The second thing to bud out in spring, right behind crab apples, is Chinese elms. Today I decided to lift a tree I’ve been growing in the ground for the past five years.
Here’s the tree in the ground. If you look closely you can see where I chopped the trunk three years ago to create taper. The cut has rolled over very well, and should be completely healed in another three or four years.
The first step was to cut back the two leaders. You may be wondering if this doesn’t reduce the leverage you can get when it comes time to push the tree back and forth to get under it. Actually, you get more than enough with a shorter stump, and it’s always best to let the saw do as much of the work as possible.
Two or three minutes later, here’s the result. I cut the tree approximately six inches from the trunk all around. This is more root than I’ll need, but I can always cut more off.
The final cuts are made. At this point I’m not sure which leader I want to use in the design of this tree. It’s possible both could play a part, but I won’t know for a while. As for the roots, they’ve been cut back severely to allow the tree to both fit into an appropriately sized bonsai pot, as well as to develop a tapering root structure over time.
Since the tree does not need further trunk thickening, I decided to put it into a training pot (a nice Paul Katich piece that unfortunately cracked in shipment). I can develop both the new apex as well as the branch structure over the next few years, while allowing the tree to get used to a smaller living space.
The trunk base on this one is 2.25″ in diameter, and the height to the top chop is 11″. The nebari is outstanding.
What do you think? Chinese elm is one of the best bonsai trees for beginners, but every bonsai enthusiast should have at least one in his or her collection regardless of how experienced they are.