Anyone ever tried an American Elm?

bonsainotwar

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In my continuing quest for species rarely used as bonsai,I decided to try an American Elm,after buying one little guy cheap on eBay last year.This is a tall.slender,thing,about 27" tall,if I recall,that I hope one day to look sort of like the English Elm in Harry Tomlinson's book.It's a good seven to ten years from being a presentable bonsai,but I'm just curious if anyone else has tried one,now that they've made a successful comeback ?
 

susieq14114

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Yes, I have an American Elm bonsai. It started from seed probably 18 years ago or so. There is a huge, beautiful specimen growing across the road from us and it's seeds scatter far and wide, sprouting in our front yard sometimes. I had dug up several of them and grew them larger. One in particular, I wired, pinched, did roots, etc....as it grew. It was in a formal upright style and I was so pleased with myself when it was about 16 inches tall...so pleased until I realized that it had absolutely no taper to it. So, the following spring, I did a trunk chop on it. By then it was about 8 years old and had about an inch and a half caliper at the base of the trunk. I replanted the trunk chop at an angle and worked on regrowing a whole new tree. Every so often I would pick a new side branch as the new apex and cut everything above that point off....gradually building a decent taper. It was about 10 or twelve years old when it finally began to look like something. And then I got a job.
This is not a good thing for a tree that needs constant niping and pinching and attention to keep it from "getting away from me" because now I didn't have the time for all that AND my other trees too.

It did get away from me and suffered through several attempts at restyles and more chopping. Last June I left my job and stay home now. The elm is still with me and if I had spent the time on it that I should have, it would be one gorgeous specimen now. Instead, it is grotesque in a neat sort of way. I am trying to develop decent branching on it again. They do make a terrific bonsai if you don't neglect them. But don't rush to put it into a bonsai pot until you have gotten most of the development you are looking for. The do respond well to trunk chops at the correct time of the year, they bud profusely and you have wonderful opportunities for ramification and branching. Just don't let it get away from you. I feel like I am starting all over again with mine......
 

bonsainotwar

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They don't grow locally here in New Mexico.It looks like the leaves will get smaller.What we have here are Siberian Elms.Lots of Siberian Elms.

I have had two of these,and will never have another.In spite of the fact they grow like weeds,they don't survive in a container.They do well for a couple of years,and into the third or fourth year in a container,the branches start to die,and by summertime the tree is dead.

I have fruit trees,and oaks,I have been working on for ten years,but I cannot keep a Siberian alive.
 

susieq14114

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Chinese elms do quite well in containers. Grow like weeds too. Actually, I always thought that the Chinese and Siberian elms were pretty much the same tree. I can't tell the difference. I had a Chinese elm bonsai for 8 or 10 years and my old teacher had several that were quite old.
The American elm does "reduce leaf size" really well with constant attention. We recently had the large camphor tree in our front yard die suddenly. We replaced it with a couple of Drake Elms....they look very interesting for bonsai. Smaller leaves and supposedly very hardy against disease. I might buy one for bonsai experiment to see how they do.
 
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Siberian Elms grow like weeds here, I like the leaf size and the bark texture, not to mention the quick growth. I have been hacking back a few in ground for future use.




Will
 

Tieball

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You may be well past this subject....but I just found this. I have been working on American Elm bonsai for a few years. Most are back in the ground doing very well right now and developing nice trunks. Similar to your tree finding. I have a few very mature elms in the yard. I've grown several just from shoots clipped -- funny....I used to just stick the shoots in a pot nearby rather then the ground. Iforgot about them but they all just rooted and became new trees.

I discovered a great book at a used book store that gave me some great tips. The books talks about Siberian Elm...however the results have been the same for American Elm.
 

DaveV

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Hi Tieball, What do you mean by "however the results have been the same for American Elm."
 

susieq14114

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In the time since I last posted in this thread, the American Elm across the road from us had a bumper crop of seeds, of which several landed and sprouted. I have been pinching one and did a trunk chop on it while it was still small enough that the scared trunk would heal quickly. It gave some nice taper to the trunk. During the growing season when it got vigorous shoots that I didn't want to keep, I cut them off and stuck them in the soil beside it. They rooted easily, with no attention at all. I have repotted several of those and just let them go. Gave one to the neighbor and it is 8 feet tall now in his yard. He had planted something that he found elsewhere in the yard and it turned out to be a Brazilian Pepper, a nasty invasive pest here in Florida. I bribed him to pull it out, by offering him the American Elm to put there instead...LOL.

I like American Elm to work with but you can't let them get away from you.....the leaves return to full size in a heart beat and the internodes become larger and very unattractive for a bonsai. But since I sold off most of my collection last July, I don't have so much to keep up with now. Just a few favorites. So I will manage.
 

crust

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David Easterbrook, a Canadain that curates a section of the montreal botanical gardens bonsai collection, has a wonderful American Elm bonsai. I believe it is more stable than the miserable Siberian which seems to be unsustainable as a bonsai--a branch dropping die back species for everybody I have known, they look good for a while. I have seen a few odd ball native elm species that have been collected and grown as bonsai, stumps mostly--I have gave up on siberian though.
 

Tieball

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American Elm discussion

Hi Tieball, What do you mean by "however the results have been the same for American Elm."
Sorry for the delay...I simple forgot..no great excuse. "The results are about the same". I have been pinching and growing American Elms for several years. The Siberian Elm is very close in image to the American. Both respond very well to constant pruning and cutting. I've found that my elms put out new shoots only a few days after a good pruning. The buds return quickly.
The book I referred to diagramed a path to produce a nice looking Siberian Elm. I can locate the book and pass along the tile if you wish. I have also found another book (found it in a used book store) that discusses taking American Elm from ground growing to bonsai pot. Not as many illustrations as I'd like but the information is presented in an understandable way. I read it...and am following the steps with 8 American Elms in the ground.

The leaves on my ground elms are anywhere from 1/2" to 1" in length. I have elms around me...they seem to sprout up where I might least expect them.

If you're interested in further discussion on the subjects let me know. This autumn I have ground pruning to do on the roots and the branches and then back in the ground they go. I can share some pictures of the effort if there is interest. Interested in more discussion? (This time I'll keep an eye on the topic).
 

Tieball

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Further reply on what I meant.
On the American Elms i have:
The leaves reduce with pruning and age.
The American Elm is a fast grower in the ground...not so fast in a 12x15 wooden box which is where I started.
The tree responds extremely well to constant clipping of branches and quickly forms new material to work with.
The tree does great in full sun...my ground elms are all full sun.
Twig-branches easily form.
I am in complete agreement with an earlier post also...the elm needs constant pruning. Growth can go wild in a few days. However. I have let that growth go and then just clipped back to where I want and the process begins nicely again.
I have not had branch die-back. The trees stay outside, in the ground, all winter (Michigan with snow and very cold winds as well as sunny days)
Eary warmth this year brough early buds and leaves...then a hard frost and cold for a week. Many leaves and buds died...only to quickly be replaced. I did not lose a single tree. In fact, a couple seem even more healthy with the nature-enhanced work on the trees.
The image of the American Elm is very similar to Siberian. The American can become more knarly branched with pruning though.
I do not wire the elms...branch direction is through bud selection. Seems to have worked.
 

Jay Wilson

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Hello Tieball. Got any pics? I do some native elms and I'm always interested in seeing others efforts...no matter what the stage of bonsai they're in
 

Tieball

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Hello Tieball. Got any pics? I do some native elms and I'm always interested in seeing others efforts...no matter what the stage of bonsai they're in
I'll take a few pics early this week. Ground-growing stage...a ways from bonsai...mostly growing trunks yet as I've mentioned.
 

Tieball

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Jay....
Here are some photos of my growing American Elms. The short and bush-like elm is about 28" tall at this time but will cut back. I am just letting it grow for a trunk increase right now although it has many branching qualities already. This trunk seen is about 1 1/2" now. This tree has been pruned a lot over time and i've learned a lot from the tree. Plenty of errors along the way. No wire. It seems I can prune hard and it responds with new growth within or before a week has passed. Usually it seems to develop growth within 3 or 4 days. The soil for my trees is almost pure sand. About 2 inches below the ground level it is bacically a sand dune as far as I can dig. The trees grow on 16" square tiles. The bush elm has an excellent flat root base developed and the roots have been pruned every second or third year. Other detail photos give a glance at the interior and the leaf size. The longest leaves are about 1 1/4" and the smaller about 1/2". This elm will easily maintain 1/2" leaves if kept in check.

The younger American Elm example is about a 3-year old tree now. Found as a backyard seedling 3" tall with a paperclip wire sized trunk, next was one year in wooden box for management, this year in the ground. Trunk diameter, hardly a trunk yet, but...started from the wooden box as 1/16" and is now about 3/8" in the ground. I would estimate that during next year this will develop to at least an inch diameter.

This is my first upload of images to this site so I am hoping it works....
Elm Growing Field 007.jpgElm Growing Field 009.jpgElm Growing Field 010.jpgView attachment 25336View attachment 25337
 

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Tieball

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Jay....here are other photos with a view of what I use as a growing ground. The trees are in 1/2" fence screens to protect them from our munching deer and rabbits...which we have plenty of every year all year long. Not pretty...but works. The caged trees are about 2 years old in the ground after about 2 years in wooden boxes to get them started out well. They've been started from typical 3" to 5" seedlings I find in the backyard with paperclip wire size trunks. That's my general process. In the spring of 2013 these trees will be pruned back fairly hard with the elimination of most branching...starting over I guess is a description. I'll pull the trees and examine the roots and likely just cut back the big fat elm roots that are natural in the sandy soil. Based on past experience the tree is not harmed by this. Tap roots are removed and kept pruned in the early years so all roots are generally horrizontal growth. These trees after 2 years in the ground have trunk diameters of about 1 1/2". Based on experience the trunks should nearly double next year in the summer. The heights are about 7' to 8' now at this time. Each of the trees has a natural new leader started as you can see in the detail picture inside the cage. I'll post some pruned back photos and resulting growth late spring 2013.Caged Elm Growing Field 015.jpgCaged Elm Growing Field 016.jpgCaged Elm Growing Field 017.jpg
 
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