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BC Collecting Trip #2 For 2020

Our second BC collected trip for 2020 happened yesterday. As often happens, the weather did not cooperate. On the plus side, the rain was not Noah-worthy so we plowed through and got the job done.If you’re into big classically styled Bald cypress bonsai, this is the sort of specimen you’re after. Beautiful flaring, buttressed base, great trunk taper, chopped at just the right spot to grow out and finish up around 40″. This one is just about a perfect formal upright, which for the trees I collect is very unusual.
Here it is in the pot, shown from what should be the best front. The root base is buried, of course, to keep the roots from drying out.
Here’s another one the same size (5″ trunk), but more along the lines of what I usually find. This one will make a superb informal upright BC bonsai of the classic pyramidal style.
And in the pot. I love the fluting of the trunks of these trees, don’t you?
Here’s an unusual specimen. The trunk is the same size as the ones above, about 5″ across (that’s measured up the trunk about 5″ above the soil level once it’s potted), but I ended up chopping it lower because the trunk lost taper above what you see as the chop point. That means this tree will ending making a “stouter” bonsai when all is said and done. The two trees above are chopped at 26″; this one at 19″.
Here it is in its training home.
This is the most unusual specimen I brought home this trip. The trunk is not all that thick, but the flare at the base is just massive and in the final potting of the tree I plan to expose most of it. I’m confident it will make quite a statement!
All tucked in and waiting for the weather to warm up.If we get mild enough temperatures, I expect to see budding on these trees in early to mid-February. At that point or soon thereafter we should know who made it and who didn’t.Let me know what you think of our latest haul.

How To Make Good Material A Lot Better

Here’s a Bald cypress I collected in February of 2018. It’s a good piece of material, but not a great piece of material. It is nice and big, with a trunk that measures 6.5″ across about 6″ above the soil. Taper is very good, as you can see. But the trunk, while decently fluted, isn’t a show-stopper in that department.
This side presents a bigger problem. The buttressing roots on the side are fine, but in between them is a pretty flat piece of “trunkscape.” Again, good piece of material but hardly great.Things did not get better once I potted up the tree and waited for it to bud out – namely, it took forever to bud out. It was not obviously dead, so I relocated it to a back bench and more or less forgot about it. Then, way long into the growing season, it decided to wake up. I fed it, kept it watered, but continued to ignore it.
Then came 2019, and the tree sure enough pushed more buds than it had in 2018 and did the amount of growth it could, given its location and presumably its general state of health. But I’m somewhat encouraged by it, and have “promoted” it to a sunnier bench for the 2020 season.But … it’s still not great material, even if the growth really kicks into high gear this year. What to do?(This shot is from what would presumably be the best front. We all know how the back looks, though.)
It never hurts to pull out the sketch pad, because you can try a number of different options for a tree before you assault it possibly irreparably. Given the flatness of what would be the back of the tree going by the above photo, I thought hollowing out that side could make this a very good or even great bonsai. Is it worth the risk? I think so. Time, and the chance associated with development techniques, will tell.I won’t know until sometime in spring if I’ll be able to carve this tree in 2020. I don’t want to stress a tree that’s not in full vigor. Stay tuned for updates.In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think of Plan B for this BC.

BC Trees With Knees Are The Bee’s Knees

Well, there’s nothing like Bald cypress collecting season, and there’s certainly nothing like a collected Bald cypress featuring a naturally occurring knee. This is a very substantial specimen, as I’m sure you can tell (the tub is 24″ long). Something ran over this tree decades ago, so it just grew the best it could. The trunk has rooted all along its length, so my plan is to attempt to create a raft BC from it. I don’t recall ever seeing one, though I’m sure someone somewhere has done so.

But check out that knee! That’s what sold me on this specimen. It sits right on the recumbent trunk, and I’m confident that once I get some new trunks going it’ll make for quite a composition.

The small tree to the left may or may not be part of the recumbent trunk. It appeared to have fused at some point, but as I worked on the tree it seemed to want to pull away. Regardless, it’s kind of cool for now and I may leave it even after I get the new trunks going. It’s got a fat root crossing over the main trunk, which I like.

So today I really scored. This specimen has two knees growing right on the trunk near the base. I wasn’t expecting them to be connected, but they are. So for my first time ever, today I collected two BC’s with knees. And that’s the bee’s knees!

The trunk on this one is 5″ 5″ above the soil, with a terrific flare. Very nice tree.

This is one heck of a BC specimen. The trunk is 5.5″ about 5″ above the soil, and that fluting and slight twist to the trunk just do it for me. An outstanding piece of material.

I really love the elegant “feminine” BC specimens I often bring home. I’m thinking a flat-top is in the cards for this one. The base is 4″ 4″ above the soil and it’s chopped at 29″. So the tall slender model is what I have in mind.

And lastly, this is a smaller specimen, with a base of 2.5″. But isn’t the taper and movement just awesome? I’m also thinking flat-top for this one, but it could just as easily be trained in the more traditional informal upright style.

So that’s it for my first BC collecting trip of 2020. Let me know what you think, and stay tuned for more posts over the next few weeks.

Bald Cypress Progression

This Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) came home in 2015, and I knew from the start that I was keeping it for my personal collection. A BC of this size, 6″ trunk 6″ above the soil), will invariably take about 10 years to reach a “finished,” showable state. So as of the end of the 2019 growing season, I’m halfway there.
I got really good growth the first year the tree was on my bench. That encouraged me to defoliate in July of 2016. In this photo, you can see the progress in building a new leader. This must be done properly, or the tree will look unnatural during winter dormancy.
Here’s a closeup to show you the new apex building process, which includes growing a new leader and controlling the powerful rolling callus that BCs typically produce.
Here we are at the beginning of the 2017 growing season. I’ve got a good branch structure going, and my new apex is poised for further thickening. Again, this process is going to take a number of years and can’t be rushed.I’ve also got the tree potted into a training pot. This will slow the growth, of course, but I’ll still be able to accomplish all of my plans for this tree.
Two months later, the tree is full of foliage and continuing strong development.
Another defoliation in early July. It’s easy to see how much the branches and leader have thickened since the beginning of the year (two photos above).
Here’s a head-on view of the tapering transition point, showing how well the callus is filling in. At the top you can see the “shelf” of wood I left when making the year two chop. This is to prevent the callus at the top of the wound from growing too rapidly and thereby producing a reverse taper at the transition point. The shelf will be carved down either at the end of this growing season, or the beginning of the next.
This closeup, from February of 2019, shows an adjustment I made to the transition point on the left side. The callus did its thing as it was meant to, but there was a bit of a bulge where I didn’t need it. The solution? Carve it down. That makes it look much more natural.
Time for a root-pruning, as the tree has been in this pot for a couple of years now. Many collected trees will re-root with great vigor once you’ve taken them from the wild. It’s a normal response. BC commonly do this.Note: I don’t defoliate cypresses in the year they get root-pruned.
The tree is root-pruned and back in its home, ready for the 2019 growing season.
This shot was taken in June of 2019. The growth is not quite as vigorous as I’d like, though it isn’t bad. In situations like this, you make sure the tree gets enough fertilizer. I’ve also seen some occasions where BC will get chlorosis, and this specimen looked like it could use some iron. I’ve always found that works well, usually within a few weeks.
A few weeks later, and looking better.
This shot is from December 27th, 2019. I’ve removed the wire from earlier in the season and cleaned up the trunk. The state of development is very pleasing to me, though of course there are still some years ahead before this tree is showable.With that said, there’s a significant flaw in the design of this tree that I need to address now, before it becomes too hard to do so. Can you spot it? I took the opportunity to write an article illustrating the advanced training technique I used to correct this flaw. If you’re interested in learning more, send me an email and I’ll be glad to forward it to you (it’s in pdf format).

Flat-Top Bald Cypress Design Work

This flat-top Bald cypress is coming along really well for a single year of training. With that said, the design can stand some tweaking and fall is a perfect time to do it. All of the foliage will be off this tree within the next few days, so knocking some off today won’t hurt a thing.

Now, there are a couple of things that bother me about the basic design of this tree: one, the two apical leaders are too symmetrical; and two, the top of the tree is insufficiently “flat.” You can easily see what I mean by the former; by the latter I mean the crown of this tree is too rounded, and this is something that will need to be controlled as this tree continues to develop.

So let’s tackle both problems, shall we?

The first step in making the two leaders asymmetrical is to wrap some thick-gauge wire around them.
The change I’ve made here is subtle but important. I’ve pulled down the left leader and pushed up the right leader, both just enough to introduce the asymmetry I need. That’s the first step. The next few are equally important.
A sub-branch of the left leader is wired and pulled down. Again, a subtle change but very important.
A closer view, and more in line with the typical viewing angle. Take a closer look at the change in the leaders I made above, from this view. It’s all about the apical asymmetry that’s typical of flat-top BC.
More wiring on the left leader, the sub-branch at the rear. It’s brought down flatter into the plane where it belongs, and moved toward the back of the tree.
Moving over to the right leader, notice I’ve pruned out the sub-branch that was sticking straight up. It was too heavy and its further growth would adversely affect the design of this leader.
A close up, after a little more trimming. I know it may seem like I’m removing needed ramification, but trust me when I say it’ll all grow back and more! What’s vital at this point in the life of this bonsai is to properly establish the finer branch structure. BC are so apically dominant that you can completely develop a flat-top crown in a couple of seasons. In fact, if you don’t manage the growth during this crucial time, the tree will literally outgrow itself and force you to start over.
Now I’ve wired and positioned two sub-branches on the right leader. These will provide me with a good base for ramification in 2020.

Notice how flat the profile of the crown is from this view. It’s just what I need.

And the final shot for today. It’s easy to see where I’m going with this tree. I expect that by summer of 2020 I’ll be almost completely through with the overall design. Obviously I have to develop the lower branches on the trunk, and this will take a couple more seasons as the tree will push most of its energy upward. But I’ve won that fight before!

Let me know what you think of this flat-top BC. And if you haven’t already done so, sign up for our BC wish list for 2020. Plus consider a workshop – buy a BC and do the initial styling in year one, the perfect way to kick-start a great BC bonsai.

Fall Color And Flower Buds – BC And Huckleberry

Here’s one of my landscape Bald cypresses that I’ve grown from seed since 2000. It gets bigger and better each year. Isn’t the color just terrific?
This one is just starting to put on its bronze for the year. Once the colors start, you’ve got maybe a week before the tree is bare.This tree has developed well this year – from collection in February to the initial styling and then slip-potting. It’s always nice when you can get a faster result.
I’ve got some nice red leaves on this Huckleberry. It needs a bit of a trim.
After the trim. I left a leader on the right-hand trunk alone, so it could continue to run and thicken. Once spring gets here, the growth will kick off again and that will include a lot more ramification. With more sub-branching to choose from, I’ll be able to build a better fine structure on this tree.
This tree is also getting closer to its first bonsai pot. The planting angle above strikes me as not quite as good as this one. If I do go this route, my choice of leader on the right-hand trunk will shift – but that’s why I’ve been growing two of them, so I’d have a choice. If I do go with the prominent one, it will need wiring come spring because it’s too straight (I can’t do it now for fear of cracking it, with no way for the tree to do any repair work).
And finally, check out all the flower buds! This pretty much guarantees me a decent show as spring gets close next year, not to mention some fruit toward summer. I really love growing Huckleberries as bonsai.