You’ll remember this bald cypress I defoliated on July 5th. As I noted at the time, for established cypresses you can defoliate in early July in order to get a fresh new set of foliage for fall. Summer heat often causes stress on these trees, which shows up as browning or blackening of individual leaflets of the fronds. This happens in the interior of the tree, and though unattractive causes no permanent damage. Defoliating, however, eliminates the problem.
Here we are with this tree, almost a month later. Despite the extremely hot temperatures we experienced all through July, this set of foliage looks great. And as long as I keep the tree watered, this attractive foliage will persist into fall.
Another benefit of defoliating your bald cypresses in July is you get in an extra round of training. With trees that grow vigorously, such as cypress and American hornbeam, you can wire in spring, unwire in late spring, and rewire for summer. Strategic pruning is also done. Remember, the ultimate beauty of any bonsai is to be found in the intricate structure of trunk and branching you build. For collected trees, you start with a trunk and build the branching and crown. This bald cypress is a perfect example of this process. So the more “seasons” you go through, the faster you create the detailed structure that makes a trained bonsai.
In the tree at left, I have a whole crop of new shoots that are ready to be shaped in order for this bonsai to take its next step.
Here’s a close-up of the crown. You can see the result of the desire of the tree to reestablish its genetic destiny – massive height! But this is going to be a bonsai, so I can’t let that happen.
Thirty minutes later, here’s the next step in the building of this flat-top style bald cypress. Notice how I’ve reduced the expanse of the crown by wiring the individual secondary leaders and introducing the movement. This helps create the illusion of age in this tree, as time and growth bring the tree’s innate desire to get taller to an end. Once a bald cypress gets to 80-100 feet tall, there’s no more upward growth in it. So the tree settles down to mature life – which, incidentally, may last for a thousand years.
Finally, a closeup of the work I’ve done to complete this next step. Once these new secondary leaders are set and thick enough, I’ll be able to rely more on grow and clip to build the ramification that will ultimately make this a fine bonsai.