Bald Cypress Collecting Trip #1 For 2022

bald cypress collecting trip #1 for 2022

Sneak Peek

This BC collecting season got off to a late start due to weather, but things are starting to look up.

Bald Cypress Collecting Trip #1 for 2022

I love this time of year – but only for the opportunity to collect new material. The weather is cold, often wet and just nasty. I hate winter!

But the new BC’s do come home, with some work of course. Here’s one of the new specimens, a nice 4″ trunk and destined to be a formal upright.

I wouldn’t call this one exactly a formal upright but it’s close. A little smaller in diameter than the one above, I’m thinking it could very well end up as a flat-top.

Sometimes, when the taper is right, we end up with a shorter specimen. Even though the trunk measures 4″ on this one, it’s chopped at only 22″.

This one speaks for itself. The taper and trunk movement are just outstanding. Will it work as an informal upright or flat-top? Either way!

It’s also a toss-up as to which front is the front. I haven’t made up my mind yet. What do you think?

And I’d love to hear what you think of this group of BC’s.

Bonsai Odds & Ends – American Elm, Lantana

bonsai odds & ends – american elm, lantana

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Here’s another American elm that’s coming along, and a Lantana in bad need of a haircut.

Bonsai Odds & Ends – American Elm, Lantana

I’ve written about American elm before. It’s sadly under-utilized for bonsai, most likely because folks are afraid of Dutch Elm Disease. I’ve never had a bonsai affected by DED in 30+ years of experience, nor have I heard of a case (though perhaps it’s happened out there somewhere).

This specimen is a perfect example of the bullet-proof nature of the species. I collected it in the dead of summer, along with two others, because I was cleaning up a former ground growing area. This tree and a couple of oaks were dug at the same time; all of the American elms made it, and one of the oaks is barely alive. Not only that, but all of the growth on this tree above the smaller cut-back leader coming off the main trunk is following the lift. So you see, it’s a tough species!

How tough? Well, I’m willing to slip-pot the tree at this time and bet on it surviving. I just got in this nice Lary Howard oval, and it’s a perfect complement to the tree.

Now it’s all about a few things: more leader and branch development, closing over the trunk chop and making ramification. You can see many of the leaves are already pretty small. This is very typical of American elm.

As for the trunk chop, you may be thinking it seems pretty straight across and somewhat jarring visually. Not to worry. American elm calluses vigorously, so expect the chop to look much more like a realistic transition in about a year or so.

It’s been a while since I wrote about Lantana. Although I just started working with the species last year, I have to say I’m very pleased. They have interesting bark, aren’t fussy about care, and bloom profusely in a pot (don’t be alarmed about the length of those flower stalks – with pinching and pruning you can keep the flowers in very tight and reduce the stalk length dramatically).

As I mentioned above, this one is badly in need of a haircut. I actually let it run this year for a couple of reasons: one, it helps to thicken the branches; and two, I’ll get a nice crop of cuttings to make more Lantanas with.

A nice improvement. I will cut back additionally before we start growing next year, but I wanted to leave the branches a little long for now in case I get some dieback (which is not likely).



Let me know what you think of today’s work.

Bonsai Odds & Ends – Dogwood, American Elm

bonsai odds & ends – dogwood, american elm

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Last time I showed you a Roughleaf dogwood that was eligible for the burn pile – only I saw some potential in it. Here’s the result. Plus a small American elm.

Bonsai Odds & Ends – Dogwood, American Elm

Last time I left off with this Roughleaf dogwood at the styling stage. I noted that the dead wood on the tree needed a lime sulfur treatment. Here’s how that turned out, plus you I’ve gotten a lot of growth in the past month. That’s one thing about Rougleaf dogwood, by the way. It’s considered a “trash tree” – which is another way of saying it’s very vigorous, hard to kill, and plentiful where it pops up. I love making bonsai from trash trees that have good characteristics.

So here’s the tree slip-potted into a nice Ashley Keller round. Considering where I started with this tree, I think it’s come a long way.

I’ve written on a number of occasions about American elm, which is one of my very favorite species to work with. This is a small one I’ve been growing from a cutting for about five years now. it’s been cut back a few times – in this shot you can see the original chop rolling over.

I think this looks like a good front.

Incidentally, the growth you see here is about three months’ worth. Yes, they grow fast!


A few minutes later, I’ve got a design to work with.

In a month it’ll be time once again to trim this tree. By not root-pruning along with removing all of that top-growth, I have a lot of supply and not enough demand yet.

I’ll put this tree into a bonsai pot next spring. At only 4″ tall, probably ending up about 6″, it should make a very nice shohin bonsai.

Let me know what you think of these two trees.

Maple Layering Success

maple layering success

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This Swamp maple, Acer Drummondii, has been developing nicely for the past year. But there’s always been a problem with the base. Time for a layering!

Maple Layering Success

This Swamp maple has developed quickly since we collected it in Winter 2020. In just a year, I’ve gotten a nice branch set established and the leader is coming along. All’s well, right? Well, not quite….

Yes, I know we don’t view our bonsai from the side, but doggone this base looks butt-ugly!

The obvious answer is to layer the tree above the ugly base. Layering doesn’t always go smoothly, but the technique I’m going to use here is very, very reliable.

First I removed a strip of bark around the tree where I want my new root base. Bear in mind when you’re doing this that the roots will emerge from under the bark at the top of the strip, not the bottom. So make sure you cut in the right spot.

A slit nursery pot, enough soil to thoroughly bury the area I’m wanting roots, and good old duct tape!

This photo was taken at the end of the process, by the way, not the beginning. You can see the difference in the foliage from the above photo.


You will need at least six weeks for most layering attempts. When enough time has passed, dig down carefully looking for roots. I did that before doing this.

This is what you want to see, a nice new set of roots where you removed that strip of bark. Sometimes you don’t get roots all the way around; you can re-wound the area missing roots and re-bury the whole thing, and give it another three weeks minimum.


And here it is, after cutting off the ugly root base and putting the tree back into its pot. I did remove some foliage before undertaking this operation, so as to lighten the demand on the new (less-developed) root system. This is a must.

Layering is a very useful tool in your bonsai kit. If you don’t have any experience layering, pick a tree that doesn’t thrill you and have at it. Practice makes perfect!

Coming Attractions – American Elm And Live Oak

coming attractions – american elm and live oak

Sneak Peek

It’s very uncommon to see American elm and Live oak bonsai. There are reasons for the dearth of specimens. Here’s one of each I’ve started on the bonsai journey.

Formal Upright Bald Cypress – Development 101

It’s relatively easy to find American elm seedlings to harvest and grow on for bonsai. It’s not at all easy to find larger specimens in the wild to collect – at least that’s been my experience. While American elm is a very fine bonsai subject, you don’t see many of them. I frankly don’t know why this is, considering their qualities.

Here’s a specimen I’ve been working on for a few years now, that I pulled up as a seedling and potted. It’s been trunk-chopped a couple of times to build movement and taper, and naturally it’s grown out vigorously each time. I like the way this one’s looking, so why not prune, style and pot it?

These are easy to “take in” when it’s time to shorten the ranging branches that grow way out. Some quick snipping is all it takes.


A little wiring helps get those branches in the right positions.

I like the way this Lary Howard pot goes with the tree. Nice pot design, and since American elm will usually give a bright yellow fall color that will be something to look forward to considering the pot color.


Live oak bonsai are as rare as hen’s teeth. I’m not sure if this is because they are very hard to lift from the wild successfully (when you can find them), or it takes some years to get a good design going. Regardless, who could resist the species as bonsai?

As near as I can tell, the secret to successfully lifting Live oaks from the ground – and I’m working strictly from material I’ve been growing for 10 years from acorns – is to take them out of the ground about 10 to 14 days before they change leaves in spring. That means a March 1st collecting date for me. While I’ve had very poor luck lifting the species in late winter or summer, every specimen I’ve lifted on March 1st has lived. Here’s one of two I harvested this year. It’s going to make a classic Live oak style Live oak bonsai; here are the first steps.

If you study Live oaks in nature, the older ones tend to look a lot like octopuses in their branching. The trunks are short and stout, and divide off into two, three, four, or more leaders. Those leaders then have branches that grow off of them and snake outward, often dropping down to the ground (and I mean on the ground). They make quite a show.

You can see how I intend to make this tree into a classic Live oak. I have main leaders that point upward, and I have the beginnings of branches that emerge from those upright leaders but droop over. While I intend to keep the ends of those dropping branches pointed upward – toward the sun, for stronger growth – in time I plan to bring the outermost points as close to the soil surface as I can.


Here’s a final shot of this one for today, showing the nice barky base and good flaring roots. I’ll let the tree grow out to get strong. By summer it’s going to be full of new growth. The chop point will stay as-is for this season, but next year I’ll get in there and carve it down so the rolling callus will close off the wound as the leaders thicken.

Let me know what you think. Any Live oaks on your bench?

Late Potting Or Repotting Your Bonsai

late potting or repotting your bonsai

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Who doesn’t dread the idea of late potting or repotting a bonsai? It’s all supposed to get done on time. But ….

Late Potting or Repotting Your Bonsai

There’s potting time for bonsai, which is usually repotting time. It’s supposed to happen at the time which is ideal for whatever species you’re growing. Now, everyone out there who always does this at the ideal time, raise your hands ….

I committed my first potting/repotting sin over 30 years ago, and am still going strong today! No, it’s not something I do for fun, it’s just a necessity sometimes. The good news is, I’ve learned a few tricks that pretty much ensure my trees will survive my transgressions. I’ll share them with you today.

Let’s start with this small Swamp maple bonsai I first potted back in 2019. I had grown it from seed, and after a few years it had a nice trunk with good movement and taper, and I knew I could complete the development of the tree in a bonsai pot. That was two years ago, of course, and as you might suspect from the size of the pot it’s in, there isn’t any more room for roots. You can see this lack of space reflected in the foliar growth – the leaves have some deformation in them. So the tree is struggling to continue on.

The obvious answer is to repot the tree. The obvious problem is it’s already fully in leaf. What to do?

First let’s take off the ugly foliage. It’s going to have to come off anyway, as it’s much too large and the needs of ramification mean defoliation step by step as new growth emerges.


Out of the pot it comes. I think the problems with growth we already noticed directly reflect the overcrowded root system.

Now, you may be wondering if it’s okay to root-prune at this time. I can say I’ve done it, but when I do it’s usually a light root-pruning. Many species can take a lot of abuse, but there’s no point in pushing things if you don’t have to.

In this case of this tree, it needs large pot so that gives me the opportunity to slip-pot and not cut any root at all. And that’s ideal in cases like this one.

I just in some round pots from Byron Myrick, and I think this one suits the tree very nicely. Obviously it’s roomier, and that will help me achieve my goal of increasing the trunk size of this tree (yes, I know that’s a slow process but I accepted a smaller specimen when I first potted it; if I had wanted a thicker-trunked specimen I’d have put it in the ground).

It’s fun to push the envelope from time to time, so how about potting up this Ginkgo today? Well, the tree is fully in leaf so that’s going to be risky. The bonsai pot this tree goes in is going to be a lot smaller than the nursery pot you see – that means a lot of roots will end up on the ground. So my risk goes up quite a bit. But there are a couple of things you can do when faced with this situation.

First I need to pick out a pot. There’s this Kintsugi I made over the winter. The tree will certainly go in it fine, but I’m interested in a more permanent home.

Here’s another Byron pot, and I’ve got to say I think this match was made in heaven. Let’s find out.

Yes, I think this really nails the composition. With this Ginkgo, I’m not looking for a much heftier tree; I’d like it to stay the height it is now, and fill out over time. So this pot should suffice for a very long time.

Okay, so the tree’s potted now and it has lost about 75% of its root system. That’s risky, to be sure. So how do we mitigate the risk? One thing I’ve already done is to remove one of the leaders on the tree. That’s not a huge amount of the top-growth, but it is some and it helps to balance the root loss. Whenever possible, I recommend keeping the balance between root removal and foliar removal as equal as you can. That way the stress on the tree will be lessened.

I have one more trick to ensuring (as best I can) that this tree survives the late potting.

Always keep a supply of produce bags handy. They’re great for maintaining the humidity surrounding the foliage of your tree, which prevents transpiration losses while the root system regenerates. I expect to have this bag on the tree for two to four weeks.

You may have noticed the twine I used to lash the bag to the pot. In your garden or yard, anything that an act as a sail will do so – in fact, if you want to kick up a breeze try bagging some cuttings. It works for me every time!

Let me know what you think of today’s work. Do you pot or repot out of season?