Mendocino Pygmy Cypress

Posted by on Aug 17, 2014 | No Comments
Mendocino Pygmy Cypress

I bought this Mendocino pygmy cypress from Bob Shimon of Mendocino Coast Bonsai. The tree is collected from private land; the age would only be an estimate since they grow very slowly in the harsh soil conditions that cause the pymgy to be added to the name. Outside that soil they are remarkably fast growers, like other cypresses. The needles are slightly finer than Monterey Cypress with a bit more of a natural tendency to grow more densely. They don’t grow only in the pygmy forests of Mendocino counts, they also grow in some of the surrounding area and attain a height that is more common for cypress trees. (See Lanner, 1999 or Kauffmann, 2012)

October 2010.   I had already had the tree for a couple years but had let it grow out of a desire to watch the growth habit but also to see what would happen to the trunk size.   The trunk size doubled in a couple years at the expense of the old bark.

October 2010. I had already had the tree for a couple years but had let it grow out of a desire to watch the growth habit but also to see what would happen to the trunk size. The trunk size doubled in a couple years at the expense of the old bark.

October 2010, what is now the back of the tree.

October 2010, what is now the back of the tree.

I had cut back selectively on the tree a few times to remove large branches and contain the explosive growth that lead to the enlargement of the trunk, but I never finished styling it until mid-July of 2013.

I don’t find the native shape of Mendocino Cypress to be particularly fantastic; I’ve never seen a large picturesque specimen despite growing up near Mendocino and visiting the areas many times. There were many Monterey Cypress planted along the roads near Mendocino that were much more inspiring in shape. So, after some consideration I decided that I would style the tree to resemble a Monterey cypress instead.

The branches all wired out.   I styled the crown to by almost flat on the top.

The branches all wired out. I styled the crown to by almost flat on the top.

Bob leaves a large chunk of the original soil undisturbed around the base of the tree and places it into a large growing container with new soil outside the native soil. The roots of cypress typically grow very quickly and these are no exception. While the root density inside the native soil is low, the root density in bonsai soil, or even Bob’s sand-peat mixture is much higher. When I bought the tree I left it to grow for about three years in the container that Bob had put it in. The result was some very large escape branches that improved the size of the trunk while simultaneously reducing the quality of the bark. A friend of mine has another tree that he’s been working on for slightly longer where the same thing happened to the trunk. The bark has started to return as the trees growth slows back down in a small bonsai container.

A look at the rootball.   From Bob's original container I had removed the tree and cut off the bottom third of the rootball without a proper repotting in 2010.   Then in January of 2014 I did a full repotting.   The native soil is grey-ish at top left while Bob's soil is surrounding it.   I removed about 25% off the bottom and some around the edges before deciding to put the tree in a box.

A look at the rootball. From Bob’s original container I had removed the tree and cut off the bottom third of the rootball without a proper repotting in 2010. Then in January of 2014 I did a full repotting. The native soil is grey-ish at top left while Bob’s soil is surrounding it. I removed about 25% off the bottom and some around the edges before deciding to put the tree in a box.

In March 2014 I showed the tree at the BSSF show, with a non-traditional display.   Because this species is American and doesn't have a clear counterpart in Japan I felt it would be more interesting to break away from  Japanese style display.

In March 2014 I showed the tree at the BSSF show, with a non-traditional display. Because this species is American and doesn’t have a clear counterpart in Japan I felt it would be more interesting to break away from Japanese style display.

August 2014 - the tree has been allowed to grow unchecked since last year and is in need of a trim.   The box was hidden in the display above with the blocks and moss on the soil surface.

August 2014 – the tree has been allowed to grow unchecked since last year and is in need of a trim. The box was hidden in the display above with the blocks and moss on the soil surface.

After trimming and thinning the crown.   Although I like the tree I can't help but feel that the present crown shape is not as good as it could be.   I plan to revisit the shape of the crown in the near future.

After trimming and thinning the crown. Although I like the tree I can’t help but feel that the present crown shape is not as good as it could be. I plan to revisit the shape of the crown in the near future.