In keeping with my fun series on making great bonsai out of less-than-great starting material, I wanted to show you what you too can do with a little time and a good plan of action. Because I tend to send my initial efforts at making bonsai lemonade to other artists across the country, I don’t always find out what happens on the back end. I had that opportunity recently when a good client/bonsai friend contacted me following my post on cutting trees back hard when they need it. You see, he had gotten one of my earlier efforts at making bonsai lemonade out of material that otherwise may have ended up on a compost heap. It was a Bald cypress I had collected in 2010 and then rushed the angle cut in the apex. This jarred the tree excessively, resulting in die back far down the trunk. But the tree was alive all the way around at the base, and so I stuck it in a tub and just let it grow wild figuring one day I’d make something of it.

cypress1-13-13Here’s the earliest photo of the subject tree I have, taken in January 2013. As you can see, most of the trunk is dead … but, there’s a ring of living tissue going all the way around and a nice long shoot I’ve allowed to run in order to thicken it. You see, I had a plan.










Here’s the first iteration of the plan, from August of 2014. I saw a dead snag and a new trunk. Though I think this could have worked, the problem with it was that the dead wood had begun to rot fairly extensively in the four years following collection. So it would have taken heroic measures to preserve the snag as originally envisioned.










This photo is from October 2014, and from a different angle.













And a couple of months later, after bowing to the inevitable with regard to the snag. It was at this point that I first saw the bonsai in this piece of otherwise lousy material. Which brings up a good point. Sometimes you don’t know for sure what the best design is for a tree, when first starting out. And that’s okay. Time and patience will usually pay off. So I wasn’t too concerned about this tree; I knew a good design would eventually present itself.








So the tree went on to its new home in 2015, and the training plan was continued. In this photo the branches have been wired out and positioned. You can see there’s a new leader, which had been grown out following a round of grow and chop. This leader would be allowed to run, to continue development of the new Bald cypress bonsai.







Fast-forward to the present, and you can see what has been achieved in a relatively short time. This is a truly great job of creating the rest of the crown of this bonsai. I’ve recommended a semi-hard pruning next year, to bring the silhouette inward a bit, but it’s hard to argue that this once-poor piece of material is well on its way to being a stunning bonsai.




Here’s a view of the tree from the opposite side. Which is better? I personally like them both, so I suggested that it be repotted into a round container in order to allow the tree to be viewed from either direction.

I think this is an absolutely terrific job in making this bonsai. Wouldn’t you agree? Doesn’t it make you want to find a lemon to work on?

Comments are welcome, as always.