By now you know that I hate to give up on trees that didn’t go where they were supposed to when I first brought them home. Not that I never literally chuck out a piece of material, but if there’s something work salvaging I keep it on the bench or in a corner waiting its turn.
Here’s a classic example of a tree I just couldn’t give up on, a bald cypress (Taxodium distichum). Collected in Winter 2015, this was one of those really nice specimens that just failed to bud out near the top despite my best efforts – this happens on occasion. But it did throw a bud about a third of the way up, so I thought that I just might make something out of it one day. I fed the tree and kept it watered, but otherwise left it alone.
This growing season, I tied the “apical” shoot upright so it would extend and gain heft. The result was good. The tree has picked up some decent strength this year.
Just as important, the tree had thrown enough buds around the perimeter near the base that I figured the radial roots had to be alive. This is very important, considering how easily cypress wood rots when in contact with water. While I certainly could have carved the tree out into the ground, I much preferred the idea of a good stable buttressed base – that’s what impressive bald cypresses are all about, right? Today I dug around the base, and sure enough those roots are alive.
The first order of business today was the remove the bark from the dead parts of the tree. You can see the lovely cypress wood that emerged. And from this angle you can get a more exact idea of where that apical shoot emerges.
The next step in the process was to remove the unnecessary shoots that had grown around the base. The roots are alive, so I’ll get more budding all around – which will be allowed to grow a bit for the next couple of years but will ultimately be discouraged. For now, I wanted to see my planned design more clearly.
The view from the front.
And finally, the beginning of my vision for this future bald cypress bonsai. I’ll create a structure that is basically an informal upright tree regrown from an older specimen that died back – a style I’ve seen in the wild which is very impressive. I left a lower shoot which I think will help with the ultimate design (if not, I can easily whack it off later).
In 2017 I’ll transfer this tree to a growing tub to give it more room to grow and strengthen. I need the new young trunk to be about half the thickness of the dead trunk at the point where it emerges, which will take a few years. In time, though, I’m thinking this is going to be an awesome bonsai.
Tomorrow I plan to do some additional work on the dead wood, including some carving in the dead apex. I’ll post an update.
The base of this tree is 4″ in diameter about 4″ above the soil surface, and it’s almost 26″ to the tip of the dead apex.
I’d love to hear what you think about this bald cypress. Just leave a comment below.