A Seiju Triple Trunk, and a Hokkaido Penjing

grouper52

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I'm hoping this post can spur some discussion. I'm including my own trees pertaining to the topic, but not looking for direct feedback necessarily, looking more for others to post their experiences and insights - perhaps backed up by their own trees, so feel free to post yours on this thread.

One of our new members seems interested in Hokkaido and Seiju Chinese elms, neither of which are my favorites. I much prefer the species, although I have a few tantilizing Yatsubusa and Corticosa guys in the ground heading, I hope, towards a bonsai pot at some point (great pre-bonsai trees - and their air layers - I got during a visit to Brent a few years back).

Both Hokkaido and Seiju seem like they ought to make much better bonsai than they do, and seem very tempting unless someone has messed with them before. I consider them more a novelty than anything else, although I am a huge fan of Chinese elm in general.

I'm posting my two "finished" examples that I think take advantage of their positive attributes, while working around their problematic tendencies.

First is a Seiju triple trunk. I bought it largely designed as you see it several years ago, but it was potted and presented horribly, so that was the first and main thing I did. Since then I have made relatively minor styling changes as well. These trees tend to grow, IMO, in a rather ugly habit, with awkward branching angles and an enormous propensity towards unsightly reverse taper. Their "cork" bark is also fairly unattractive to me, being merely two rows of broadening scars that develop at nodes. In this tree, I think those flaws are fairly well masked by the overall design, but a single trunk tree would fare far worse, typically.

The Hokkaido has even smaller foliage, and can occasionally be found at a decent height, but they are brittle, and the growth habit also leaves me unimpressed in stand-alone trees. And yet, this scene, for those who like such things, seems to work fairly well. The tray is a bit small, but the composition works fairly well otherwise, but only because the Chinese consider the rock to be the dominant element in such a scene, with the trees playing a secondary role, or even a tertiary one behind the human element. As with many group plantings, the quality of each individual tree is not so important, which allows a few modestly attractive trees to combine with the other elements to create a scene that becomes more than the sum of the parts. That these are not really great trees couldn't matter less, so a Hokkaido elm can shine in such a setting.

The floor is now open to the discussion of these two cultivars, and the use of unusual cultivars in general perhaps. I find myself increasingly attracted to the simple beauty of the species in many cases these days.
 

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rockm

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The issue with all tiny leaved elm cultivars is that they twig profusely and leaves are, well, tiny.:D I've also found your other observations to be true, ungainly habit, brittle wood--add to it winter sensitivity (more protection is required than with other hardier elms--even cedar elm is tougher in Va. winters than these things).

The tight growth and choked leaves makes maintenance incredibly time consuming, but absolutely necessary. Almost weekly interior pruning is required to open up branches and prevent interior dieback. I had seiju and another tiny leafed elm variety and I got sick of them. They're too much work.:D
 

M.B.

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At this point in my bonsai journey (3 1/2 years) I am still in the "I love these types of elms" but I must confess the love has started to somewhat fade. I include a picture of one of my Hokkaido's that is in the works. I repotted from a 5 gallon nursery container late spring so didn't want to do too much until next. The apex was snapped off at the nursery, and yet another branch was snapped off with the hose while watering one day so to say they are brittle is an understatement. I would love to work on moving some branches, but doubt I can get them to move without major risk. One I'm not willing to take at this point.
I think I've figured out that you need to find Hokkaido's that don't need any major work or bending. Once branches reach a certain thickness, it's not going anywhere unless you want to loose it and have a hole in your design.
I haven't found Hokkaido's maintenance to be a pain since they seem to grow so slow. Seiju's are another story. I do find them to be much more pruning intensive. Mine seem to need a "hair cut" all the time but I have too many plants.
Another problem I have with all my elms is scale. I have a huge ant problem, which will bring the little buggers up into my elms within 2 weeks after putting them on my benches. It is a constant problem no matter how much I spray. Observation and smashing seems to work best unless I stick the elms off to an out of the way part of the yard (for more shade in the summer), then they will be covered in scale within a month.
I know they have their draw backs, but it's all part of the learning process of these cultivars. In the end (at least so far) I think it's worth it.
Mary B.
 

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rockm

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"out that you need to find Hokkaido's that don't need any major work or bending."

You will spend a lifetime looking...the best way to work this species is by clip and grow and larger containers. You develop secondary branching through heavy pruning, allowing selected new shoot to extend in a desired direction, then prune it back hard again. Repeat, until you get the movement you're looking for. Wiring old wood doesn't work for may species anyway.
 

Ross

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My catlin elm grows very slowly and has been hit with scale bugs each of the two years I've had it but still seems very healthy. I have had no problems with my chinese elm or cedar elms here in Dallas. The chinese elm is so vigorous that certain branches have been trimmed back 8 or 9 times this year and counting.
 

Hisaoka

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The Hokkaido Elm is so brittle, that the first day I got it, re-potted and broke most of the branches off. I found I can wire the thin, branches, but only if I can easily move them with my hand.
 

pjkatich

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A fairly good discussion of the pros and cons surrounding these two types of elms can be found in the following thread:

http://bonsainut.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1377

I have worked with both types of elms, and of the two, the Seiju is a little more forgiving than the Hokkaido.

The biggest draw back to either of these two elms is the die back problem discussed in the other thread. I have not been able to solve this problem and would appreciate any feedback that might shed some light on this issue.

I have included a current photo of one of my Seiju elms. It was grown from a cutting that was struck in 1994.

Regards,
Paul
 

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Hisaoka

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I went to a nursery today looking for a seiju, and came home with a Jacqueline Hillier. Right now, it looks like a giant tuning fork, but it has a fat trunk and a lot of air layering possibilities. Elm
 

grouper52

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A fairly good discussion of the pros and cons surrounding these two types of elms can be found in the following thread:

http://bonsainut.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1377

Regards,
Paul

Paul, thanks. That's a fairly nice Seiju, BTW.

That's a great thread, and I apologize for reinventing this wheel and running a parallel thread without searching to see if all this was discussed before. But now that it's up and running I'll stay here to offer my two cents response to the info there.

Where I live it is almost constantly moist, and wet beyond belief much of the year. We get little sunshine at all because of the gloomy cloud cover 9-10 months out of the year, and the 150' Doug firs on my neighbor's property to the south. It is seldom above 90F in summer, and seldom below 25F in winter. Very temperate and very wet. Most non-tropical and non-desert trees seem to grow wonderfully well here, both in pots and in the ground, with very little special care.

I've only had my trees a few years, but they've had little die back except for a few major branches on one of the Hokkaidos. As with all my trees, I don't pamper them at all: my philosophy is that if a tree is not willing to stay alive here in "bonsai heaven" under routine care it doesn't belong in my collection - it may leave any time it likes with no hard feelings either way. These two are situated in about as "sunny" a spot as I have. They are in shallow pots/trays in my usual hodgepodge of recycled 100% inorganic stuff. I water every day except when it's really wet, and fertilize with whatever I feel like, whenever I feel like. They winter in on the ground buried in mulch. It's pretty much a matter of benign neglect, and so far they are doing well.

Having said that, these trees seem very capricious. There seems to be no set pattern why some people have good luck and others don't, and no consistency over time for a tree either. This leads me to think that Walter is correct, and I also think it's a general tendency that holds across species, and has an intuitively obvious quality: genetic variants are weaker than the species, some more so than others. This is a sound scientific statement, and one I have noticed with my trees over time, and this is why I am drawn increasingly to the beauty and hardiness of the "plain old" species for most of the types in my collection. A few variants and cultivars still attract me, but fewer over time, and this is why I thought Hisaoka, who is new to this undertaking, might benefit from this discussion. A well made and well cared for bonsai is special enough without the need to put genetic frosting on the cake.

My two cents.

Will
 

pjkatich

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Paul, thanks. That's a fairly nice Seiju, BTW.

Thanks Will, I appreciate the compliment. The tree would look a lot better if I could figure out the die back problems that I have been experiencing. It has been extremely frustrating loosing most of the small branches on a yearly basis.

That's a great thread, and I apologize for reinventing this wheel and running a parallel thread without searching to see if all this was discussed before.

No apologies necessary. It was just easier to provide the link rather than type the same information over again.

I appreciate your "two cents" on the subject. It is always good to compare notes with others that grow these types of trees.

Your growing conditions do not sound that much different than mine, with the exception of the summer temperatures. We do get a bit hotter here in Northeast Florida and have a great many days where the temperatures are above 95F. However, I have found that the Seiju elms seem to tolerate these conditions very well and prosper during the summer months.

They are in shallow pots/trays in my usual hodgepodge of recycled 100% inorganic stuff.

Would you care to elaborate on what you use in your potting medium.

I have often contemplated about my potting mix and have tried to identify (with little luck) if this is the cause of the die back problem.

Since the earlier thread did not provide any tangible answers for me, I decided to take my plight to a higher authority. Through a third party, I was able to get a message to Carl Young (the gentleman responsible for developing the Seiju) about the die back. His response indicated that he is not aware of any genetic problem the Seiju elm that would lead to yearly die back. Unfortunately, this does not rule genetic issues out of the equation.

Regards,
Paul
 

Ang3lfir3

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Would you care to elaborate on what you use in your potting medium.

It truly is what he said.... a Hodgepodge of recycled inorganic material. I have a ponderosa that Will collected for us previously (before I got a chance to go) and it is in a mix of all kinds of things... the important thing is... its free draining and holds moisture.... :)
 

grouper52

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This guy came back very hesitantly after our bizarro spring here, and came back sparsely, but it came back, and finally is pushing new growth that should fill in the image a bit more - though, I'm actually a fan of rather sparse foliage anyway, so I like it this way. :)

The Chinese man, BTW, moved the rock to the other side of the tree several seasons ago to get better shade, he said. He's not available for the photo shoot today: seems he's in a Chinese prison for running guns to the Tibetans. I had a brother-in-law once who was imprisoned for that, and I was surprised that he was let out after only a few years, so this guy may be back soon as well. I'm not sure my letters are getting to him or not, but I've offered to set him up with some of my friends when he gets out if he wants to run guns to the upcoming resistance here.

Me? No, I probably won't be joining the resistance. Wife and I will likely ex-pat to Baguio if November goes poorly. She's a nurse and I'm a doctor, and we've watched Dr. Zhivago and know the history there to be accurate and widely applicable. No thanks. But it creates a great buying opportunity for y'all: I've sold off a few trees already, and everything's now available for the right price - so let me know! :)
 

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milehigh_7

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I have found that interior die back is a major issue with my Hokkaido. I have also found that they do best most sunlight they can get. Over protect em and they will punish you. I totally agree with Will they seem like they should be better plants... I still love em just because of how strikingly tiny the leaves are.

On the statement, "
This leads me to think that Walter is correct, and I also think it's a general tendency that holds across species, and has an intuitively obvious quality: genetic variants are weaker than the species, some more so than others." I totally agree, mutations are rarely if ever beneficial in making the organism stronger. (sorry Professor Xavier)
 

JudyB

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I'm looking forward to the next installment of the novella that you're spinning in these pages recently Dr. Maybe you should do a book of shorts! And they could all be connected in some quirky way....

I like the warty looking trunks on this guy.
 

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