Here’s the Chinese elm you saw this past weekend. It’s a pretty “hunky” specimen, with a good curve in the trunk that I can use to start a nice design. As I mentioned the other day, when left to grow without intervention Chinese elms don’t put on much if any taper. They also grow pretty straight, so when I saw the curve in the trunk I was excited. As you can see, I got a lot of budding and that makes picking branches easy.
Here’s a view from the other side. There’s the stub of a branch I left, for reasons I don’t remember. It most likely won’t be part of the final design.
Here’s a phenomenon you’ll often see on members of the elm family: tons of shoots coming right out of the chop point around the trunk. I could use one or two in my design if I needed to, but I’ve got a better choice.
Another view of the chop point, plus a stretch of trunk lacking buds. You pretty much always have to work around “flaws” in the way your trees choose to grow. But what fun would bonsai be if everything worked out exactly as you wanted it to?
The first step in designing this tree was to remove all the extra shoots starting near the bottom of the tree. We work from bottom to top, more or less all the time.
The first few shoots get wired. If you’ve spent any time training trees from a bare trunk with shoots, you know how tender they are at this stage. It takes some practice to do this without popping them off.
At the top of the trunk, it was taking off all those shoots emerging from the chop and then selecting the shoot in the right spot to start growing out a leader. That’s all I can do for now. I’ll let the tree continue to grow, and plan to remove all of this wire sometime in May. By that time these shoots will be much thicker and hardened off. I expect to have to rewire, but by the fall the branch structure will be set. I also expect to cut back the leader at least once this season, and allow a new one to grow out. That process will ultimately give me the trunk line I need, with movement and taper. It’s sometimes hard to see the future when you start out with a piece of material like this. But I’ve worked on enough trees through the years to know how well they can turn out. Just look at the photos below for proof!