elm wednesday

Sneak Peek

As summer kicks into gear, it’s time to prune and wire/re-wire your elms. Here are some trees that I’m working on.

Elm Wednesday

Back in April I hard-chopped this Water-elm to eliminate a straight section of trunk. The goal was to make a better specimen out of this tree. You’ll end up doing this any number of times in your bonsai journey, and it’s never easy. But once you reconcile that nagging sense that your tree can be a lot better with the immediate loss of a lot of work, you’ll end up with much better trees.

This one is moving forward now, just a couple of months later. Sure, there’s a long way to go to rebuild the apex of this bonsai, but the work will go much faster than you might expect and the result will be well worth it.

Notice that I also hard-pruned the rest of the tree. Again, this is how your building process should go. Trees can get quickly overgrown, and hard-pruning is one of the most difficult things to make yourself do. I can honestly say I’ve never regretted cutting off more when pruning a tree; but cutting off less, that has been a problem on many occasions.

This Water-elm is currently in the Bonsai South collection, though I suspect it’ll go on the block before too much longer. This shot is from just over a year ago. It’s been through a few rounds of “grow and clip” since then.

Notice how I’ve used the same technique in hard-pruning this tree. Each round of growth has thickened the branches and increased the ramification. I’ve almost got the branches to the desired thickness. By the end of this growing season, I should be almost done with the design. At that point, pinching and maintenance pruning will be the main techniques used to keep this bonsai in top shape.

This tree just got potted about a year ago. I knew when I first collected it that I had a very special bonsai to be, and I was really eager to work on it. The initial design was easy, and this will most likely be your experience with most of your trees. The next steps often get a lot harder.

A lot has happened since the photo above was taken. With a year of growth accomplished, the ultimate form of this tree is coming into focus. Branches have been grown out and cut back hard. Some that need more thickening have been wired and pointed upward to encourage them to run. By this time next year, I should be entering the more detailed phase of tree-building. As always, though, you can’t take shortcuts and end up with a good result.

Last Water-elm for today, a really terrific raft I’ve been working on since last year. It’s been through a round or two of shearing. Each time it gets closer to the design goal.

Everything is filling out with each new round of growth. As I’ve mentioned before, shearing (or “hedging”) is one of the best techniques for developing deciduous bonsai that have their basic design in place. Shearing increases ramification and reduces leaf size. This is absolutely vital to the end-goal of making your bonsai believable. In the case of this specimen, it’s really starting to look like a natural forest.

This one is on sale at our Shop page for a few more days. If you’re into raft-style trees, this is about as good as they get.

Let’s shift gears back to this American elm I styled and potted a couple of weeks ago. I’m a big fan of American elm, and highly recommend them for bonsai. They are tough customers, and are not susceptible to Dutch elm disease even if you’re in a part of the country where the disease has decimated the species (bonsai do not get tall enough to allow the disease to complete its life cycle).

Here’s where this little bonsai to be was after I got through whacking it down to size.

And here come the buds! This is two weeks after the initial potting, and in another two weeks I’ll have shoots that are several inches long. All I’ll need to do is pinch and prune, and remove the wire when it starts to bite. By keeping the form of this tree in check, I’ll have nice small leaves to finish out the season. With a little luck, I’ll get some nice yellow fall foliage when the time comes.

Watch for this tree to hit our Shop page sometime in the next month.

Last but not least, here’s a Zelkova I’ve had in the field for about four years now. It’s been chopped and regrown, and now has a workable trunk that’s just under 2″ in diameter. Today I lifted and potted it, and I expect it’ll come back out in a couple of weeks. I should have a basic design built by the time fall gets here.

Let me know what you think of these specimens.