April 5, 2017

Pacific Bonsai Museum "Natives" Preparation: Bald Cypress

Source material: 2017, April 1

          The third of Dan's five trees being entered into the Pacific Bonsai Museum's "Natives" exhibit is an old bald cypress (Taxodium distichum). As my previous posts have mentioned, the exhibit includes an opening celebration on April 8th with a panel of the artists displaying trees Scott Elser, Michael Hagedorn, Randy Knight, Ryan Neil, and Dan Robinson.
As indicated by the gnarly, crooked branching, flat top, and trunk deadwood, this bonsai imitates the truly ancient bald cypresses of the Southern swamps.

          I was surprised to learn bald cypress can survive as far north as Seattle and even more surprised to hear from Dan that long ago he had collected some bald cypress with Mary Madison, the Buttonwood Queen. I am not sure if this tree is from one of those trips.
Dan often emphasizes that ancient trees in his observation do not grow linearly (straight). His most valued goal for his bonsai is to imitate those ancient trees and reflect their traits in his wiring and carving.

          This tree was another low maintenance task, with an exception of one problem. Dan had not anticipated showing this tree this year until it was selected a few months ago and last year's shoots had not been wired. Dan was not sure which branches were alive and dead as the winter branches were bare of needle fronds because this conifer species drops them every fall like a larch (hence "bald" cypress). To remedy the situation, Dan moved the tree into a warm greenhouse with 24 hour light from a strong supplemental lamp to encourage the buds to swell and indicate to us where branches were alive or dead. Once the buds had swollen to a useful level, the live branches were wired into the gnarly pattern above. The soil was also weeded and fresh moss was applied. The trunk and roots have many holes and hollows under them that I enjoyed exploring with a new perspective as I laid down moss, however, this is another case of having inadequate photos for what I later decided to explain.
          All the trees will be on display at the Pacific Bonsai Museum for six months, so this bald cypress, as well as yesterday's Eastern Larch, will regrow their proverbial hair and look entirely different than their winter silhouette. I hope you all enjoy this tree and that some of you can see it at the show!

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