I have always loved really big bonsai. No matter where you see them, either in a show or in someone’s collection, your eye is invariably drawn to them. They’re so … big! And yet they’re a small representation of something that’s super big, which is a little odd when you think of it.
Really big bonsai come with special challenges, which are all about size and weight. It’s okay to say “Duh!” at this point. Yes, when you collect a piece of material from the wild and the only thing it’ll go into is a concrete mixing tub from Home Depot®, you have earned your membership in the Big Bonsai Club. I’ve been a member for almost 30 years now. When I joined the club, I was only 33. I was much stronger than I am now, but more importantly I was much younger. But I still love those big ones.
One species that really lends itself to the Big Bonsai Club stable is Bald cypress, Taxodium distichum. These trees are so impressive in the wild, if you have a really big one on your bench it makes a really big statement. One good feature of Bald cypress is that the wood is amazingly light. This means that even though your soil mix is going to have some weight to it, at least the tree won’t add much to the load. That turns out to be a real blessing when you go on to add a 25-pound bonsai pot to the equation.
I’ve had this specimen for a couple of years now. It’s really big. The trunk base is 6″ when measured 7″ from the soil surface. Those surface roots spread 13″ across. You can see where I’ve been growing the apex, working on the tapering transition. I should be able to finish this work in two more growing seasons. The finished height for this bonsai is going to be 32-34″.
Today it was time to go from the mixing tub to a training pot. I had this Byron Myrick rectangle that had cracked during firing (so I got it for nothing), and I think it works pretty well.
I took off enough root to fit this tree in its pot. After putting in a drainage layer of straight Riverlite® expanded shale, I set the tree in and filled the spaces with prepared bonsai soil. The tree is budding presently, and I’m confident the potting work won’t put much of a damper on it.
The big negatives about this bonsai are, as I mentioned above, size and weight. Though the tree itself is light, the tree plus several gallons of soil weighed about 35-40 pounds. I’m guessing the pot weighs another 25-30 pounds. So this whole composition tips the scales at going on 70 pounds. I’m only eight years shy of being that number old, so trust me when I say I can feel every muscle it takes to lug this thing around when I’m dumb enough to do it.
So no more really big trees for me, just this last one. Oh, I’ll no doubt collect a few more here and there, and send them on to braver and/or stronger and/or younger bonsai artists. But I’ll content myself and my personal collection from now on with just a few of these very large small trees in shallow pots.
*My back approves this message.*