post-snow elm work

Sneak Peek

This past week was the worst, weather-wise, since 2014. I did better at freeze protection.

Post-Snow Elm Work

It’s been an interesting time since my last blog two weeks ago. Last Saturday and Sunday were spent putting all of my temperate trees on the ground and under benches where possible, then covering the entire system of benches with plastic. I know what can happen at 15F, with freezing rain and snow. This time they predicting 10F, after the freezing rain and snow. Last time I simply couldn’t take any protective measures; this time I did all I could.

The good news is, despite freezing rain and snow our lowest low temp was only 20F. Now that’s pretty doggone cold for some of the species I grow, deadly in fact for some, but on the ground and under cover I think everything should make it. I’ll know in about four to size weeks.

Yesterday and today were spent uncovering everything, moving blocks of ice that hadn’t yet melted, and cleaning up broken overhead shade cloth supports that couldn’t take the hundred pounds of ice that froze on it. All in all, I had some minor apex damage on about a dozen trees due to the weight on the plastic covering. But everything’s back on the bench now.

We move on. It looks like temperatures are moderating this coming week, so it won’t be long until the Chinese elms are starting to leaf out. I actually have one specimen that’s unfurling some leaves, and though they got a little bitten this past week it won’t stop the tree from pushing on ahead soon. This forest planting, which is starting to look very nice, should be budding in the next week or so. There are a couple of things that need doing today, before this happens.

You probably noticed the left-most tree – it was just too straight. So I put a piece of 6mm wire on it and gave it just a little curve. That makes a big difference. I also wired up the apex on the number two tree.

Once the tree has put on a flush of growth, I’ll trim it back pretty hard to increase ramification. Chinese elms are very cooperative when it comes to reducing leaf size and twigginess. So this forest is going to be in great shape by summer.

This is one of the Water-elms we collecting last summer. It grew really well into fall, so well in fact that it needs to be wired in order to prevent it from becoming a do-over. What’s a do-over? That’s a piece of raw material that’s so overgrown you literally have to remove all of the branches and regrow them. Left alone, most collected deciduous trees will grow branches that reach for the sky, and thicken fast enough to render them useless in a bonsai design within two years at most. That’s one reason I like to move material within the first year if possible. I don’t have time to wire everything that hits my benches, so if a customer gets a specimen in that first year out of the ground, they can get an initial styling done before the branches get out of hand. That can save at least a year in the development of a tree.

Here I’ve started by removing the superfluous low branches, and wiring the first and second (in this case left and right) branches. This, by the way, is a key milestone in the design of any tree from raw material. As you work your way from the bottom of a new piece of material, that first branch sets the tone for all of the others. And once you get the first two branches wired and positioned, the rest of your design is almost guaranteed to fall right into place.

The next two branches are done, a back branch and a left side branch (which will also provide some front-facing foliage to cover some of the trunk). The left branch is just an elongated stub with a few nodes, as it hadn’t ramified yet. Once it does, which will happen starting in spring, I’ll be able to fill out its design.

The was a lot less than met the eye in the apex. While there was a good bit of growth, most of it was unusable. Not to mention the fact that there’s some dead wood that was just below the original leader. I didn’t like that as a starting point for my apex, so I cut it away. The current leader is emerging from what should be a good and healthy point on the trunk. I’ll let it grow unrestrained for at least a month once the tree comes out, and start building the crown from there.

I hope all of you affected by the deep-freeze came through all right.