As with most bonsai in development, timing is critical as you move from new collect to recovered specimen and on to initial design steps. With bald cypress, timing is perhaps more critical than with most species since it grows so vigorously once it recovers from collecting.
I collected this specimen in February of 2015. It has such an impressive buttress, with really deep fluting, that I had to keep it for myself (allowing me to let go of its predecessor to a good home). As with all such large cypresses, I left it alone throughout the 2015 growing season so it could get really strong. It began budding two weeks ago, so I knew it was going to soon need its year two development work.
One decision I was compelled to make with this tree right off the bat was my choice of fronts. You can see that I potted it in this tub with an assumption – not a bad one at that. But this left me with something of a dilemma. The strongest leader on this tree emerges from the right-hand side of the trunk. Though this may not be an issue many years down the road, it may not look right once I end up re-chopping for taper.
I turned the tree a bit in order to get the new leader into a better spot. Does this adversely affect the appearance of the buttress? I actually like the way the tree looks from this angle. The trunk seems to have a bit more movement. For now, anyway, I’m going to go with this front. Even if I ultimately change it back, I don’t think it’ll cause too much trouble.
Time to make the tapering chop. I’ve tried different ways, but the trunk splitter is simply the best. You can grip the wood at the right angle, bite into it with the force you need, then peel off chunks of wood by levering with the tool.
This work took less than five minutes. What’s important to note here is that I’ve cut roughly half-way across the initial straight chop. You can’t make an angled cut to the new leader as you would with most species. Bald cypress is so apically dominant that when it calluses over you can end up with a nasty reverse taper that’s hard to correct. By leaving a “shelf” of wood, the rolling callus is forced to roll over this wood and is thereby kept from swelling overmuch.
After the tapering chop. I did a little fine caving with a knife to smooth the edges where the cambium lay. Once the exposed wood dries, which will take most of this year, I can come back and do some carving in the chopped area with my Dremel®. There’s no rush on this.
The final shot for today. I’ve shortened the new leader, wired level a couple of unruly branches and sealed the carved area. That’s all I need to do for a good while.
In case you’re curious, the trunk on this cypress is 6″ across 6″ above the soil surface. The surface rootage, once it’s exposed, will measure about 14″ across. The tree is 26″ to the original chop. The taper is amazing. I believe this tree will end up about 36-40″ in height when done.
I’d love to hear any comments you might have about this tree. I think in four or five years it’ll be a show-stopper.