Species Study - Taxodium distichum

I have shaved the root ball much thinner than I did in the past to better prepare my BCs to be bonsai.
BC's have a huge energy reserve, but I think that the path to a shallower root ball should be taken in two steps. I did nothing to the one I bought from the first season because I knew I was going to have to go in the root ball and work on it as much as possible. I wanted the tree to be in a place where it was going to be at its prime for the work. I think that a collected tree will have a better chance of surviving with some roots still present, because even if you are collecting at the prime time, the tree would have sent a lot of resources to the branches up high, which you are removing by chopping it low. Collecting a stump and allowing it to ramify, then doing the hard root work the next spring when the tree is pushing buds would be perfect. Yes it adds a year, but you will reap the benefits not only in ramification, but in the ability to really dig into the nebari while the tree is in energy positive. I removed almost 80% if not more of that tree, and it is pushing growth all over the trunk, as well as on all the branches I kept after the small chop I had to do in November for the move into an apartment.
 
BC's have a huge energy reserve, but I think that the path to a shallower root ball should be taken in two steps. I did nothing to the one I bought from the first season because I knew I was going to have to go in the root ball and work on it as much as possible. I wanted the tree to be in a place where it was going to be at its prime for the work. I think that a collected tree will have a better chance of surviving with some roots still present, because even if you are collecting at the prime time, the tree would have sent a lot of resources to the branches up high, which you are removing by chopping it low. Collecting a stump and allowing it to ramify, then doing the hard root work the next spring when the tree is pushing buds would be perfect. Yes it adds a year, but you will reap the benefits not only in ramification, but in the ability to really dig into the nebari while the tree is in energy positive. I removed almost 80% if not more of that tree, and it is pushing growth all over the trunk, as well as on all the branches I kept after the small chop I had to do in November for the move into an apartment.
My posts are meant to tell us all the boundaries that I found. I have the luxury of being able to try to find those boundaries. 2.5" thick root ball is the minimum for small BC (< 2" diameter). From 3" to 6" diameter, the root ball height should match the diameter. From 6"-10" diameter, the root ball should be 6"+ 0.5" height for every inch above 6". From 10"-14" diameter the root ball should be 8" + 0.25" for every inch above 10". For >14" diameter consult your orthopedic doctors. Of course in practice, I don't measure things precisely. I eyeball the trees using the rule I stated and then vary a little depending on how I see the tree.

My warning is that the minimum I stated above demands that you know how to care for your BCs. The BCs, whether they are collected or in nursery container, must be in good health to survive with the minimum root height I stated.
 
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This year I have 3 collected BCs that are in danger of failing to bud. I have been pushing the boundaries of BC collection practice. I have shaved the root ball much thinner than I did in the past to better prepare my BCs to be bonsai. That put a lot of stress on the chopped roots and they struggle to provide the moisture to the trunk. The 3 BCs that are failing to buds were in the sun more than they should have been. I usually keep the collected BC in shade but those were left in sunnier spota. It appears the trunks were dried out. I've taken them back under my porch and hope that they revive.
I have checked with other BC practitioners such as @johng, all indicate that they keep their collected BCs in shade as well.
mine always respond sooner and stronger if I put them in shade.
 
Is this considered a ‘whorl’?
I’ve been letting them grow without interfering but don’t want to be so hands off that I cause myself problems that could be avoided
 

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Is this considered a ‘whorl’?
I’ve been letting them grow without interfering but don’t want to be so hands off that I cause myself problems that could be avoided
BCs don’t form whorls but tend to bud everywhere, most particularly around a cut site. I try to select just one and prune off all others.
 
Is this considered a ‘whorl’?
I’ve been letting them grow without interfering but don’t want to be so hands off that I cause myself problems that could be avoided
This is not technically a whorl... Whorls are generally particular pine trees...anywhere from 4-8 branches forming at exactly the same level around a trunk or large branch. Your photo is more about just the general nature of BC. Eventually I would reduce to 1 branch...often I will keep two temporarily as the tree is developing...more branches = more vigor. When one of the branches is becoming more developed I will cutoff the extra branch.
 
Why do these lower branches look like shit compared to the ones higher up?
Tiny black dots all over them and some are stuck together. Pests?
 

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This is just a wild guess on my part, but if I stretch the pic it looks like sooty mold which is usually growing on sugary excrement of scale or aphids...

This is not technically a whorl... Whorls are generally particular pine trees...anywhere from 4-8 branches forming at exactly the same level around a trunk or large branch. Your photo is more about just the general nature of BC. Eventually I would reduce to 1 branch...often I will keep two temporarily as the tree is developing...more branches = more vigor. When one of the branches is becoming more developed I will cutoff the extra branch.

Thank you, I’ve got roots bursting out of the bottom of the pot so I think it’s healthy enough to reduce a few branches.
 
This is just a wild guess on my part, but if I stretch the pic it looks like sooty mold which is usually growing on sugary excrement of scale or aphids...
Thank you, it had ants on it but I didn’t think they would cause problems. Either way, I diluted detergent with water in a squirt bottle and coated the tree for 15 minutes before I hosed it off. Hoping that helps
 
Thank you, it had ants on it but I didn’t think they would cause problems. Either way, I diluted detergent with water in a squirt bottle and coated the tree for 15 minutes before I hosed it off. Hoping that helps

Ants are usually a sign of aphids.
 
I think it is time for me to write a post about what to do if you decide to buy a young 1.5-2.5" caliper BC from the nurseries or big box stores.
The big decision to make immediately is the size of BC bonsai do you want to develop. I will list them as 1) Shohin (smallest size you can realistically keep stable with bald cypress), 2)Kifu-Chu, 3)Dai.
  1. Shohin: As soon as the tree is healthy in a training pot or grow box with a shallow root ball. Chop to 4" trunk and let the fight to keep it small begin. It will be a tough fight with continual pruning while keeping the tree healthy. Some carving to get taper will have to be done.
  2. Kifu-Chu: Put it in a grow box or tub and let it grows unchecked for a year. Submerge that tub inside a cement mixing tub up to 1" or so below the soil level. This has been shown to build up the flare fast. Let the tree grows to 3.5"-5" trunk (2-4 years). Then chop the tree and let the development begin. Branch selection should be done 1 year after chop. After branch selection, limit the growth of the top branches and the apex with prudent pruning to let the low branches develop.
  3. Dai: If you can, put it in the ground in a wet spot with at least half day of sunlight every day. If not, put it in a grow box and submerge it just like step 2. Do root prune every two years and let it grow for 5-6 years. When the trunk gets to around 6", we can dig the tree up and start the development process.
The one thing you don't want to do is to chop it immediately when you want to develop Kifu or bigger bonsai. The tree grows back the next season with practically zero taper from the chop because that's what juvenile BCs do. Repeating this effort for a few more years and we get a mangled and still small tree with potential reverse taper at every chop mark. I was guilty of doing this myself with some of the BCs I had in my first 3 years with BCs.
 
Challenging conventional thinking on trunk wedge cuts.
I can't remember where I read it, but I have read a few times that trunk wedge cuts on BCs are to be avoided because the scars will be very apparent. Well, I've done a few and that seems to be the case at first but as time goes by the scar seems to fade away. I have a few design thoughts in mind that would require trunk wedge cuts so I'm going to try some in the near future. Hopefully the scars will fade away when the trunks age. Stay tuned ;)
 
Lazy man bonsai experiment. Directly from the swamp to bonsai pot. Root ball is lifted from the swamp with gumbo mud. Bottom is trimmed to 2.5” with a saw. Side was pruned with my bonsai chopper TM. Put in bonsai pot mud and all. There is just 3/4” of bonsai soil at bottom of pot.
PS: I wasn’t that lazy. I really want to see how the gumbo mud acts in a bonsai pot.
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Thank you, done and will update if it improves.
Wasn’t sure what kind of detergent so I used neem oil that’s supposed to kill aphids. Sprayed the tree down with it and it burned the tips of the leaves but the ants seem to have vacated which I’m hoping means the aphids did too.
 

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Lazy man bonsai experiment. Directly from the swamp to bonsai pot. Root ball is lifted from the swamp with gumbo mud. Bottom is trimmed to 2.5” with a saw. Side was pruned with my bonsai chopper TM. Put in bonsai pot mud and all. There is just 3/4” of bonsai soil at bottom of pot.
PS: I wasn’t that lazy. I really want to see how the gumbo mud acts in a bonsai pot.
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I got buds everywhere! If it goes as planned the bonsai pot will be dunked in the summer.
 
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