I love designing bonsai, and I especially love working with species that grow quickly and can be brought to a high degree of development in just a year or two.

This Water-elm, Planera aquatica, came home in August of 2018. It recovered quickly, and this spring it has really exploded with growth. Today I decided to go ahead and do the initial styling on the tree. What I know from decades of experience with the species is, by this coming fall the entire branch structure will be well-developed and well-ramified. It’s just the nature of Water-elms.

I started at the bottom, which is almost always best. The lowest right-hand branch is just a very slight shoot at present, emerging from what was originally a pretty long upright branch. I had thought of keeping it, but as I studied the tree more I felt it just isn’t going to add enough to the design to leave as-is. So once that slight shoot gets some strength, I’ll cut back the rest.

I also had a nice branch in back that I was able to wire and position to give some good depth to the tree. This is something you always want in the lower part of your informal upright specimens. It gives stability to the tree.

Working my way up the tree, more branches get wired and positioned. You want some space between your branches, of course, and this space should diminish as you move higher in the tree.

Time to chop that trunk! I made an angled cut, which will help produce a continuously tapering trunk once the leader has thickened sufficiently.

And finally, I selected a wired a few of the branches in the apex. I’ll allow the leader to continue running, in order to thicken the base. By summer or early fall I should be able to cut the leader back most of the way. By that time, the transition should appear very smooth.

I’m planning to slip-pot this tree sometime around June, unless it sells as-is first. I’ve posted it to our Water-elm Bonsai page.