Today it was time to harvest an American elm, Ulmus Americana. This specimen has been growing away in an old garden area for the better part of a decade. I knew the trunk was at least 1″ at the base, which is usually the smallest size I’ll lift. It also had a nice slight movement of the trunk, and I had cut the tree back some years ago in order to encourage taper.
This first shot is the tree as it sat in the ground. It doesn’t look like much from this angle, does it? Not to worry.
Here’s the tree with its roots washed off, shot at a better angle. Now you can see there’s something to work with here. The specimen had a nice set of radial roots, though there’s been some haphazard growth. But that’s what the saw and cutters are for.
If you’ve ever worked with American elm, you’re bound to have noticed that the bark will separate from the tree very, very easily. Even with the sharpest of cutters and taking great care, it’s common for the bark to pull away. I always try to use a saw for the bigger cuts, as this seems to prevent the problem altogether. I also use a very sharp knife to carve the edges of cuts. Always cut toward the inside of the cut.
Now the roots have been cut back. Notice how far back I’ve cut them. It’s all got to be done with the idea in mind of how the tree will fit into a bonsai pot. This tree will end up about 15″ tall. That means the pot will be no more than about 7″ long if oval or in diameter if round. The root spread of this tree stands at roughly 4″, so you can see this will take up a goodly share of the pot’s expanse already.
Now came the fun part, finding the trunk line. Compare this shot with the one just above. I had considered training this tree as a broom-form specimen. The problem with that idea was, two of the three leaders were already too thick for it to work. I knew that as I developed the crown, these leaders would continue to thicken and produce a nasty reverse taper. Also, broom style trees typically don’t have much taper in the lower trunk, whereas this one tapered very nicely right through to the chop.
Here’s the tree in its nursery pot. It should bud nicely this spring, and at that time I’ll begin the selection of branches and the new leader. In just a couple of years this tree will make a fine American elm bonsai in training.