Every tree you work on will eventually reach a state where it’s got to go into a bonsai pot. Sometimes we delay doing so, and while that’s okay you don’t want to push any tree too far or you risk decline and, of course, the D word.

This American elm, Ulmus Americana, has grown from a bare trunk to this state in just two years. True to the species, it’s grown like a weed and requires frequent attention. And so, out of self-defense, I decided to put it in a bonsai pot so it won’t annoy me as much (only kidding, but you know you have some trees that demand a lot more attention than others).

While today’s work mostly consisted of trimming back the rampant growth, a little wiring was in order. The lowest left branch has been allowed to grow out, and still needs more in order to thicken, but it also need some movement in it. Hence the wire.

In this photo you can see I’ve started pruning back. Whenever you prune your trees, you have to do a little strategic thinking. You also have to be willing to sacrifice having the tree look good now in order to make it look better later. This is one of the tougher things we have to do as bonsai artists, but we owe it to our trees to make them just as good as we possibly can.

After still more pruning, and I wedged up the pot a little in order to see the potting angle better. The tree was too slanted in the pot.

This is a vintage pot I’ve had now for about 30 years. It was created by the late Richard Robertson of Rockport Pottery. I bought most of my pots from him when I first got into bonsai seriously.

Time to rustle the tree out of its nursery container. Plenty, plenty of roots. This sort of root density is typical of elms (this is two years’ worth). I also rediscovered some nice radial roots I’d forgotten about when I buried them in the pot.

And this is where the tree and I ended up today. Once growth has resumed, I’ll be able to judge how long it’ll take to finish out the work on it. My guess as of now is about two years to showable condition.

By way of stats, the trunk base is 2″ and the tree will finish around 22″ tall.

Let me know what you think of this American elm bonsai.