I love training bald cypresses to sell to collectors wanting their own specimen of the King of American Bonsai. For the most part, this work proceeds along a pretty routine path. I collect a tree, wait for it to bud out in early spring, watch the shoots extend, do the initial wiring, remove the wire when it starts binding, rewire if it’s not too late in the season, repeat the process into year two and see how far along I am vis a vis offering the tree for sale.

There’s one very reliable characteristic of bald cypress, and that is its apical dominance. The tree wants to get tall, meaning every single specimen wants to be 100 feet tall. Those we collect tend to be not more than 10-25 feet tall, so there’s plenty of genetic destiny in each one. As a result, almost every shoot that forms on a newly collected bald cypress will grow upwards, and this happens from shortly after emergence until it’s stopped either by nature or the hand of the bonsai artist. (Take a look at the newly collected specimens on the site; practically every shoot is reaching for the sky.)

Cypress4-17-15-4The tree on the left, along with the others I’ve posted this year, was collected in February. It and another were directly potted into bonsai containers. Yet this one decided to grow in a decidedly different manner than all of the others I collected this year. With the exception of the branches in the upper reaches of the tree, which are dutifully growing skyward, the rest are more or less horizontal. And these are extending shoots, with plenty of growth potential.

The fact is, I haven’t a clue why this particular tree decided to grow this way. But I am very thankful, because I have a plan for this one I hope to pull off. I have the opportunity to study bald cypresses in nature in the course of my daily travels, and just today I noticed an interesting mature tree form I’m determined to mimic in a bonsai. Since this tree has been kind enough to grow horizontal branches for me, what better way to get started?

Now, I have confidence the extending shoots on this tree will make their move upward, so there’s likely wire in their future. But that’s okay. What this tree has given me, by the simple fact of growing as it has, is a glimpse into its future. I know what I saw on my travels earlier today; I can now see that tree form in this specimen. Whether I can get there or not is a question to be answered over the next couple of years.

The trunk base of this specimen is 2.75″ above the root crown, and it’s 22″ to the chop. Finished height should be about 26″. The pot is by Chuck Iker.