I adore cypresses! Besides being the typical tree of my beloved Tuscany, I see in this essence the perfect combination of strength and grace. Its unmistakable scent, its dark green colour and its grey, wrinkled bark are the elements able to make it my favourite tree.
I bought this cypress in 2007 from a very dear friend. It was definitely not the container in which it had been placed that draw my attention, but rather the large, old trunk with its beautiful dry wood.
The vegetation, allowed to grow freely, testified the excellent health of the tree.
From the large, compact trunk, there were two generously sized branches which, however, created an unsightly fork. The upper right branch was particularly long and cylindrical and the vegetation was very distant. The lower left branch was a different matter, with rich vegetation even close to the trunk.
I began by shortening this last branch with a hacksaw. Then I move on to the upper branch, shortening it with a splitter, to highlight the wood fibres and create a natural effect; I leave only a little Jin.
This is a fairly drastic pruning as most of the vegetation is removed.
After pruning in April 2009, I re-potted the cypress in order to grow it in a more comfortable and suitable container.
The strong pruning allowed to concentrate all the vegetative vigour on the remaining branches, obtaining in a few months a very strong and vigorous foliage.
In September 2009, I took the opportunity of my participation in the Giareda exhibition in Reggio Emilia to carry out the first work on this cypress.
The natural characteristics of this tree inspired me a masculine figure, specifically a low, compact habit. It is definitely not a tree suggesting a tall and slender shape and therefore the main work is aimed at compacting and spreading the main branches.
As a matter of personal taste, I have always preferred trees with a dynamism instead of trees with more balanced crowns. This is simply a matter of taste, as I consider both solutions to be two correct ways of interpreting a foliage. I therefore prefer trees in which the first branch is very flat and prominent and do not have a second, too prominent, counter balancing branch. I will obtain than a greater boost in the direction of the first branch. The positioning of the apex in the same direction completes the whole, giving a stronger direction to the whole composition.
This is a personal taste of mine that I have also applied to this cypress.
Here is the result at the end of the process:
In the first styling it is not necessary to search for perfection (although this is a demonstration) but rather looking to the correct opening of the main branches and the exposure of the vegetation to sunlight and light.
Next, the tree will grow with the aim of consolidating the folds and thickening the branching.
Unfortunately, over time, the first branch began to gradually lose its vigour to the point that I had no choice but to remove it.
In April 2011 it’s time to re-pot the tree. I always choose spring to carry out this delicate operation. The cypress is as strong as it is sensitive to re-potting. If it is re-potted too early, a cold or windy day could be enough to cause problems for the plant’s recovery. I therefore only repot when the danger of late frost has been averted. In my case I look at the mountains… as long as they are covered in snow, I will not repot my cupressaceae.
The root area, as well as being quite large, has a compact clay part, which is better to eliminate
I must admit that I have pushed the re-potting process quite hard, going as far as to eliminate the soil almost completely. My intention is to give the cypress the best growing conditions and to do this I decide to replace all the soil. One of the most common problems with trees harvested in the wild is in fact the difference in soil: in the centre we have the clay part, while outside we tend to use a draining soil. When the latter dries out, the soil inside is still very wet. This leads to a perpetual damp condition in the centre of the pot, which can cause dangerous rot due to the limited drainage of this soil.
This is why I decided to remove all the old soil, aware of the increased risk of repotting.
With a chopstick you remove the soil and with a hacksaw you shorten the long woody roots.
Inserisco la pianta nel vaso e la blocco con dei tiranti. Quando possibile, faccio
I place the tree in the pot and secure it with guy wires. Whenever possible, I always take a photo of the root system before covering it with the new soil, so that I can remember the state and arrangement of the roots. This is something I consider very useful and recommend to everyone.
For the soil I normally use a mixture of pumice, akadama and kiriu (50%-30%-20% respectively).
After re-potting, all that is needed is to water generously and shelter the cypress from the wind. As a general rule I wait 40 days to fertilize from reporting, but in this case, I would rather wait until September.
The cypress at the end of repotting:
Two years later (May 2013) the cypress is in excellent health. It is ready for the second treatment.
With the opportunity of the demo at the “Shooman Bonsai Ten” in Saonara (PD), I proceed to a new styling. With the invaluable help of my friend Giacomo Bellini, we take a further step forward in the shaping and styling of this bonsai.
It is sketchily worked the dry part of the trunk trying to harmonize it with the upper part. In particular, we try to create a greater conicity of the trunk, which in its current state is a bit too “squared”. With just a few strokes of the splitter, the job is done! The rest of the work involves tying and positioning the branches.
Here we are both satisfied at the end of the job. Thank you Giacomo!
The cypress after shaping.
Close up of the wired and set branch.
Two years later (we are now in March 2015), a third shaping is necessary.
We are at an important stage, where the primary branching has already a well-defined position, while the peripheral vegetation is simply open.
The time has therefore come to finally define the details of the foliage more precisely, in particular the spacing and asymmetries.
This work no longer involves the use of large wires. The main branches are adjusted with a guy wire. It will be ideal to place the wire mainly on the medium/fine branches, using thicknesses that rarely exceed 2 mm.
The finished work and a detail of the foliage:
The plant is cultivated for two years with regular pruning.
Here is the cypress in September 2017
One of the most important things is to adjust the cultivation system according to the progress of the work.
At this stage we do not need to push the plant, but on the contrary we aim to stabilise and balance the growth. This is the time to drop the abundant nitrogen fertilisation and use milder, more balanced fertilisers that allow the foliage to be thickened with soft, not too vigorous vegetation.
In September 2019, the foliage was shaped for the fourth time.
This is tree:
We are now at a more advanced level and here the shaping must include above all the definition of the foliage combined with a natural look.
The former is obtained by cleaning the lower profiles of the branches, while the latter is achieved by the upward carriage of the vegetation. The foliage therefore finds form and definition but at the same time the softness typical of mature plants.
Personally, I don’t like geometrically sculpted plants and I like to leave a few small inaccuracies here and there to avoid an artificial feel. This obviously does not mean that the work should not be precise, detailed and masterly planned.
The cypress after shaping
The back, right side and left side respectively
Some details of the foliage.
The vegetation naturally turns upwards in search of light. Only the old branches can move downwards, since over the years the weight of the foliage has lowered them. Young vegetation, on the other hand, has not had time and opportunity to grow downwards. This is why placing the peripheral branching upwards is the most obvious and natural movement.
The unmissable final photo: