One of my first articles for this newsletter, was on the topic of Bald Cypress.
In that newsletter I told of my experiences with acquiring a nursery bald cypress, and how I thought it was a good tree for beginners to work on. Needless to say, those are still my feelings. In this article I will show how easy it is to make something so simple, look so attractive. For those of you who don’t have access to bald cypress seeds or seedlings in your area, I will provide a link to where you can purchase some excellent bald cypress seedlings used in making this forest project.
As I cruise over the internet bonsai forums, from time to time I hear people ask about bald cypress used for bonsai, and especially on how they could make theirs look like something they see in nature. For this reason, I am using multiple bald cypress seedlings to make a five tree forest, and hopefully to give the illusion of something you would see traveling from the distance of a bald cypress swamp area. I’ll admit that some people don’t believe that five trees would be considered a forest rendition, but to keep the cost down, and to make it simple for beginners, I used five seedlings only.
I came across my seedlings at a recent state convention where in the vendors area, the person who I am supplying the link to was selling these for use in a forest type setting. He also has dawn redwood seedlings to use that are very similar to bald cypress, and that might be another option for someone who would like to try a redwood forest.
The picture below shows five individual bald cypress seedlings used for my forest.
And this picture shows the pot I decided to use to plant them in. I decided on this one because it was somewhat deep, and you’ll need a little depth for your first transplanting, so as to not disturb the root system too much on these tender seedlings, while placing them in their prearranged positions in the pot. I chose not to wire the trees in, but if you feel uncomfortable about this, you can wire yours in. I also liked the shape and color. I thought the white would contrast good with the green foliage of the cypress.
As a reference on how to place the trees, I used John Nakas Bonsai Techniques I. He shows a few different ways to make a five tree placement. This picture shows a prearranged placement before taking the trees out of their nursery pots.
Once you’ve decided on which trees will go where in your pot placement, all that is left is to lift the trees out of their nursery pots and place them in your bonsai pot. Now this is where the depth of the pot will really come in handy. Since these trees will actually be in training, the depth will allow you to place the trees in the pot and simply place bonsai soil around each tree and maybe pack it in a little by pressing down on the base of each tree.
This allows you to not disturb the root system very much for now, and in a few years all the roots should be more or less joined together making it easier for transplanting into a more shallow pot if you desire, or especially if you plan on moving your forest to a slab.
The picture below shows the finished forest in its bonsai pot.
For all practical purposes, I left the trees a little taller than what most people recommend, simply because in real life, these trees are very tall and should stand out for that reason. Generally you wouldn’t want the tallest tree to be much bigger than the length of the pot. Something like this
Of course if you decide to move your forest to a slab later, the tall trees would fit right in.
And here’s the forest after only six weeks growth.
Was that easy or what? I sure hope you’ll try one of these easy bald cypress forests. I purchase my bald cypress and dawn redwood seedlings from www.bonsai-mart.com.
Once you’ve accessed the site, go to the left hand side and click on “Starter Trees”. When the new page comes up, scroll down to the very bottom and click on “Bald Cypress”.You will also notice somewhere on the starter trees page, a link for “Dawn Redwood” trees, if you would prefer to use these instead of the bald cypress.
Now for those of you who have access to bald cypress seeds and are not in a big hurry to make your forest, but also have never tried sowing these seeds, here’s a few quick tips. My first attempt at sowing these seeds were futile. It wasn’t until I read somewhere that when these seeds drop off in nature, they are usually in a swamp setting, and probably float down stream and get stuck in some mushy area and just sit and actually rot open. Below is a picture of the round hard cone and what the seeds inside will look like when the cone or the outer shell housing them finally breaks off.
I tried to replicate natures work by letting the cone sit all winter in a cold wet environment outside, in a pail of damp soil. The cones were picked off a bald cypress tree in early October, and by late January or early February, the cone started falling apart exposing the seeds inside. The seeds were then ready for planting.
Now here’s the tricky part, don’t sow the seeds anymore than 1/2 to 3/4 inches in depth. I sowed seeds at this depth and some probably a couple of inches in depth at the same time, and the only ones that sprouted were the shallow depth ones. Below is a picture of a seedling still attached to its seed as it is sprouting.
Don’t remove the attached seed, let it drop off naturally. Notice the coarse soil. These seedlings would probably prefer something not as coarse, but if this is all you have, that will work too.
In just a few weeks your seedlings will start to take on the appearance of a bald cypress tree.
And in just three months time you should have something like these seedlings, well on their way to becoming the same kind of tall bald cypress you would see out in the wild.
In about two years you should have something ready to work with for a small forest, or if you like, to continue to grow and maybe make a single specimen or two. Good luck.