Who is your single source of truth on bald cypress care and styling techniques?

electraus

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I’m going through a bit of a rough patch, so in an attempt to cheer me up, my parents and brother have sourced and gifted me two pieces of collected material that are quite advanced for me. One of them was a Utah juniper which I already made a post about.

The most recent one, however, is a massive 38” tall BC with a 12” base. Interestingly, this one I don’t feel so in over my head with in terms of the styling direction I want to go in. I have a somewhat cohesive design idea. I just want to run it by someone who has extensive experience with these trees and who can help me figure out how to best execute this idea on this species of tree specifically.

As far as I know, none of the bonsai professionals/teachers in the Bay Area have worked extensively with BCs and I’d really rather talk to someone who knows them like the back of their hand because, while I’m not 100% sure, I can only imagine the price tag was as hefty as the tree itself. I would just not be happy with myself if I didn’t do everything in my power (and then some) to make a halfway decent bonsai out of this piece of material. Thanks!
 
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Srt8madness

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My answer to the OP came in the second post. Mellow mullet too. You can read extensive reams of their knowledge in the other conifer section (for how to make it thrive)
 

electraus

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Glad to help in any way I can. Post photos: Entire tree; Base; Anything interesting; Question areas.
Oh that’s very kind of you. I was going into this fully expecting to pay for a video consultation. I’ll keep it as brief as possible then. Before I begin to explain the pictures, I’d like to apologize for the randomness of their order. I attached them in an order that would have helped me tell the story of the reasoning behind my ideas, but they ended up uploading completely randomly.

Anyway, this is the monstrosity in question. First picture (first 4 characters: 1F03) is what the nursery selected as the front. Second (C228) is a close up of the second trunk that appears to have mostly died off except for the bit that ended up growing into the new leader. Third (A729) is a closeup of the back of the original, mostly dead trunk and new leader it grew, which I took to highlight the fact that it’s quite crooked and rather ugly. Fourth (F668) is what I believe could be a better front because of a slightly more flared base and because it hides the crooked second trunk a little better. Fifth (C964) is a less flattering view of the original front (slightly below eye level) that again highlights the rather crooked and puny-looking second trunk. I feel like this view also highlights how much the taper would be ruined by that shockingly sudden negative space that just appears out of nowhere from the super wide base, hence my reasoning for wanting to hide it with foliage and change the front a little go reduce the overly wide appearance of the base.

I’ll try to keep my questions strictly focused on my design idea and executing it, keeping horticultural needs-related questions for the many blog posts out there. My idea is to kill the second trunk completely by jinning the new leader and style the main trunk in a formal upright (ish) style. I realize that it’s not very realistic in terms of how BCs grow when they’re as ancient as we try to portray them to be in bonsai culture, but I don’t believe the trunk to be nearly buttressed enough to make a believable flat top and I don’t really want this tree to be much taller than it already is if at all possible.

I would like to know what you think of this idea and if there’s anything I should be aware of regarding the growth habit of these trees that would make creating a believable, non-boring formal upright more difficult than it already is (I think I read someone say that you can’t wire BC branches because they’re too brittle or they’ll just spring back into place?) What challenges should I expect if I do decide to jin the second trunk? Do you think that the new front will make this all look more cohesive or if I should keep the current front and just hide the negative space with foliage? Thanks, I really appreciate your willingness to help!
 

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BonsaiNaga13

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Looks like a BEAUTIFUL tree from every angle. Looks like it lends itself well to twin trunk style. Looks to be ready for branch selection and refinement. I like picture (f668) as the front. I wouldn't sacrifice that smaller trunk. I bet the nursery had twin trunk in mind when they grew it like that. I think you should study pictures and videos of bald cypress in the wild before styling. Already looks like an anchient tree. Perhaps watching videos of anchient cypress swamps could lend some inspiration. Well wills and take care.
 

electraus

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Oh that’s very kind of you. I was going into this fully expecting to pay for a video consultation. I’ll keep it as brief as possible then. Before I begin to explain the pictures, I’d like to apologize for the randomness of their order. I attached them in an order that would have helped me tell the story of the reasoning behind my ideas, but they ended up uploading completely randomly.

Anyway, this is the monstrosity in question. First picture (first 4 characters: 1F03) is what the nursery selected as the front. Second (C228) is a close up of the second trunk that appears to have mostly died off except for the bit that ended up growing into the new leader. Third (A729) is a closeup of the back of the original, mostly dead trunk and new leader it grew, which I took to highlight the fact that it’s quite crooked and rather ugly. Fourth (F668) is what I believe could be a better front because of a slightly more flared base and because it hides the crooked second trunk a little better. Fifth (C964) is a less flattering view of the original front (slightly below eye level) that again highlights the rather crooked and puny-looking second trunk. I feel like this view also highlights how much the taper would be ruined by that shockingly sudden negative space that just appears out of nowhere from the super wide base, hence my reasoning for wanting to hide it with foliage and change the front a little go reduce the overly wide appearance of the base.

I’ll try to keep my questions strictly focused on my design idea and executing it, keeping horticultural needs-related questions for the many blog posts out there. My idea is to kill the second trunk completely by jinning the new leader and style the main trunk in a formal upright (ish) style. I realize that it’s not very realistic in terms of how BCs grow when they’re as ancient as we try to portray them to be in bonsai culture, but I don’t believe the trunk to be nearly buttressed enough to make a believable flat top and I don’t really want this tree to be much taller than it already is if at all possible.

I would like to know what you think of this idea and if there’s anything I should be aware of regarding the growth habit of these trees that would make creating a believable, non-boring formal upright more difficult than it already is (I think I read someone say that you can’t wire BC branches because they’re too brittle or they’ll just spring back into place?) What challenges should I expect if I do decide to jin the second trunk? Do you think that the new front will make this all look more cohesive or if I should keep the current front and just hide the negative space with foliage? Thanks, I really appreciate your willingness to help!
Looks like the first picture (originally 1F03) of the original front didn’t upload at all 😅 here it is now, @BillsBayou
 

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If it was me, I'd follow the "patience is a virtue" rule, take your time, do your research, learn the tree, bond woth said tree, keep said tree alive for a while, and don't be too quick to get to an end point. The only reason I even dabble in bonsai is to teach myself the power of patience and develop an affinity for proper horticultural techniques, followed by the art of design itself. I feel when these all join together the result is more times than not, satisfying.

My method only, I wish you the best, those are cool pieces of earth.

Cj
 
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Looks like a BEAUTIFUL tree from every angle. Looks like it lends itself well to twin trunk style. Looks to be ready for branch selection and refinement. I like picture (f668) as the front. I wouldn't sacrifice that smaller trunk. I bet the nursery had twin trunk in mind when they grew it like that. I think you should study pictures and videos of bald cypress in the wild before styling. Already looks like an anchient tree. Perhaps watching videos of anchient cypress swamps could lend some inspiration. Well wills and take care.
Second this. Bonsai is like photography, insanely subjective...why not find a tree you think looks amazing and use that as your inspiration? Art is more fun when you make your own decisions. I struggle with this at times, too, but just give 'er!
 

rockm

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Hard to tell from the photos, but that second trunk looks to be causing some inverse taper on the main trunk. That won't get better and will likely get worse. To me the second trunk emerges at a place that was chopped or broken off at some point. There looks to be exposed deadwood in the crotch of the two trunks. That can also lead to some issues down the road (rot primarily, yes, BC wood does rot). For those reasons (if they're accurate), I'd think about possibly eliminating the second trunk.
 

BobbyLane

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Nice material, i wouldnt eliminate the second trunk completely, its quite substantial and has obviously took some time to grow. it can be used to tell a story. What would i do if someone presented this tree to me? I'd look up wild specimens and id definitely look up Ryan neils work with the species, from my recollection they do a lot of work on this species and some of the material they work are not always in the typical form of the species with the powerful tapered trunk, this obviously isnt in the typical form either, so i think id try to work with what i have rather than go cutting off limbs trying to force it into something else.
sometimes i try to think what would the pros do with this material i have, im 80% certain that mirai preserves the second trunk on this material. if you wanted the typical powerful tapered cypress theyre pretty common for you guys. one way to look at it.
 
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BillsBayou

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Thanks for the visual! So you would kill the upper part of the second trunk if I’m understanding this correctly? By about how many inches would you suggest shortening the apex?

Here's my latest advice. Yes, the trunk on the left will have a deadwood feature.


BCTwinTrunkAdvice.jpg


Here is a reference photo of the deadwood feature for the left trunk.

BCDeadwoodTrunkApex.jpg
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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Who is "the single source of truth"? Why get you body into a canoe or a flatboat and go see them for yourself. Nature is "the only authority that counts". And bald cypress grow differently in different environments. My photos are from the Shawnee National Forest, near Vienna, Illinois. Furthest north extension of the bald cypress-black tupelo swamp ecosystem. Bring a camera. Winter is best, no leaves and fewer water moccasins. Click to expand thumbs.
cypress1300yr-old-2 (2019_10_20 19_42_16 UTC).JPG. cypress1300yr-old-3 (2019_10_20 19_42_16 UTC).JPG. cypress1300yr-old-4 (2019_10_20 19_42_16 UTC).JPG. DSCN1730 (2019_10_20 19_42_16 UTC).JPG. DSCN1725 (2019_10_20 19_42_16 UTC).jpg. DSCN1747 (2019_10_20 19_42_16 UTC).jpg.

DSCN1752 (2019_10_20 19_42_16 UTC).JPG

Click on my user profile, then on my media, there are more photos from this trip. The big cypress is 1300 years old. Plus the 30 years since I took the photos. LOL
 
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Leo in N E Illinois

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Notice in my photos, no tillandias, no Spanish moss. This swamp is too far north for moss and alligators. It does have venomous snakes, part of why we went in winter. Too cold for snakes to be out. Big advantage of winter trip is no leaves on trees and shrubbery. You can see where you are going.
 
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