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Story of a Swamp Cypress

by Yvonne Romyn

The birthplace of this impressive Swamp Cypress and was the garden of Willy and Yvonne Romyn in Kirstenhof, Cape Town. It was a tree which had grown very fast and gave the Romyn's much pleasure. Unfortunately everything around the tree suffered as it depleted all the nutrients in the soil, being a very hungry tree.

swamp cypress 2The digging party, from left to right: Pieter Janse van Rensburg,?, late Willy Romyn, late Neville Coxon, Rudi Adam and Len Redfern

The Romyn's decided to invite the club members of Cape Bonsai Kai to come over and take it out with the intention of turning it into a bonsai. A tree saw was procured and the men took turns cutting at the massive trunk.

swamp cypress 1Reducing the height of the Swamp Cypress with a chainsaw

swamp cypress 3Much time was given over for careful contemplation to the job at hand

Then came the hard work of getting the root ball out of the ground. They had to keep as much of the fibrous roots as possible, fortunately many foreman were on hand and those actually doing the hard work were expertly advised!!!!

swamp cypress 5Using power tools to cut the largest roots

When all this had been achieved the next step was to create three different height points by cutting wedges in the trunk. This was done to assist the new branches which we hoped would emerge to grow where we wanted them.

swamp cypress 7Shaping the large cut of the trunk with a chainsaw

The whole tree was then put into a half barrel with a coarse soil mix.

swamp cypress 8Placing the tree in its new home

swamp cypress 9Rudi had great fun watering the tree

It flourished and grew quite a bit in the first season and the only way Willy Romyn could prune it was by standing on a ladder.

swamp cypress 10Impressive growth can be seen in the apical area. Notice the placement and shape of the cuts.

swamp cypress 11Shaping the tree atop a ladder!

There were many important important characteristics learnt about Swamp Cypress during this excersize. For instance when to repot and prune as doing so at the wrong time, when the sap is flowing strongly, could result in this species bleeding to death. We also learnt how to shape the trunk to ensure the new branches emerge in places which will create visual interest.

swamp cypress 13The tree when still in the garden of the Romyn's in the 1980's

The tree eventually looked too big for the Romyn's small garden so it was donated to Rudi Adam, where it can be seen still today at his bonsai nursery in good health.

swamp cypress 14A more recent picture of the tree in 2003 after it was donated to Rudi Adam

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Random Bonsai Tip

Straightening training wire - For those who don't know and for those who have forgotten - to straighten training wire that has been removed from a tree, grasp each end of the wire with a pair of pliers and jerk apart. Alternatively, grasping one end of the wire in a vice, and the other with pliers is much more effective as then it is possible to rub the shaft of a screwdriver up and down the wire getting rid of the small bumps.