another Chamaecyparis Obtusa "Nana" Gracilis

Rick Moquin

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This is another Hinoki that was added to my collection a couple of days ago. It was acquired as nursery stock and received its initial styling yesterday.

Not quite the tree I expected when I was viewing the raw stock, but I am happy with the results.

The tree will be left pretty much alone, with further refinement in a year or so. The apex will need to be reduced and opened up. Fine wiring of the branchlets will also take place the fall of '10
 

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Rick Moquin

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What I like about this particular tree was the low branches and a good root flare. Normally it takes a couple of years to be able to pot up a Hinoki of this size. Someone got rid of the tap root early on.

The tree is potted in an Erin pot. Dimensions are exterior dimensions. This was the only pot I had suitable at the time. It probably will be changed later on.

Comments welcomed!
 

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I like the lines of this tree. It is still (as you pointed out) very early in development, but all the fundamentals are there for a very nice tree with a few more years and detail branch and foliage work. The apex is heading to the right, correct? There is a strong branch at the top pointing left, but it may just be photo angle. I would trim the left branch a little, regardless.

The pot is big for the tree, but otherwise is a nice color and shape. I know the challenge with new trees - you start with larger pots and work down as the tree can take it.

No suggestions, really - looks good so far to me!
 

Rick Moquin

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The apex is heading to the right, correct? There is a strong branch at the top pointing left, but it may just be photo angle. I would trim the left branch a little, regardless.

The pot is big for the tree, but otherwise is a nice color and shape. I know the challenge with new trees - you start with larger pots and work down as the tree can take it.

No suggestions, really - looks good so far to me!
Thanks Greg. The apex is centered over the base (after twists and turns) and slightly forward. Good eye wrt the branch on the left which will be a jin later (once the branchlets develop) and can be used on the left side.

It is rather messy right now, as with all Chamaes but is awesome in person. The tree has a tranquil balance to it IMO. If all goes well I think it may mimick Walter's maple down the road. A little unusual perhaps, but definitely different from my others.

The pot depth is almost perfect and the root structure good and fine. The pot depth was chosen for this tree (only one I had that was suitable)
 
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One of my favorite species. It is difficult to find good ones around here though. They look very good with the foliage flattened like that.

Rick, when you trim the foliage do you thin each fan or cut evenly back or both.

Beutifull tree and pot
 

Rick Moquin

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Rick, when you trim the foliage do you thin each fan or cut evenly back or both.

Beutifull tree and pot
Thank you Marc for the kind words. I wrote an article on the subject. Please have a gander, it should answer all your questions, if not refine those you might still have. I could go through it here, but a picture is worth 1K words and the photos in the article will help clarify things for you. Any unanswered questions, please ask and I will try to enlighten your question (s)
 
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I can see it is similar to the "non-pinch" method of forming good juniper foliage planes. In the tree biz we call it drop crotch pruning. Lovely term I know.

This as many know is is "heading" back to a crotch that has the new leader going in the correct direction combined with thinning below, versus arbitrarily pinching or "topping" as we say in the tree biz on the big trees. Your article is very informative. I am being challenged by the black pine for now but I may someday find a good Hinoki Nana somewhere that has close in foliage and a good trunk line. I see them all the time but with it's challenges, none good for bonsai in my opinion.

Maybe another trip to Brent's place this year for one if I can find the time or money. Crabs in SF, Sulfur tubs and wine in Callistoga along the way.
 

Rick Moquin

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Marc,

I'm glad you were able to get something out of it. Yup! same technique different terminology.

I believe it is also Brent that professes (d) about pruning back junis vice pinching. But it is my understanding that pinching back creates like a sort of poodle effect whilst selective pruning provides air space and keeps the foliage tighter as well as flat. If I want to build up a certain pad I just let it go for a year or so and revisit it.

We have to keep in mind as well is that most trees are only show worthy ((photographs as well, with the exception of deciduous in their winter silhouette)) but for a short period of time each year, the rest of the time they are growing and developing. So I can take a photo if the foliage is just so and then prune it selectively for the following year. I hope I'm not confusing anyone here.
 

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Nice little tree Rick,and thanks for the link to your blog, looks good at a glance, I will check out your stuff.

These can be a tough one, so the info should help out those of us that like the Hinoki's.

Not a knock at all, but as usual(for me anyway) you picture doesn't fit my minds view picture I had of you, that is if I had one at all. Again thanks for the link.
 

Rick Moquin

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These can be a tough one, so the info should help out those of us that like the Hinoki's.
These have to be my favourite and they seem to like my neck of the woods. Hinokis are the favourite of the neighbours as well. Once you know how to tame them they make decent bonsais that are easy to look after. None of these will ever be world class trees, but I'm not after that in bonsai anyway. They do bring me lots of enjoyment :)
 
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Yes it is like trimming a hedge. If you constantly shear it you have to keep coming out further each time creating a dead zone in the middle. I hate most hedges, circles and squares as Brent would say. Too bad most people don't want to pay for a "Bonsai treatment" of their Juniper hedge. Even if you sucked at juniper styling but had the right idea they would still look better than a hedge, or topiary.

Yikes, topiary.

Thanks again for the article link. This thinking transfers well to some other conifers as well.
 

Rick Moquin

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Yes it is like trimming a hedge. If you constantly shear it you have to keep coming out further each time creating a dead zone in the middle. I hate most hedges, circles and squares as Brent would say. Too bad most people don't want to pay for a "Bonsai treatment" of their Juniper hedge. Even if you sucked at juniper styling but had the right idea they would still look better than a hedge, or topiary.

Yikes, topiary.

Thanks again for the article link. This thinking transfers well to some other conifers as well.
Funny you should mention that Marc. The neighbours are flabbergasted wrt the trees in my landscape where I apply what I call Japanese Gardening techniques or as you mention (the Bonsai Treatment). I tell them these are just fancy word(s), it's only in all good common sense proper pruning which is necessary on all trees and shrubs.

I have several copies of an article on proper pruning of trees, why ect... from some forestry division in the US that I pass on to folks who are interested. But I guess it is still too much bother as they have not shown the interest in rectifying their problems. You can only lead a horse to water...

The neighbour across the street has what I believe is a privet hedge. He complains that the interior is void and the hedge is growing only at the tips what can I do? I explained for starters cut it down to the ground and regrow. He is not willing to do so. I tell him it will only get worse with time, and when you reshape it, form it into a trapezoid vice a reverse trapezoid as we so commonly see. It will allow light in.

I think it is you that mentioned in another thread that it is hard to make a decent living at this with the price of cheap labour offered by the illegal immigrants. I wonder what people would say at the price of rejuvenating an overgrown hedge the first year. It's like the FRAM filter guy "you can pay me know or pay me later" A little maintenance at the proper time goes a long way.

It might take me 1 hour or two to give my trees a once over in the in the fall. It kills time on a beautiful fall day and pays dividends come spring, but no one seems to understand that, they rather rake leaves???
 
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Most think of only the here and now and not the future. I have had a number of occasions where my neighbors look at my "stumps" and think I have mental problems. In the fall they come by and say "what a wonderful tree" not realizing that they were laughing at me "growing" the same stump back in the spring. They don't even realize it was the same tree! Rinse and repeat every year.

"Hey mom, look at that crazy man over their watering those pieces of firewood in those wooden boxes"
 

Vance Wood

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Most think of only the here and now and not the future. I have had a number of occasions where my neighbors look at my "stumps" and think I have mental problems. In the fall they come by and say "what a wonderful tree" not realizing that they were laughing at me "growing" the same stump back in the spring. They don't even realize it was the same tree! Rinse and repeat every year.

"Hey mom, look at that crazy man over their watering those pieces of firewood in those wooden boxes"
I have had experienced (?) bonsai people do the same thing from a slightly different angle.

While we may return to the wonderful world of the Hinoki I would like to reference a quote from above: Most think of only the here and now and not the future. The Hinoki is not a forgiving tree of neglect. What you don't do now, thinking you can wait, will show you how wrong you were. With Hinokis there are seldom opportunities for second chances, only opportunities for redesign because you blew it the first time around.
 
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Most think of only the here and now and not the future. I have had a number of occasions where my neighbors look at my "stumps" and think I have mental problems. In the fall they come by and say "what a wonderful tree" not realizing that they were laughing at me "growing" the same stump back in the spring. They don't even realize it was the same tree! Rinse and repeat every year.

"Hey mom, look at that crazy man over their watering those pieces of firewood in those wooden boxes"
I love this, my neighbors think I've lost of few as well. I secretly get a kick out of the weird glances I get.
 

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Hi Ric

I like what you have done with your cypress. I would love to have some here but they surly die. Do yours thrive where you live? How long have you had any and does the foliage stay tight on the branches or does it tend to get poodlie? Is that a word? I hope you know what I mean.

Nice job, Al
 

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Oklahoma is the kiss of death........

Harry
 

Rick Moquin

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The Hinoki is not a forgiving tree of neglect. What you don't do now, thinking you can wait, will show you how wrong you were. With Hinokis there are seldom opportunities for second chances, only opportunities for redesign because you blew it the first time around.
Absolutely right Vance. One thing Hinokis teach is timing and patience. Once these two criteria are under control, they pretty much look after themselves. Understanding their growth pattern helps tremendously in future design considerations. At present this tree looks very messy in the picture, it is. However, all is in position for the future. I should be able to pretty much develop the current silhouette with individual and airy foliage pads.

This type of foliage does not photograph well, the trees look better in person. Having said that, you can only neglect (maintenance wise) a tree for one season, two is stretching it. As you pointed out whether it be design flaws or neglect, you do not get a second chance. The tree simply does not back bud on old wood. Any loss of a branch results in a re-design. I believe these criterias have shied many a bonsaiist away.
 

Vance Wood

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Absolutely right Vance. One thing Hinokis teach is timing and patience. Once these two criteria are under control, they pretty much look after themselves. Understanding their growth pattern helps tremendously in future design considerations. At present this tree looks very messy in the picture, it is. However, all is in position for the future. I should be able to pretty much develop the current silhouette with individual and airy foliage pads.

This type of foliage does not photograph well, the trees look better in person. Having said that, you can only neglect (maintenance wise) a tree for one season, two is stretching it. As you pointed out whether it be design flaws or neglect, you do not get a second chance. The tree simply does not back bud on old wood. Any loss of a branch results in a re-design. I believe these criterias have shied many a bonsaiist away.
It is my understanding for this reason and one other; they like a lot more water than most conifers and disrupt watering regimens, Hinokis are not much used by the Japanese.
 

Rick Moquin

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Hi Ric

I like what you have done with your cypress. I would love to have some here but they surly die. Do yours thrive where you live? How long have you had any and does the foliage stay tight on the branches or does it tend to get poodlie? Is that a word? I hope you know what I mean.

Nice job, Al
Thanks Al! a few notes from the care sheet:

The easiest false cypress to keep alive is the Hinoki cypress, C. obtusa. Many report great success in growing it, but unfortunately, it seems to be one of the most difficult to keep in proper bonsai form due to the whorling fan patern of the foliage.

I support this data, with the exception of once you know how to tame them, this becomes a moot point.

Lighting:
Full sun, in all but the hottest climates, is ESSENTIAL. Without proper lighting, lower and inner branches brown and die, which is a serious problem because Chamaecyparis will not bud back on old wood. Many books recommend putting these trees in the shade, but this seems to be a strategy to avoid having the soil dry out completely

This is not a problem for Nova Scotia, mine lie in full sun. I would not place them in partial shade or morning sun etc... In my experience if protection from the sun is needed, I would use shade cloth worth 35-50%. Shade cloth (as you know Al) is not like placing trees in the shade or partial sun. For others who may or may not know, shade cloth provides full filtered sun.

Temperature:
Zone 5 - 8A. Most Chamaecyparis species are hardy to -10F, but are in danger of die-back from cold, drying winds.

Not a problem here they sleep in the greenhouse (unheated)

Watering:
Touchy. Many varieties, especially Boulevard/blue moss cypress, are very vulnerable to root rot. However, unlike most genera that like it dry, false-cypresses tend to drink a lot of water, especially when in an active growth phase. And Chamaecyparis can never be allowed to dry out completely. Also, drying winds can cause foliage die-back. The best strategy is to use very fast-draining soil, water moderately, allow it to dry somewhat between waterings, and supplement watering with frequent misting. Also, an older couple in the Buffalo Bonsai Society with some very nice Chamaecyparis advised me to water only in the morning to early afternoon, to avoid having the trees stand in water overnight.

The directions provided here cover all cypresses and hence air on the side of caution. This was written long ago and we have come a long way since in our bonsai culture and cultivation.

Drying winds might be a problem in you neck of the woods, especially when you mentioned such about your trident.

A fast draining soil that remains moist is the solution and I do not mist, the rain around here looks after that. My irrigation system has misters that mist as well as watering during watering periods.

The last part is dated, unless the trees are in soil, this is a moot point. Proper bonsai substrate precludes this worry. As a matter of fact my trees at the height of summer on timer are water 7am-7pm.

Pruning and wiring:
The major styling challenge for false cypress is the fatal combination of rapid growth, die-back from lack of light, and refusal to bud on old wood. If Chamaecyparis isn't pruned constantly, inside and lower branches will die and never grow back, making bonsai maintenence a headache. The tree is best shaped through constant pinching of new foliage - never use scissors to prune as foliage browns where cut.

This is where I totally disagree with the care sheet. Constant pinching of the tips results in a "poodle type" foliage pads. Brent refers to this I believe, although I believe Brent was talking Junipers, it applies here as well. I selectively prune using "nose scissors" each and every fan. The pad will built itself up over time (thickness, in about a season). Having said that, the data may apply to other cypresses.

Hinoki cypress also tends to form awkward whorls of foliage if not properly pruned. There is an excellent article by Kamajiro Yamada in International Bonsai 1995/No. 3 which gives detailed instructions accompanied with photographs of how to do this.

New growth goes vertical in search of light. Proper positioning in full sun and rotating the tree weekly alleviates this, of course proper pruning is of the essence.

Most false cypresses are easy to wire, but branches may take a while to set and may need to be re-wired several times to avoid cutting in to the tree. Can be wired at any time of year, but as wiring seems to sap the vigor of the plant, it is best to wait three months after repotting to wire.

I have found as discussed elsewhere that applying wire in the fall is the best time to do so. The branch has pretty much set come growing season and only a guy wire needs to be applied. If a second wiring is required, the wires are removed when they start to pinch, usually (in my case) towards the end of summer, the tree is given a break and is re-wired in late fall (Nov).

The bold text has taught me a very important lesson. I had forgotten this very important piece of info and loss a tree because of it. The story can be found on my blog. Although repotting was more or less a slip pot with no root work carried out, within weeks-months I lost the tree. Bonsai tuition??

Sorry for the long post Al. I thought it would better answer your question.

They absolutely love my climate and care. I have learned some important lessons wrt the un-forgivingness of the species.

I have been cultivating Hinokis since the beginning of my journey 5 years ago. I have since then come to understand that if trees are not available in a particular area, do not import them, there is a reason for it. During my education I have come to the conclusion that I should go with what does well here. In my neck of the woods Hinokis, Boxwoods, Maples, Burning Bush and Cotoneasaters. I wanted one or several of all species and, gave up on that silly idea a few years ago. Too much info to retain. This way here I can excel on a few species that like the climate and for which I have a good understanding of. I'm tired of fighting mother nature.

I believe the answer wrt the foliage tightness has been answered above. However, foreshortening of branches is required to bring the foliage in close to the trunk where die back occured. Selective pruning in the future looks after things quite well. The thing is to get good stock to start with, something I did not do in the beginning. I went through 17 trees (all they had) to find this one. My selection was amongst only two finalists.

Having said all this, there are several Cultivars of Hinoki's, I prefer to work with the "Gracilis". The one that died (wiring) was a Templehoff. I have a Kosteri and an Aurea. The Kosteri's foliage is very coarse whilst the Aurea has golden tips (new foliage) with dark green mature foliage. The latter may not be quite suitable for bonsai, but makes a good landscape bonsai specimen.
 
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