Demonstration by Club Sensei Kathy Shaner – Mendocino Pygmy Cypress

On 23 April 2019, Club Sensei Kathy Shaner performed a demonstration on a Mendocino Pygmy Cypress for the members of Redwood Empire Bonsai Society, Santa Rosa, California.

Mendocino Pygmy Cypress (Cupressus pigmaea). The Mendocino Pygmy Cypress is a type of forest or woodland found a few miles inland from the Mendocino County coastline in northern California. It is really not a forest but a group of scattered, small areas consisting of stunted cypress trees growing slowly on ancient, uplifted marine terraces. The Mendocino Pygmy Cypress is prized for bonsai due its age, stunted and distorted growth patterns, and small, compact leaves.

The demonstration tree was collected by Bob Shimon of Mendocino Coast Bonsai, Point Arena, California. Bob provided for a discussion on the care and repotting of the Mendocino Pygmy Cypress. It seems care must be taken to remove one third of the original hardpan like soil per repotting until all of the original soil is eliminated. To rush the process would cause harm to the tree.

Kathy began the demonstration by examining the nebari. To be more exact, she was looking for where the nebari is. By scratching away some of the surface soil at the base of the tree, Kathy was exposing the surface roots and direction of the nebari. She found no extension on one side of the trunk. There was a slight slanting of the base which might lend itself to creating a slant style bonsai by titling the tree in the pot. Kathy then discussed styles and that the tree’s long, rather thin trunk with foliage at the upper most top of the tree appeared to take on a literati or bunjin style.

Emphasis was placed on determining the direction of the nebari. From the direction of the trunk’s base, one could determine the front view and angle of the slant for the tree’s style. Kathy was lending towards creating a wind-swept style bonsai, where the branches might be following the coastal sunset.

The next step in creating the wind-swept bonsai was to remove some foliage and branches. Kathy identified a number of large, primary branches to remain on the tree. She also said a lot of interior smaller, branches would be kept. She wanted to wire branches before removing too much of the unwanted or unnecessary branches and foliage.

Kathy began with loosely wiring the large, primary branches. She said by loosely wiring the branches it was possible to ensure control over the direction of the branches when set and not harm the fragile foliage and branches. She said the cypress was a soft wood tree and care was required in wiring. Finally, the loose wiring would allow for the wire to remain on the branches without cutting in to the bark for a long time.

Kathy discussed the avoidance of allowing the cypress tree from becoming leggy. She recommended pinching the terminal tips on the foliage to keep the shape or silhouette. Kathy, upon completion of the wiring, removed unnecessary foliage by cutting the terminal tips on some of the large runners. This served to compact the foliage and create a balance between the appearance of foliage and trunk.

Upon completion of the demonstration, Diane Matzen won the raffle and took home the Mendocino Pygmy Cypress demonstration tree.

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