This Water-elm, “Big Hoss,” is one of the biggest I collected this year. We brought it home on August 4th. I cleaned it up, chopped back the roots enough to fit the eventual bonsai pot, and potted it up. Then I waited.

It took a few weeks, but a tiny bud appeared near the base. When I say tiny, I mean it took a magnifying glass to verify that it was actually a bud and not some tiny red insect. But I was a happy camper. Bud appears, bud swells, a leaf emerges, shoot appears, shoot gets longer, and you’re off to the races. Only that’s not what happened. That first tiny bud just sat there, and didn’t budge. I checked every day, hoping to see that bud swell. Nothing. And that continued for many weeks. I was pretty much convinced the tree wasn’t going to make it. But I’ve learned through the years to be patient, because you just never know.

Well, right at two months out of the ground, one day I was inspecting that bud and wouldn’t you know, it had begun to swell. A sign of recovery! The bad news was, the warm weather was just about over and that isn’t what you need to promote growth. But hey, you take what you can get.

Water-elms often begin their recovery from the ground up. Sometimes they begin at the top. Usually once the budding begins at the bottom, you’ll soon spot a bud near the top of the tree. That didn’t happen right away with this specimen. It did produce a shoot on the sub-trunk, which told me the tree was alive a third of the way up. But I kept on waiting for the rest of the trunk to show me something.

Today I finally saw that bud near the chop that told me the whole trunk is alive. So Big Hoss is going to be a part of the Bonsai South Collection.

Here are some notes I made today. Big Hoss is an impressive tree, but it comes with a design challenge. The hunky sub-trunk emerging a third of the way up the tree is thrusting toward the viewer. While it’s not exactly an “eye-poke” branch, it does insist on the viewer’s attention and could easily be a distraction from the overall composition rather than a feature.

In this side view, you can see the sub-trunk a lot more clearly. I left the smaller fork coming off the sub-trunk, but as I’ve studied the tree I’ve become convinced it really can’t play a part in the final design. I’m going to have to work with the main part of the sub-trunk, and bring the foliage mass off to the left-hand side of the tree once it grows out.

Next spring, when the tree pops all of the trunk buds I’m expecting, it should be a lot easier to envision a solid design. Stay tuned!

But for now, let me know what you think of this Water-elm by leaving a comment below. I’m really looking forward to the possibilities.