Bonsai Odds & Ends – American Elm, Lantana

bonsai odds & ends – american elm, lantana

Sneak Peek

Here’s another American elm that’s coming along, and a Lantana in bad need of a haircut.

Bonsai Odds & Ends – American Elm, Lantana

I’ve written about American elm before. It’s sadly under-utilized for bonsai, most likely because folks are afraid of Dutch Elm Disease. I’ve never had a bonsai affected by DED in 30+ years of experience, nor have I heard of a case (though perhaps it’s happened out there somewhere).

This specimen is a perfect example of the bullet-proof nature of the species. I collected it in the dead of summer, along with two others, because I was cleaning up a former ground growing area. This tree and a couple of oaks were dug at the same time; all of the American elms made it, and one of the oaks is barely alive. Not only that, but all of the growth on this tree above the smaller cut-back leader coming off the main trunk is following the lift. So you see, it’s a tough species!

How tough? Well, I’m willing to slip-pot the tree at this time and bet on it surviving. I just got in this nice Lary Howard oval, and it’s a perfect complement to the tree.

Now it’s all about a few things: more leader and branch development, closing over the trunk chop and making ramification. You can see many of the leaves are already pretty small. This is very typical of American elm.

As for the trunk chop, you may be thinking it seems pretty straight across and somewhat jarring visually. Not to worry. American elm calluses vigorously, so expect the chop to look much more like a realistic transition in about a year or so.

It’s been a while since I wrote about Lantana. Although I just started working with the species last year, I have to say I’m very pleased. They have interesting bark, aren’t fussy about care, and bloom profusely in a pot (don’t be alarmed about the length of those flower stalks – with pinching and pruning you can keep the flowers in very tight and reduce the stalk length dramatically).

As I mentioned above, this one is badly in need of a haircut. I actually let it run this year for a couple of reasons: one, it helps to thicken the branches; and two, I’ll get a nice crop of cuttings to make more Lantanas with.

A nice improvement. I will cut back additionally before we start growing next year, but I wanted to leave the branches a little long for now in case I get some dieback (which is not likely).



Let me know what you think of today’s work.

Mayhaw Work And Lantana Flowers (Surprise)

mayhaw work and lantana flowers (surprise)

Sneak Peek

I have this Mayhaw I collected a couple of years ago. It’s grown well enough that some development work is called for. Plus I have a Lantana that is producing flowers that are – reduced in size?

Mayhaw Work and Lantana Flowers (Surprise)

I collected this Mayhaw a couple of years ago, and left it alone except for watering and fertilizing. I did wire up a new leader for the tree, as this is a must with all trunk-chopped specimens you don’t plan to make into trunk-damaged survivor-type bonsai.

Lots of branches here – too many, in fact.

Editing out branches is the first step. With the vast majority of collected deciduous and broadleaf evergreen specimens, you’ll have more branches to choose from than you need (not a bad problem to have, of course). So at some point early on you have to focus the tree’s energy by removing many if not most of those branches.

We’re about as close to bare bones on this one as I care to get for today. I may end up using everything you see – for sure two-thirds of it. I’ll know as the design progresses.

Notice I also dove into the trunk chop; time to do some carving. This is typically a year two task, but with slow-rooting specimens such as Mayhaw I usually end up doing it in year three.

This is the way I need the chop to look – angled downward into the original trunk line. As the leader grows out and the base thickens, I’ll end up with a smoothly tapering transition from the original trunk into the new leader. That leader, incidentally, is going to get pruned back a few times before this tree is fully trained. Hawthorns will grow out branches with little taper, and this new leader is no exception. So to build taper, I’ll use the ever-reliable grow and chop technique. I expect it’ll take about five years to do it right.

This tree is available at our Shop, by the way, if you’d like to take over the training.


I couldn’t resist posting a photo of this Lantana (Lantana camara). Why? Notice the flowers. It’s a truism in bonsai that flower size does not reduce. While these flowers seem to be normal size, their stems are at least one-half if not one-third normal length. Does this qualify as flower-size reduction? Considering that it makes the whole blooming thing much more compact, I’m calling it a win.

I had no idea this would happen. If any of you have had experience with Lantana to this effect, please let me know. There’s nothing new under the sun, so I figure it can’t be a secret. I’ve just never run across any information on it before, and I’m new to the Lantana bonsai game.

Finding The Right Tree For The Pot

finding the right tree for the pot

Sneak Peak

When we have a really nice tree in our collection, we want the perfect pot for it. And we may search for years until we find just the right pot. Much less often, we have a pot that we need to find the right tree for. Here’s one of those times.

Finding The Right Tree For The Pot

I don’t know about you, but I often have great trees looking for that perfect pot. It can sometimes take years to finally achieve the goal, after which you have the perfect match and a great composition. This is one of those cases where I had an awesome pot that had a place in my pot collection, tree or not, but I sure did want to find the perfect tree for it.


I just pulled this Lantana, that I acquired recently, to start working on it. As I studied the tree, it occurred to me that maybe I had just the pot to make a perfect composition. After cleaning off the old soil and pruning the roots in order to get a flat base, my idea paid off.

Here’s the new bonsai, all tucked in. I don’t think I could have made a better match.

The next to last step for today was to defoliate. This is always advisable with deciduous and broadleaf evergreens (excluding boxwood) that you pot up as summer approaches. Doing this takes the stress off the root system, and allows the tree time to get accustomed to its new home.

The pot is a unique Lary Howard piece, by the way.

What do you think? Did I do a good job of matching tree to pot?