Once you’ve done bonsai long enough you will have killed your share of trees. We won’t go into all the causes, but it’s pretty much a given that sooner or later you’ll lose trees to weather or climate: weather from too much heat and not enough water or from freezing; climate when you try to grow a Japanese white pine in the Deep South (I gave that as an example because I did it early in my bonsai career); fill in the blank here ______ with your own tragedy.



This Water-elm, Planera aquatica, was off to a good start as a triple-trunk specimen back in 2013.

Then came the winter of 2014 and that icy snowy freezing event I’ve written about before. Most of my Water-elms were killed dead as a doornail. A couple came through fine (one on the ground, the other in an oversized tub); a couple sprouted from the root base. This was one of the latter – a “Lazarus” tree, as it were.

There really wasn’t much left of it, but it went to all that trouble to stay alive so I decided to put it in the ground and see if I could grow it back out into something. That happened in 2014. True to its determination to stay alive, it continued its regrowth in the ground and I more or less ignored it while it did so.


This year I decided to lift the tree in order to see if I had anything worth working on. Here’s my initial effort.

As you can see, the tree has a nice broom-form structure that happened without any intervention on my part. That’s just the way it grew.

If you look more closely at the base, you can see that the regrowth occurred over/around deadwood that actually existed (at least partially) when I first collected the tree. This photo shows the shari at the base of the tree, which was a really neat feature. This wood is pretty solid, considering that it’s been in contact with the soil for many years.



Today I decided it was time to work on this specimen. I also needed to move it to a different pot, because the one I started it off in was too large and (to be honest) too expensive.

I did a lot of “editing” of the branch structure, removing superfluous branches that didn’t add anything to the design. I also did a little wiring and positioning of branches to fill out the tree. Once it gets some ramification going, I think it’ll be a pretty decent specimen, especially for a tree that nearly died.

The training pot it’s in now is in better scale with the tree. It may ultimately find its way into a handmade pot; time will tell.

For purposes of scale, the root base is 2.5″ across (including the dead wood), and the tree is 17″ tall.

Let me know what you think of this tree. It’s had quite a history in just a few short years.