In my collecting endeavors I often run across trees that I just want to work on myself, and I mean beyond the initial styling I often do on my stock. This is one such tree.
And yes, in this first photo it’s obviously another one of those sticks I wrote about the other day. But I can tell you I’m pretty sure I heard it say “flat top” to me as I slogged up to it with my saw.
“Man, oh man, that’s just what I’m going to do with you,” I’m pretty sure I thought back at it.
From February 4th to today, this is what my neat new Cypress stick has done. Definitely time for an initial run at designing that flat-top me and the tree were talking about.
So my first chore was to decide on a front. One nice feature of this tree is it’s got some dead snags on the trunk that I’d like to incorporate in the design. After all, a flat-top Cypress is a mature tree which means it’s lost its lower branches. It’s not uncommon to see dead snags emerging from the trunks of these trees.
Here’s the second potential front. Notice that low snag? I’m thinking I want to make use of it. In the first photo it’s coming straight at the viewer. Not good in the lower part of a bonsai. But by turning the tree slightly it looks like something worthwhile. Plus the trunk still has a pleasing jig near the top.
After stripping off all the low foliage, which will play no part in the design, I focused on that nice strong shoot emerging from the left-hand side of the trunk. You’ll often see low vestigial branches on flat-top Cypresses. This one strikes me as being in just the right spot.
Now I’ve wired that shoot and put some initial shape into it. I also removed more unnecessary foliage and that large branch stub just above my vestigial branch.
Here’s another decision I need to make. I have two leaders, one moving toward the viewer from the tree’s front and a second moving away. Though the second one does make for more taper, I don’t need that as much as I need the apical stub moving toward the viewer.
And here’s yet another decision. I want a branch that moves toward the left, meaning away from the angle of the apical leader. Do I go with that thicker one or the thinner one just above it? I made the decision this way: when considering where the upper choice emerges from the trunk, it’s very close to what will be one of my apical leaders. This doesn’t make a lot of sense from the perspective of nature, where such branches get shaded out and die. So it seems obvious that the lower branch would be able to survive its position, as it’s not only lower but also farther to the left of the apex.
And the finished initial design. It’s very important to note just how few branches I’ve ended up with. In the wonderful world of bonsai, less is more. Remember, our goal is not to make an exact replica of a tree in nature, but rather to make a representation of a tree in nature. It’s still a tree, of course, but you the artist have reduced it to its essential elements – only those needed to evoke in the viewer the essence of a tree. Although this specimen has quite a ways to go in order to be deemed a finished bonsai, there’s really no problem seeing the path its on.
As for the numbers, this tree is 3.5″ across at the base and is 30″ tall. Isn’t the taper superb? Next year it will be ready for a bonsai pot.