What’s wrong with this picture? I collected this raft-style Water-elm, Planera aquatica, last October. It’s not hard to find both clump-style as well as raft-style Water-elms, since the natural growth habit of the species is to produce basal shoots and grow in a shrub-like fashion. Most of the time we get rid of the low growth, but on occasion a specimen will stand out and make you want to see where it’ll go as a clump or raft.
In the case of this tree, I made one simple but significant error when taking it as a raft. Can you spot what it is?
Though it’s a little hard to see from this angle, the largest trunk in this group has some nice trunk movement while the smaller trunks are all dead straight. In all multi-trunk bonsai, you want there to be consistency in the growth habit of each of the trunks. If one is straight they should all be straight. If one has a nice flowing movement they should all have nice flowing movement. In this case, the smaller trunks just don’t reflect the character of the largest one.
What to do? Well, why not make two bonsai out of this group? So I sawed right through the base. Here’s what I got.
Here’s the first bonsai-in-the-making from this piece of material. Once I had cut through the root base, I discovered a nice turn in the trunk and planted the tree accordingly. There’s good rootage most of the way around, but you can see the flat edge above where I cut through it. In order to induce roots I dusted with rooting hormone and installed some “magic moss” over the area in the pot. I call it magic moss because it doesn’t ever seem to dry out, and everywhere it grows in my pots roots tend to form beneath it. Once I get some roots in the cut area I’ll be able to complete the nebari of this tree.
I plan to do the initial styling on this tree tomorrow and will post the result.
Here’s the rest of the original piece, three main trunks along with a new shoot or two coming off the root base. I didn’t have a smaller tray so I used my vintage Richard Robertson rectangle. It doesn’t look half-bad, but I’m thinking I’ll see if I can find a companion raft-style piece during this collecting season to add to my new forest.
I’ve love to hear any comments you might have.