potting & repotting season – bald cypress

Sneak Peek

Let’s make a formal upright bonsai!

Potting and Repotting Season – Bald Cypress

The BC’s are coming out – these are trees from south of me that “remember” where they’re from, so usually nothing comes out before they do.

This specimen is a fine formal upright in the making. The basal flare is outstanding, taper is just right, and we can tell by the growth (all this happened last year) that the tree is strong. I see no reason not to move it to a bonsai pot and complete the training there.


The first order of business is to make the year two angled chop. The goal of course is to create a tapering transition from the original trunk into the new apex. I need to make the angled chop so that when it heals, the transition will be smooth and look natural. For larger BC specimens, this process takes several years to get right. It’s one of those things you can’t rush.

Bippity boppity boo! I use a trunk splitter, which frankly you won’t find a better tool for this work. You start at the bottom holding the tool so that it makes an angled cut. The sharp edges give you just the right amount of grip. It takes a few to several bites with the trunk splitter to rough out the cut, depending on the size of the specimen. This one was just a few. Then I was able to use my knob cutters to finish the rough work, followed by a hand carving tool to make everything nice and smooth.

Here’s the result after I sealed the cut surface. Notice I also shortened the leader. This is also a necessary step in the development process. If you let the leader run without “grow and chop,” you don’t get the taper you need.

I cut the leader a bit long to ensure I get a bud in a good spot. This stub will be cut back again once I have a nice new leader.

One of the biggest challenges in presenting any bonsai is the pot. I figured a rectangle would work well in this case, and sure enough this antique Tokoname piece suits the tree very nicely.

In my small corner of the bonsai universe, the two toughest styles are formal broom and formal upright. I’m not sure which is tougher. With formal upright, a lot of the difficulty lies in the material. It’s a sure bet that not every pole-straight specimen will make a quality formal upright bonsai. This tree definitely makes the cut.

If you’ve been looking for a quality formal upright Bald cypress bonsai, this tree is available in our Shop. It will ship sometime in May.