shohin american elm progress

Sneak Peek

You can build a shohin bonsai quickly, provided you have the right species to work with. This American elm is a good example of this.

Shohin American Elm Progress

I’ve shown you this small American elm pre-bonsai before, the theme being you can build a small tree by first building a tall tree. This is a good example of the technique, which you should master as it teaches quite a few skills you’re going to use often along the way.

The first thing to take note of here is the two changes of direction in the trunk, both of which take place in a space of less than six inches.

This photo is from July of this year, a few weeks after a much taller tree got cut down to size.




This closeup is to show you the two cuts that were made at the same time. The original trunk had some curve near the base, and forked to the left at that point since a node existed there and a branch had emerged and was allowed to grow out for thickening of the base. Notice not only the change of direction but also the change of thickness (created taper). This is vital when building a small informal upright bonsai.

So I selected a few branches and a leader and wired them (carefully!). Tender shoots are very easy to pop off a branch or trunk – and I have done so many times.

A week after the above shot was taken, you can see growth pushing and especially in the leader which is wired upright to encourage it.

This shot was taken just shy of a month after the one above. See what can happen with a vigorous species! But that’s American elm for you.

Now it’s time for the next round of work. I can’t let the leader go unchecked, as doing so will adversely affect the taper in the apex.

It’s worth studying this photo closely. What’s very important is the thickness of the leader that I’ve cut back to three nodes’ length. If I allowed the leader to continue growing over the next month, the transition point between the second chop point and the new leader would have been ruined. Why? First of all, its thickness would have quickly approached that of the chop point. Remember that as the crown grows out, more thickening is going to happen. In order to properly finish off the tapering trunk, I had to stop the leader from drawing more strength than it’s going to when it buds back out (this will happen in a week or so). This is what I often refer to as “cooling off” a branch or leader. Also, I’ll be pruning the leader back to the first node once the new growth there has pushed out a couple of leaves. This will ensure I don’t ruin the taper I’ve been creating, and will also keep the strength reigned in. By the time this last round of growth is over, it’s going to be about time for the season to be coming to an end. My goal at that time will be to keep any residual strength under control. That will allow me to pot up this tree in Spring 2021 and finish out the design by focusing on ramification.

Let me know what you think of this little guy.