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Learning to create Flat-top Style Bald Cypress

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If you have never experienced a mature Flat-top Bald Cypress in nature you are missing out.  For me it is one of the most intriguing and uniquely American tree styles that we have.  This style can also be found among some of the older pines that grow in the Southeast as well....typically their apexes may not be quite as flat but it still spreads wide and there are very limited lower branches on a tall thin trunk. 

Here is a Bald Cypress that I collected last summer (08).  I purposefully left this tree much taller after collection to create Flat-top style.  All the branches at the top of the tree were left to grow.  This tree was originally placed in my bog garden to recover from collecting.  This Spring, as an experiment I moved into a container with straight turface and placed it back in the bog garden. Thinking that this tree will remain in the bog garden getting much of its food from the nutrient rich water...It has responded extremely well...lots of foliage growth and a load of new roots. that the tree is doing well and has produced some branches to work with it is time for its first styling.  I used copper for wiring but did not see any great advantage so I will probably use Aluminum in the future.

Pic 1 - Before any work
Pic 2 - after leaf pruning
Pic 3 - before branch selection
Pic 4 - after branch selection

Pic 5 - wire applied
Pic 6 - after shaping

Please keep in mind this is just the first training.  This tree has several more years of development before it will become what I envision.  I am in the process of developing several of these for a big forest that I have in mind:)

I will continue to post updates of the development of this tree as well as some others in the future.

Your feedback and ideas would be appreciated.

Here is another group of Cypress that I am also training with Flat-tops in mind.  These trees were actually purchased as seedlings from the state several years back and have been grown by Ken.  He allowed me to pick out a couple last year for this planting last summer.

I had to heavily root prune these trees in order to get them as close as I wanted in the container.  I did use bonsai soil for this group and they also were place in the bog garden after transplanting.  This Spring growth and vigor as been very good.  About a month ago I did some pruning and also worked on the spacing of the trunks.  All but one tree responded well to this work and as of yesterday the branches had hardened off and were ready for some wire training.  You will notice that one of trees has not come back as strong so I did not wire or prune it...I will let it continue to build strength and will train it next year.

5 trees in about a 12" round pot...tallest tree is 39"

Pics 1 and 2 before
Pics 3 and 4 after


I love the flat top look on certain trees.  I currently live in Berkeley and from here down the coast we get Monterey Cypress that do the exact same thing.  If done right it can be a really powerful image.  I am looking forward to seeing these develop!


Larry Gockley:
Interesting post John. I've seen bald cypress grow here in Texas in many different shapes, but never actually the flat top. The closest to it I've seen was in Gruene, Tx. on the Guadalupe river. Wish I had taken pictures.  Anyhow, I'm interested in two points of your post. Do you leaf prune them now, July? My BS don't go dorment til late January. And the other point, your " bog garden". Do you actually submerge the roots, and for how long?  Thanks again. Larry


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