This is a field-grown Chinese elm, Ulmus parvifolia, that was lifted in Summer 2014. Grown from a cutting, it was about 5 years old at that time. Now in 2016 it’s approaching the end of its 7th growing season. This progression illustrates the technique of building a bonsai from the ground up. Chinese elms do not develop taper on their own, so the grow and chop method is used to produce suitable taper. Containerizing this tree early on has slowed this work; however, the technique is sound and will produce the desired result if carried out properly.
About four to six weeks after lifting and potting directly into a ceramic training pot. A new leader has formed, along with trunk shoots sufficient to form the lower part of the bonsai. All of the new shoots have been wired and positioned. This is how a bonsai is built from a collected trunk, whether you collect from the wild or a growing bed.
7/5/2015 – 1
7/5/2015 – 2
The new leader is cut back to about three basal diameters, in order to build taper when it’s regrown.
7/15/2016 – 1
After another round of grow and chop. Notice that we’ve added another section to the crown of the tree.
7/15/2016 – 2
10/29/2016 – 1
A few months later, we have yet again regrown the leader which is a few feet long.
10/29/2016 – 2
Here’s a closeup of the tree. You can see the nice branch structure and the developing apex. It gets cut back again in Spring 2017, at which time it will be repotted.
Repotting day has arrived. This is the front I’m planning.
Nice mass of roots.
In its new home. I like this Byron Myrick piece much better.
Successful repotting! The new growth is beautiful, and the crown development is continuing nicely.
The first flush of spring growth is past, and the body of this Chinese elm has filled out very nicely. I’ve already trimmed back the overgrowth, and reduced the new leader to continue building out the crown. By the end of the growing season, I should have the crown about 50-60% of the way to completion.
And here we are at the end of another growing season. The tree had a bout with black spot in mid-summer, but weathered it all right and should be fine come 2018. In this photo, most of the foliage has already fallen, and what’s left has a nice yellow color (typical for the species down here in the South).
Notice that the branching in the crown is gaining thickness and starting to ramify. This is the simple process of development that, although it does take time, ultimately gives you the result you want.
In the interest of documenting the continued development of this bonsai, I photographed it from all angles. Here’s the left side.
And now the back side.
And finally the right side. Now, you may notice what I noticed if you compare this shot with the first one showing the front of the tree. From this angle, the trunk has a nice curve that doesn’t appear in the first photo. What’s more, the crown of the tree suddenly looks a lot better as well. And with branches in suitable spots along the trunk, there’s really nothing preventing me from repositioning the tree come spring. A happy discovery!