Many of you have followed the saga of my “Root around cypress knee” Water-elm.  You may recall that earlier this year I reported that the knees were rotting away – an unavoidable situation.  I went ahead and removed the last section a few months ago, adding in soil to fill the space.  Then I left the tree alone.

2016 marks the fourth year of training for this bonsai.  Water-elms are fast to train, easily reaching showable condition in three years.  In the case of this broom-form specimen, year four has brought increased ramification and maturing of the branch structure.  Here’s a shot of the tree, taken today.

water-elm10-14-16-2This specimen tends to experience fall early, so a lot of the leaves are already off the tree.  That provides a good opportunity to see “inside” the tree, which is essential when you’re ready to begin refining your bonsai.

In the case of broom-form bonsai that are created from trunk-chopped specimens, there comes a point where you have to make those transitions look right.  To illustrate what I mean, take a look at this tree a couple of months after I collected it:

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I always make a straight cut when trunk-chopping.  This helps the tree produce buds where I want them – an angled cut sounds good, but you don’t always get a bud at the top of the angle-cut – which forces you to chop a second time.

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Here’s one of those chops today.  You can see that I carved it down in the past.  That was the correct step at that particular time.  Now I’m at the stage where I need to carve this down smooth, and I need to take steps to preserve the wood.

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Here’s the other original leader; you can see the rough cut marks from my knob cutter.  This also needs carving.

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After carving the main leader.  I used a cordless Dremel Multi-Pro® to do the work.  Notice that the carved area is designed to shed water.  This is very important.  You don’t want any of the larger cuts on your bonsai to hold water, as this will promote rot.

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Here are two other spots I carved, the secondary leader and a spot on the main leader where I had removed a larger branch.  These cuts have been treated with PC Petrifier®, to seal them and prevent rot.

Next spring I’ll cut this tree back fairly hard, in order to begin creating the next level of ramification.  By cutting back hard, I’ll be able to prevent the tree from growing out of scale.  This is a common error made by many artists, namely, letting the tree grow out of its proportions.  One cause of this is the natural reticence to do the hard pruning necessary as you’re building out the tree.  Once you’ve done it a few times, however, it gets easier – and your trees are much better off for it.

Here are the tree’s stats, by the way: trunk diameter 2.5″ above the root crown; root spread 9″ from the front view; height 21″ from the soil; spread 16″.  I’d estimate the age of the tree to be about 75 years.  The pot is a custom rectangle by Bryon Myrick.

I plan to offer this tree for sale next year, after I’ve completed the first round of training in spring.  If you’re interested send me an email and I’ll give you the details.