There’s no denying that fast development in our bonsai is a good thing. To be sure, time in training really brings a bonsai to a fullness of design. But getting the design established quickly is, in my view, very important. Some species lend themselves to this effort much better than others. Elms are in this category.

About a year ago I published this photo of a tree we had collected roughly a month earlier. Not surprisingly, it grew out with vigor and that allowed me to do the rough design.

In just over a year from initial design, this is the stage of development for this specimen. The branch structure is well-established, and you can probably tell it’s been pruned a couple of times this season.

The next phase of development for this bonsai is to continue refinement of the foliage pads. My technique over the years has been to shear to shape as the rough design develops. It’s only after that phase is completed that I zero in on specific sub-branching to finish the refinement. Of course, no bonsai is ever finished, but you do have distinctive periods where the tree is showable in its intended form.

Here’s another really great specimen that I potted earlier this year. While the pot is a terrific piece, I knew shortly after potting the tree that what I needed was a round container rather than an oval. But that could wait; I needed more root growth and strengthening first.
I just acquired this Ashley Keller round, and it certainly better suits the tree. I removed a little root when I moved the tree over, but it didn’t skip a beat.

The main chore I have right now is to continue developing the crown of the left-hand trunk. That will be completed during the 2020 growing season. I also obviously need to hard-prune that low right branch on the right trunk, which came with the tree when it was collected. But that too is a 2020 chore.

And another specimen, as it appeared back in April. While you can see the form taking shape, it frankly doesn’t yet look like much. The key at this point is to allow the branches to grow out and thicken, so they are in proper proportion with the trunk.
Five months later. Is this fast growth or what? This tree has been wired, pruned, unwired and pruned some more in a handful of months. I love it!
This one got a late start on its bonsai journey, with the initial styling and potting this June. Wonderful trunk taper, movement and character. Some nice branches to work with. And I think the Lary Howard round just makes this bonsai.

Not bad for three months’ growth, right? I’ve done some trimming and of course had to unwire most of the wire. It’s such a strong tree that when I went to lift it from the bench to photograph it, a pair of roots had escaped a tiedown hole and grown down through a bench slat. I’m talking eighth-inch roots!

So this one will get the same treatment as the others, little to minimal pruning going into fall, removal of the last bit of wire if called for, and then dormancy care. Next year should complete the design.

I’d love to hear what you think of these trees. I’m pretty proud of them.