Americanelm4-11-15-1I found this American elm, Ulmus Americana, growing as a volunteer on my property. I dug it this winter and potted it directly into this beautiful Paul Katich oval. It responded as expected – American elms are very easy to collect – by throwing buds right on time this spring. Unfortunately, it failed to bud all the way up the trunk and the buds that appeared were not exactly in strategic locations as you can see in this first photo. So what to do?

We all know the art of bonsai is about designing trees. But let’s face it, for the most part we work best when the classic “stair step” branch pattern can be identified and brought to fruition. Take another look at the tree to the left; most of the stairs are just not there.

This is where we have to think outside the box. First of all, the classic shape of American elm is definitely not along the lines of “first branch – second branch – back branch” and so on. In fact, it’s described as “vase-shaped.” American elm trunks tend to fork fairly low, with two or three major upright sub-trunks which divide further, and so on until you reach the smallest branches. So considering the specimen at left, can we make something like this happen?

Americanelm4-11-15-2Here’s what about 10 minutes of work brought about. Contrast this bonsai-in-training with the messy trunk plus shoots above. You can see exactly where this specimen is heading, even though the new growth is very juvenile.

This tree will not end up with the classic vase shape of the American elm, but it will be a nice broom-form specimen. Not a bad way to handle questionable material.

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