I’ve shown you this Bald cypress forest, Taxodium distichum, in previous posts. It was bequeathed to me by Allen Gautreau, and old bonsai friend I’d known for 25 years. Allen did a really good job of designing this forest, including a nice selection of trees based on trunk size and height, and the composition is pleasing. It has the look of a forest. Over time, the trees took on an aged appearance, which is just what you want to happen. And Allen had paid attention to detail on the individual trees, ensuring they exhibited a natural growth habit.

This forest has needed repotting since I got it, but I’ve put off the chore for no particularly good reason.

A couple of weeks ago I defoliated it, in preparation for the work (which I should have done at the time, but just didn’t get to). The roots were really grown together, of course. This is something to bear in mind whenever you repot a forest. Do you separate the trees or repot the mass of trees as a group? Well, it depends a lot on what needs to be done in regard to the composition. If the composition is as you want it, then repotting can consist of pruning the roots around the edges of the forest in the pattern of the trees’ footprint. This provides growing room for new roots, which is the purpose of repotting in the first place.

On the other hand, if you have to change your composition you’ll be faced with the chore of separating the trees. This is done by cutting apart the root masses. If you’re able to lift the forest out of the pot to get at the roots better, then by all means do so. If not, then you’ll have to cut into the root mass in the pot to achieve the separation.


The only real problem I saw in this forest was the arrangement of the smaller three-tree group. I felt the two trees on the right of this group should be closer together, which would enhance the visual depth of the group and thereby the composition itself. It was a small change, but I thought making it would improve the composition a great deal. So with that in mind, I set out to cut apart the forest.


But first, the trees all needed a good trimming to restore their silhouettes. I shortened most of the branches and removed some unnecessary ones.

Once that was done, I started with the main tree and used my root-pruning shears to get down into the root mass.

My plan was to move this forest to a vintage Richard Robertson tray, which I felt would give it a more “swampy” appearance.

I started with the main tree because it’s the basis of every forest composition – the linchpin, as it were. Where you put this tree determines where the others need to go. I didn’t plan to reposition the main tree, but nonetheless it needed to be planted first.

The others then took their places, with the edits that were needed on the smaller group.



Here’s the end-result of the work.

Notice what I did with the three-tree group. I actually repositioned the far-right tree behind and to the left of the middle tree – with a slightly narrower trunk, it can now provide much more visual depth to the group along with the overall composition.

I probably removed about half of the root mass of each of the trees in this repotting. I don’t expect this to slow down the recovery much at all. With the new buds pushing now, I should have a new flush of foliage in about three weeks.

Let me know what you think of this forest in its new home.