water-elm10-14-16-2I’ve written about this Water-elm bonsai (Planera aquatica) a few times now. Ever since I collected it in 2012, I’ve been working toward a broom-form bonsai. And you can see that this year it’s reached a nice stage of ramification. I could continue pinching and pruning this tree, which would improve the ramification even more. But that would not be the best expression of this tree. If you look “inside” it, you’ll see some issues with the branching. Moreover, these issues can’t be resolved by any quick-fix. No, in order to build this bonsai the right way I’m going to have to apply some tough love – meaning tough cuts.

water-elm10-21-16-1I’m not sure there’s anything harder for an inexperienced bonsai artist to do than this. I have literally cut away about three years’ worth of development. But at the same time, I’ve corrected some issues that are only going to get worse in the tree in the first photo. For one thing, the silhouette of the tree had already reached its finishing point. There was no further it could go without ruining the proportions of the tree. Another problem with the tree is that most of the primary and secondary branches had just grown too long. Again, the only place for the tree to grow going forward was out. Not okay.

So with today’s tough love, this tree is going to begin its next building phase in 2017. This will go very quickly, because I’ve got a large root mass with not so much demand to begin the growing season. I can grow this tree out and prune it back fairly hard about three times next year. By season’s end, the silhouette will be pretty much where it was before I massacred it. Now, another (not so hard) pruning will happen next fall, to build the next phase in 2018. But one step at a time.

I’d love to know what you think of the work I did today. Leave a comment below.