This is the bald cypress I’ve been working on for a couple of years now. If you compare this photo with earlier ones, you’ll no doubt conclude the growth has simply exploded this year. This is one reason I just love bald cypress as a bonsai specimen. Nothing much bothers the species, and they’re very fast and easy to train.
There are some challenges, of course, but this is true of any species. With bald cypress you have two that matter: their apical dominance must be kept in control, and by summer their foliage tends to get shaggy and stressed if you grow them in full sun as I do.
The easiest way to solve the foliage stress problem is to simply remove all the foliage. Early July is a good time to do this in the South. I’m guaranteed to get a nice fresh round of growth starting in a couple of weeks, meaning I’ll have a tree that can be shown in the fall if I want to.
So here’s the result. Now you can see more clearly just how much of a challenge apical dominance is in bald cypress. Look at the twiggy growth, most of which is doing its best to grow straight up! If you guessed that my next move is to put a (temporary) stop to this, you guessed right.
My first step was to rewire and reposition the main leaders. If you go back to my earlier article on this tree, you’ll see that they were more horizontally oriented. I had them wired this past spring, but I had to remove the wire a couple of months ago as it was biting in. And so, being a bald cypress, the tree responded by trying to point those leaders back up.
And finally, I had to say goodbye too all those twigs. No pain, no gain. When you’re working on your trees, you always have to keep in mind your final silhouette. As your trees grow and you prune and pinch them, the natural tendency is to let them get too broad for their trunk thickness and height. For this particular tree, if you imagine what the finished crown will look like it quickly becomes apparent that the primary leaders had to be shortened. These primary leaders will backbud, throwing shoots that can be trained into secondary leaders. These secondary leaders will then be pruned and pinched to produce the tertiary and finer ramification that will make this a believable bonsai.
(What’s left of) this tree is available at our Bald Cypress Bonsai page. It’ll ship once it’s got a new week’s worth of strong growth behind it.