With fall upon us and cold weather waiting in the wings, I’m feeling antsy because there’s three solid months of zero growth ahead. That cuts way down on styling work. Styling is my favorite part of bonsai.

This is the last of my “late-bloomer” Cedar elms that I collected back in April, that is able to be styled. It’s not strong enough to slip pot, but there’s no harm in putting on some wire. The tree can’t grow enough by the end of next month to bite into the wire, so it’ll just sit through winter and we’ll see how it responds in sprin


Here’s a view of the tree from what I think is the front. The trunk has great movement, taper, character, and bark. How big would you say it is? And how old? We’ll answer one of those questions and attempt to answer the other one toward the end of this blog post. For now, let’s see what can be made with this specimen.


It never hurts to make sure of your chosen front. This is the back to the front in the previous photo. I think I made the right choice.


The tree didn’t have an overabundance of branches to choose from, which is not necessarily a bad thing. It took just a few minutes to create this basic style.


Checking that back side once again. Yes, this is definitely the back..


I’m not able to slip-pot this particular tree at this time. While it picked up some strength a month or so ago, it’s clearly not strong enough to endure root disturbance. So I’ll wait till spring and swelling buds to take the next step.

I’ve got two pots that would be perfect for this tree. The first is a lovely rectangle by Ashley Keller. (The pot appears larger than it is due to its position in the photo; it’s well in scale with the tree.) This pot would not only go well with the bark and leaf colors, especially in fall, the austere lines complement the rugged trunk very nicely.


The second choice of pots is a lovely rectangle with rounded corners by Byron Myrick. Once again, the color will go very nicely with the tree’s colors. The rounded corners of the pot echo the curves in the trunk.

Which pot do you prefer? I’d love to hear what you think.


And now to answer those questions.


How big is this tree?
Well, not as big as you might think. The trunk base is 1.25″ at the soil surface. The height to the chop is 10.5″. The finished height should be about 16″.

How old is this tree?
That question is a good bit tougher to answer. Given that it has bark, the tree is almost certainly a minimum of 10 years old. Considering the environment in which it was growing, meaning not the best, there’s every possibility the tree is 20 years old. The goal, of course, is to make it look very old. Once the branches develop and I build some ramification, it should certainly pass that test.