My Big Cedar Elm Gets A Pot

my big cedar elm gets a pot

Sneak Peek

We collected this big Cedar elm in 2017. It’s taken five years to build the apex and branch structure. Time for a pot now.

My Big Cedar Elm Gets a Pot

We collected this large Cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia) back in 2017. The base, bark, taper, and movement were what caught my eye. I knew I’d have to build the whole tree from this stump, but I also knew that it would be worth the effort.


Grow and chop, grow and chop, grow and chop. Wire, prune, unwire, prune, wire, prune, unwire, prune. (Do that for five years.) This is where you can get if you have a good plan and a cooperative species. Cedar elms are hard to beat!

First I did a rough pruning. This is not the time to be doing any detailed training. The goal for today is just to get the tree in a bonsai pot. The rest can be done there.

Now, the primary goal with a rough pruning is to reduce the foliar demand on what will be a seriously pruned root system. Supply and demand are the key things to keep in mind.

Not surprisingly, the tree has grown a massive root system in five years.

When confronted with this sort of thing, and assuming you know where the surface roots are, I recommend just taking your reciprocating saw and cutting the root mass flat (meaning take off most of what you need to be gone). You can get more precise once the rough work is done.

Here’s the final result, after the rough cut followed by scissors to bring the mass in. I think I’ve balanced foliage and root pretty well.

I’ve had this Chuck Iker round for several years now. The color is exquisite. It might not be the right color for the tree, but it does work and I can always change it later on. For now, I think I’ve got a pretty good composition.

Let me know what you think.

Big Cedar Elm Update

big cedar elm update

Sneak Peek

It’s time to do some fall pruning on my big Cedar elm.

Big Cedar Elm Update

This is what happens when you leave a Cedar elm alone all growing season. Literally, I have not touched this tree all year.




As always, method to the madness. When you build trees almost from scratch, dynamic growth is essential.

Just a reminder of where we started back in 2017.




Fall is not the time to do hard-pruning on trees you’re developing (I’m talking about those of us in the temperate part of the world, working on non-tropicals). Selective pruning here is just what the doctor ordered.

I’m a big proponent of tough love for trees in development. This is a great piece of material. And it’s got a very boring branch there on the left. Hey, they happen. I’ll prune it hard next year and give it a good change of direction. Major improvement ahead!

I think this is a good study of how to build trunk movement and taper in trees you’ve trunk-chopped hard. The chop on this one was 2″ in diameter. That means a lot of work to create a believable tapering transition. But with a fast-growing species, it’s not all that hard.

Couple more notes for today. This is a closeup of the crown I’m building.

And you just can’t ask for a better species when it comes to healing wounds. This is 2″ getting covered in just over four years. Very awesome.

Let me know what you think of my progress with this one.

Sunday Fun – Cedar Elms And The Monster Crape

sunday fun – cedar elms and the monster crape

Sneak Peek

Fall is a good time to do some pruning and wiring on your deciduous trees. I worked on a couple of Cedar elms today. Then there’s that monster Crape myrtle.

Sunday Fun – Cedar Elms and the Monster Crape

I’ve been rebuilding this Cedar elm that I collected a couple of years ago, since it didn’t want to bud low enough on the trunk for me. This photo is from about a month ago, when I chopped the leader back.




The growth has been good, so why not go ahead and do some styling on it?

With plenty of branches to choose from, it wasn’t hard to come up with this basic design. I don’t expect a lot of growth from this tree between now and dormancy, but next year is going to be an important one in terms of finishing out this tree. I even expect to be able to pot in sometime around June or July. Stay tuned for more.




I’ve posted my work on this Cedar elm since I first started styling it back in 2018. It’s a somewhat odd tree, what with that low branch, but I figured why not do something a little different?

The only problem with this is, as time has gone on I’ve become less and less enamored with that low branch. No doubt it makes for a different style tree, but whenever you break a rule you have to get back more than you give up. I don’t think this one has paid off.

There. Odd low branch is gone. The tree is looking better, but … there’s still something not quite right.

Proportions. I write often about maintaining correct proportions in our bonsai. In the before photo above, the spread of the crown of the tree is out of proportion with the trunk thickness and height. This tree has only a slight taper to it, so in order to trick the brain into thinking it’s a bigger tree than what it is, the branches must be brought in. So after a quick shearing, this is now a much more presentable bonsai.

One last photo for today, the monster Crape myrtle I recently lifted. You can see the shoots just starting to extend. I’m growing pretty confident this one is going to make it.

Let me know what you think about today’s Cedar elm work.

Big Cedar Elm Update

big cedar elm update

Sneak Peak

It’s time to check in again on my big Cedar elm. I write often about the stick/stump to bonsai path. This is one of the best examples I have on my bench.

Big Cedar Elm Update

Above is a shot of this tree as a stump, then this photo of the initial wiring back in 2017. That was just a few months after it was collected. I normally like more trunk in my collected trees, but this one came only with great radial roots and lower trunk movement and taper. You work with what you get.


I’ve blogged before as this tree has been built from the ground up. The obvious biggest challenge in this tree is to create roughly the top half of the tree. This procedure is a multi-step, multi-year process and there’s no short-cutting it if you mean to get it right.

I let the latest leader grow all last year, and it’s now about six feet in length. So … time for another chop. Where to chop is the question, of course.

How about this possibility?

No, of course not. There’s almost nothing going for chopping the trunk in this spot. There’s no taper and you can’t see any movement from this angle.

This spot is much better. It complies with my rule of thumb that calls for chopping a branch or leader two or three basal diameters from the point where it emerges from the trunk or trunk chop.

Here’s a closeup of my new chop. I’ll get a new leader here, most likely from a bud that forms near one of the lateral branches you can see.


And finally, a trimming of the branches to finish off today’s work. This tree continues to develop per my plan. Just another few years and this will make quite a Cedar elm bonsai.

That lowest branch has been bothering me for a while. I think the tree looks better without it. What do you think?