Sarah's Bald Cypress
Height ... 39 inches Root Base ... 13 inches
A Legacy for Sarah
My Great-grandfather, Frank Michael Carroll, also known in his day as "The Dean of Louisiana Birdwatchers", was born in
Philadelphia on December 21, 1872. This remarkable man in the span of his lifetime of 86 years was an artist who engaged in
the construction and design of carnival floats, window designs and was lead interior designer of the New Orleans Saenger
Theater. Engrossed in the activities of the Wright Brothers, he conceived the idea that the principle of air propulsion could be
applied to watercraft. A newspaper clipping of 1907 tells of granddads first trial run with the "Granddaddy", the modern air
propelled boat which he built and called an "airplane boat" and which attained the approximated speed of 68 miles per hour.
In the light of the fact that Ralph DePalma set a world automotive speed record of 60 miles per hour at New Orleans in
1909, which was 2 years later, the speed of granddads invention created quite a stir in that day. In 1919, although he was the
father of 12 children, he entered and won the Southern A.A.A.U. wrestling championship. In 1925, granddads love of the
outdoors triumphed over city life. He closed his business and chose a spot on the old Chef Menteur Highway where he could
be near the birds, small beasts, reptiles and insects that abound in the outlying sections of New Orleans. Whereas, granddad
had a burning desire to be untrammeled in his studies his altruism got the best of him and soon became actively interested and
involved in a campaign to preserve Louisiana's fast disappearing wild iris. As time went on, granddads wild iris collection grew
to 387,000 plants which he had under various conditions for study and planted under almost every possible horticultural
hazard. He was encouraged by Mrs. May Wilkinson Mount who was a moving factor in the iris preservation movement and
finally he published his own treatise, the "Louisiana Native Iris-Habit and Culture" which has been accepted as a guide by iris
lovers everywhere. To him goes the distinction of having established the only really scientific iris farm in the country or at least
the only one known to have been used solely for that study.
He was in constant correspondence with scientific societies around the world and during that time delivered a paper before a
convention sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Wilson Ornithological Club.
In 1945, when the State of Louisiana wanted 2 perfect pelicans to send as a gift to the City of London, granddad was
assigned the task of their capture because of his vast knowledge on the wildlife of the marsh.
Through his lifetime, his accomplishments were many, but all that is really known about him was gleaned from a December
1957 article in the "Louisiana Conservationist" magazine. All of his handwritten journals, papers and art was lost forever in a
hurricane in the early 1950's.
This brings me, now a grandfather, to consider leaving a possible legacy for my first grandchild, Sarah.
Among the many possibilities of what to leave as my legacy for Sarah, my decision was to collect and train a large bonsai.
Although bonsai is my hobby, a bonsai was chosen because bonsai has become a very intricate part of my life, an art truly
from the heart. I decided on a Bald Cypress, styled in the immature stage of it's life, for the design.
The search in the swamps around New Orleans began soon after learning of Sarah's conception. In early February 1994 the
search ended with the location of a beautiful Bald Cypress with a 13 inch base growing close to an older mature cypress. The
Cypress was dug and brought home and planted in a shallow growing tub. Soon afterwards, new branching was everywhere
on the trunk.
Lower branching was then removed so as not to leave scarring on the trunk.
The Initial Design
I decided to do the initial design of the bonsai the day after Sarah was born. On July 20, 1994, the day after Sarah's birth,
the initial design was done. The height of the initial cut to adjust the height of the tree was made at collecting, which allowed
for the selection of the perfect leader. Chosen for the leader was a branch which popped straight up on the initial cut and was
30 degrees off center of the chosen front, left side. Left side of center was chosen to match the very slight movement of the
In the past, carving Bald Cypress to achieve taper was done by using an angular cut.
Although this technique works well with most material, the large, fast growing Bald Cypress, with it's thick rolling scar tissue,
quickly develops reverse taper at the top.
In order to compensate for the fast growing leader, the technique used on Sarah's bonsai was to leave "some wood" or a
"tapered ledge" at the top of the carved scar.
As the leader thickens and the scar tissue covers the carved wood remaining, perfect taper of the trunk line will result, even
when viewed from the side of the bonsai.
In the previous section, The Initial Design, it was mentioned that a leader 30 degrees off center was selected to match the
slight movement of the trunk. Even in a "Formal Upright Style" there is some slight movement. The slight movement might only
be in the graining of the bark, but usually something can be picked up by detailed observation.
The tapered scar that was carved to achieve a tapered trunk line into the top of the tree was a "Short Side / Long Side" cut.
The "short side" of the cut is on the side that the leader is off set to.
This will continue the slight movement of the trunk line.
The Development of the Line
After the top of the tree was carved, upper branching was removed so as to prevent scarring from the branches that will most
certainly be out of scale by the time the leader has to be reduced. Lower branching was also removed with the exception of
the 1st, 2nd and 1st back branch because of perfect branch placement. With Bald Cypress you should never settle for less
than perfect branch structure. The 1st, 2nd and 1st back branches began their development. Remember, the lower branching
should be thicker than the upper branching.
Leave the leader grow until it thickens to 1/3 the diameter of the trunk at the top of the tree. At this time, reduce the leader to
2-3 inches and then repeat the process again. When the leader is cut, the tree will explode with new branching. Now is the
time to select the future branching of your bonsai!!
The Skeleton of the Bonsai is selected
Now as we approach the 2 year mark into this project, the bonsai has been planted into it's first bonsai container. On March
1, 1996 the leader was cut and the primary branching selected.
Branch selection will be continued so as to achieve perfect branching throughout the bonsai.
The Following Years
The new leader was selected on the top of the 1st leader to continue the tapered line. Primary branch structure on
the mid and upper levels of the bonsai was improved to achieve perfect branch structure and thickness of branches. The bonsai was repotted into a proper bonsai container.
Ramification of the branch structure will
be continually improved. The crown of the tree's basic structure has been
selected and the ramification of the apex will now begin. The scar that was made
to create taper is healing nicely and should be closed in the next 3 years.
And, Sarah continues to develop in the spirit of her bonsai; in a pampered and well maintained environment with all of her