I started working on this Bald cypress, Taxodium distichum, last year. The idea was to get a branch set going, and to select and position a new leader to continue the trunk to a final apex. This photo was taken on 12/28/18. Nice fall color, but the tree had grown itself into a mess while I paid attention to other trees.

With the tree already pushing buds and shoots, I have no time to lose in updating the wiring. If you haven’t experienced it before, wiring a Bald cypress when the buds are just on it is a very tricky proposition! You can’t help but knock off some of the tender buds. The good news is, there are so many just a little care leaves most intact.

The first order of business was to make the year two trunk chop to the new leader. I carved it smooth, ensuring that I had a nice angle on either side where the new leader will ultimately blend in.

You will also notice that in addition to wiring additional shoots to add to the design, I’ve also pruned them in fairly hard. Why? For now, it’s very important to allow the strength of this tree to concentrate in the leader. It needs to thicken at its base just as quickly as possible, in order to make the tapering transition blend in perfectly. I don’t want an obviously abrupt change of diameter in the trunk at this point. While it wouldn’t be obvious during the growing season, in winter you’d be able to clearly see it and it just wouldn’t look right.

As the season unfolds, I’ll have to pay special attention to the upper branches. Why? With BC, it’s all about getting tall as fast as possible. So the branches in the upper part of the tree will dominate all of the rest, unless I keep that from happening. So that means “cooling off” the growth near the apex.

This Water oak, Quercus nigra, came up as a volunteer on my property quite a number of years ago. I chopped it in the ground a couple of times, and It rewarded me by putting on a nice trunk with great movement and taper. I lifted it on 2/25/19. How about those radial roots? The trunk base is 2.5″, and it’s 19″ to the current tip of the trunk.

Assuming good recovery, I plan to add this specimen to the Bonsai South Collection as Water Oak #9. More to come on this one.

We’ve been following the story of this Swamp maple, Acer rubrum ‘Drummondii,’ for going on three years now. I’ve been waiting for signs of deterioration, but so far it seems to have survived collection. Here it is, leafing out nicely for the 2019 season. This should be the make or break year.

Yesterday I moved the tree to a new pot, a terrific piece by Lary Howard, which I think better suits it. I continued the plan of not disturbing the native soil at the center of the root mass. I also repositioned the tree in the pot; you may recall that originally there was a smaller secondary trunk on the right of the main trunk, which did not survive. So the repositioning was necessary.

Now for the real question about this tree: considering how tall it is, namely 28″ (trunk base is 1.5″ at the soil), does it qualify as a literati style bonsai? It’s way too tall to fit the normal trunk diameter to height guidelines, so the only thing left to consider is whether or not it can be considered as a literati. I really like the tree, tallness and all. The branches will be kept fairly sparse, and well in toward the trunk, as this is the only way it can really work to inspire an impression of age. If I let the branches grow out too much, it’s just going to not look right.

I’d love to hear what you think of it, and of course the other trees in this blog, so leave me a comment below.