 4 years old. I lost one in the winter, but this one hung on and has grown more than ever since I put it into this training pot this spring. I haven’t done any pruning to it, just letting it grow but i will chop it this winter to get the taper started
Edit - older pics right after the repot
Nice. Have looked, not lucked into a sequioa.
DO have a nice 15 yo Dawn redwood forest. Finally getting limbs.
Acquired a large trunk Bald cypress 2 springs ago. Pretty untamed yet. Trying to NOT do a flat top…(wish I had bought the other three… they were in the throw away pile…)