This Bald Cypress forest, Taxodium distichum, was left to me by my late bonsai friend Allen Gautreau. He started it in 2010 from seedlings, and in only five years had achieved a mature look from what were very immature trees. Note how aged the bark looks on these trees, for one thing. And of course there’s the branch structure, very well done.
I love BC forests. Last year I created this one from seedlings I’d germinated from seed from trees in my yard, that in turn I had grown from seed collected around the year 2000.
This year I continued working on this forest by replacing a few of the trees. Because I had created the forest late last year, a few of the specimens didn’t have time to recover fully before fall. But that’s no problem, you just grab a few extras and stick them in the empty slots.
Developing a forest planting is no different than developing a single-tree bonsai. Each one gets styled. While it’s not a myth that bonsai forest plantings are typically made from less than stellar material, it is a myth that you just put the less than stellar trees in any arrangement and just leave them alone. No, each tree has a role to play and must be styled to fulfill that role.
Here is today’s focal point of this forest, namely the main tree. As in Allen’s forest above, I want my main tree here to be a flat-top. Luckily, I have just the branches I need to make this happen. In the flat-top style, the BC’s leader loses its apical drive and more or less “lays” over. This combined with the other branches in the apex of the tree make for the classic appearance. To get this going, I need to wire the two highest branches and shape them to form the “skeleton” of the flat-top apex (if you look closely, you can see where this seedling was topped right behind the top-most branch).
So I removed all of the foliage growing directly on the trunk below the apex and the single lower branch I want to keep. Then a single piece of wire for my two apical branches, and a quick positioning.
And a final shot of the forest for today. Obviously, as the apical leaders of the main tree grow out they’ll be trimmed back, and the shoots that emerge from them will be wired and positioned. There will be another round of training this year on this tree. Work on the others will proceed based on how quickly they grow. Here’s a summary of each tree, what’s been done today and what I have planned down the road:
- #1 tree (focal tree) – all trunk foliage removed, flat-top branches wired and positioned, vestigial branch wired and positioned.
- #2 tree (to the left of the focal tree) – this one was replaced this year, is pushing trunk buds; no work until mid-year.
- #3 tree (right-most tree in the forest) – topped and trimmed lightly; branches to be wired around mid-year.
- #4 tree (small tree to left and behind #3 tree) – replacement seedling, no work to be done until it’s time to chop it around mid-year.
- #5 tree (left-most tree) – trunk wired and straightened; no other work until possibly mid-May.
- #6 tree (small tree to right and behind #6 tree) – replacement seedling, no work to be done until it’s time to chop it around mid-year.
- #7 tree (tree to the right and in front of #6 tree) – trunk wired and straightened; light trim to remove conflicting branches, will be wired in May.
And that’s it for today. Although these are really young BC seedlings, just a few years old, a little time and training will “age” them rapidly. Allen’s forest above is only going into its eighth year of training, yet the individual trees look really old and mature. I have every confidence this forest will follow along on that same path.
Let me know what you think of this forest by leaving a comment below.