Water-elm1-10-15-1I planted out this water-elm as a cutting back in 2010. I figured it would do fine, but what I really wanted to know was how fast they’d grow in the ground under ideal conditions. Out in the swamps, water-elms have a tough life and in some places go literally under water for months on-end. We know from ring counting that it takes up to 30 years for the species to put on an inch of growth under these conditions. So you can see my incentive for the experiment.

The trunk base on this tree is right at three inches, in under five years. That’s fast growth! It got to about eight feet tall before I cut it the first time. I chopped the trunk three years ago, not because the tree had no taper – it put on taper all by itself – but rather to create the tapering transition in what will ultimately be the apex of this tree.


Water-elm1-10-15-3 I lifted the tree in a couple of minutes using my handy cordless reciprocating saw. After shaking off as much of the native soil as I could, next came the root washing step. This next shot shows the result. Notice the huge root that coiled down into the ground! That one needed to come off for sure.




Here’s the tree with the roots cut back the appropriate amount for the ultimate bonsai pot. I left a couple of the branches that had grown during the tree’s development; I think they may be useable in the final design. The good thing about this tree is it makes a very strong statement. The trunk has a graceful curve, but I’m inclined to call it a masculine tree. What do you think?











Finally, here’s the tree potted in a nursery container. It’ll root profusely this year and throw enough buds on the trunk to allow for its initial shaping. By next year, the tree will be ready for a bonsai pot.

The bark on this tree is exfoliating for the first time, by the way.

This tree is available in our Elm Bonsai section. A deposit holds it till spring, when it’ll be ready for shipment.