Cypress2-15-15-2I collected this bald cypress in January 2013. I couldn’t resist a great flaring base, great trunk movement, twisting gray bark, and that interesting “elbow” on the right-hand flaring root.

I let the tree grow out unrestrained in 2013. When 2014 came, I selected the new leader for the tree and made the second, angled chop in the apex of the tree. The new leader was allowed to run, which began the rolling over process at the original chop point. By last summer I felt the tree was ready for a bonsai pot, and I happened to have gotten this extraordinary Chuck Iker round that worked perfectly. Its color is virtually the same as new cypress bark.

Now, as you observe this tree one of the things that stands out is the abrupt change of taper in the apex. This is nothing unusual; in fact, it’s one of the developmental processes you go through with any trunk-chopped specimen you grow as bonsai. A tapering transition must be built. This process is different with bald cypress, due to the powerful apical dominance of the species. Instead of a straight cut, then select your leader and let it run, then angle cut and ultimately carve to smooth, you have an intermediate stage where the initial angle cut is only part-way between the new leader and the opposite side of the trunk. This tree has moved beyond that point, and is ready for attention in the tapering transition point.

Cypress2-15-15-3Here’s a close-up of the transitioning point. It’s easier to see where the problem is. Next is the transition from another angle.









You can see where the callus tissue has begun rolling over nicely from the edges. But they’re pretty ragged, so today is a good time to fix that too.






Cypress2-15-15-5First cut. I have to remove the excess wood in the lower part of the second chop. This is a vital part of making the eventual tapering transition believable.








Next cuts. Carving this area down is going to make the tapering of the trunk more believable. It’s all visual trickery.

Remember, the art of bonsai is the art of illusion. Our basic goal is to make a two foot tall tree look like a 100 foot tall tree. So we establish a tapering trunk from ground to apex, in order to trick our mind into seeing something taller. We build a set of branches that reflect the tapering trunk in silhouette as well as individually, with their own sub-branching that reflect the trunk-primary branch relationship. The bottom line is, if I don’t get this part of the development right, the rest just won’t work. You may have seen many bonsai where this essential work was not done or not done properly.

Cypress2-15-15-8Now I’m done cutting for this round. It’s important to understand that the new leader still has to thicken at its base. I’ve already cut it back for spring (it was two feet taller), and I’ll allow a new leader to run for a while. I expect to cut back hard again by June, and the final round of growth for 2015 should bring me much closer to the ideal transition I’m working toward.









Finally, a trim and wiring. This year should see a tremendous advance toward making this a fine specimen bald cypress bonsai.

Do you like this tree? Let me know. Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.