If I had to select only one species to grow as bonsai, it would be Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia). If I had to select the one species grown for bonsai that has been most abused by the commercial bonsai industry, it would be Chinese elm. Be that as it may, I always recommend the species to beginners and veterans alike. And last year I stocked in 300 liners, so I can strike a blow for better Chinese elm bonsai in the coming years. It won’t make a dent in anything, but at least there will be some decent specimens on the market.

Here’s a three-tree planting I did back in 2015. It only took a year from sticks in pots to get to this point (before the composition went to a client). That’s one of the great features of Chinese elm. It takes relatively little time to make them look like real trees.

You may remember this forest from last year. It had grown by itself as root “cuttings” from a spot where I’d previously lifted a single-trunk specimen. I hadn’t expected that sort of thing, so, happy accident as they say. My expectations for this specimen in 2020 are very high – so much so that I predict my forest will look very forest-like by the end of the season. Again, that’s a feature of the species more so than what skill I may bring to the table. With rapid growth, naturally small leaves that get smaller readily and a tendency to looked “aged” while still young (the bark will turn gray by year two or three in a pot at the latest), I’ll have something very quickly.
Here’s another of those happy accident root-zone forests. I lifted the individual trees the other day, and took the chance of direct-potting into this lovely Byron Myrick tray. One reason I felt I could take that chance was the fact that all of the trees were coming into leaf or pushing buds. I’ve had less than stellar results lifting Chinese elms in the dead of winter. They’re easy to harvest in summer, when in full leaf. I’m confident that at the start of active growth, while temps are still mild, I don’t have any need to worry about their making it.
Here are the five trees that I didn’t use for the forest shown above. I’ll be able to slip-pot this group around May or so.
I love “tall tree” forests, as you can probably tell from the photos posted above as well as this one. This is a 2014-vintage shot of a seven-tree group, before it went to a client. It took only two years to bring it to this point. I can spend hours enjoying bonsai like this one. If you don’t have one, get yourself a Chinese elm bonsai. I don’t recommend the awful “S” curve specimens, but these can often be regrown into something worthwhile. You can also stay tuned for examples from us. I have over 60 of my 300 in the ground right now, so they’ll start hitting the site before you know it.