Tree of the Month

 tom 09 17 walk like an egyptian

Hinoki Cypress, Chamaecyparis obtusa

David DeGroot Collection

“My Hinoki (I call it Walk like an Egyptian) got a new pot recently. The first two right-angle bends were in the tree (but hidden) when I got it from the nursery. When I discovered them I knew I couldn’t fix them, so I decided to go with the flow.”

— A line from my facebook page describing the tree of the month:

I found it in the sale section of a nursery, and thought I had won the jackpot. The base was hidden, B&B (balled-and-burlapped) inside a large nursery pot with soil around it, but I decided to take a chance on this tree with a nice straight trunk and a massive number of small, dense branches radiating in all directions. Its density (plus chilly temperature and a light rain) prevented my getting thoroughly into the upper areas, but I had visions of creating a beautiful formal upright. When I got it home and began to thin branches, I discovered the trunk did not rise in a beautiful taper, but ended abruptly with a right angle turn. As I felt my way out this extension, I found another right angle turn to the vertical, which is what proved deceptive with the dense, wide branching below. I was at a loss, as there was nothing with which to create jin where the trunk turned, and no reasonable way to turn this into the classic formal upright I had envisioned. Then I remembered a demo tree that had been assigned to Ben Oki at a convention in Atlanta many years ago. It was a bald cypress that also had a 90 degree turn in the base. Undaunted, Ben kept the right angle and simply built a little Christmas tree at the end of it. I was charmed by its honesty and simplicity, as well as its uniqueness, and put a lot of tickets in the raffle can, although I failed to win it. Years later, I discovered the “Square Turns” style in Chinese penjing, which also aroused my interest. When I saw what I had with this piece of material, I put the Ben Oki memory and the penjing approach together, then decided “What the Heck”, and carried the idea to its extreme. Despite the fact that many might consider it ugly or not bonsai, as a piece of sculpture it has good proportional flow, firm asymmetrical balance, and a strong sense of internal harmony. Plus, it’s a tree in a pot. Need I say more?

David DeGroot

tom 09 17 walk like an egyptian balled and burlapped

The base was hidden, B&B (balled-and-burlapped) inside a large nursery pot with soil around it,

tom 09 17 walk like an egyptian first styling

After the first styling.