Chinese elm (Ulmus parviflora) - Styling advice

NaturalArt

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My local nursery was having a 30% off sale on their pre-bonsai so of course I had to check it out. I found this ugly little Chinese elm (that was mislabeled as "Chinese Zelkvoka sp.") and was hoping to see what you guys though could be done with it.
I picked it out because of the awesome thick trunk base. I don't prefer the 'S' shape so my initial thought is to chop it off at the first branch and let that become the leader (any suggestions on when this should be done? I've read late summer/ autumn is best to reduce scarring, but it's been grown in a greenhouse it's whole life so I'm not sure where it is at in its cycle). I am considering air-layering at the same spot but I just can't seem to see anything coming from the top of the trunk with the horrible angle of all of the upper branches. It almost seems that air-laying the very top and turning the whole thing upside down would be the best way to salvage the top of the tree, if at all.

What do you guys think?

Thanks!

Z
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Maloghurst

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I’m not sure I would go all the way down to that first branch right away.
You might consider just cutting the entire canopy off at the highest point you can, just about at the second bend in the trunk. See where you get buds and then decide on a new leader. You might try to use the thickness above that lowest branch to create better taper. Either way that hideous canopy needs to be regrown. When you chop it make sure you keep that low branch in check.
 

WesB

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Everything above the first branch should go IMO
 

JudyB

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Take a look at a thread that Stacy Allen Muse made about working with these types of "S" type mallsai trees. I believe perhaps he was under the name Sawgrass at that time. Me, I'd take it off above the first branch. Maybe try to airlayer the top first so you can learn that technique on a tree that is easy to do it on.
 

Smoke

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Hopefully this will make sense....I can only hope.

1. Elm...putty in your hands. Will virtually do anything, bud every where and grow super fast.

2. Impatient artist. Other than shohin, cutting the top off is a waste of resource. It will guarantee that you must keep a short tree.

3. Look at the tree as it is... and look at the image you drew after cutting it down. You have exactly the same shape as you started with except super small and nothing better.


So.... choose the size of your tree first. If you wish a super small tree then cut the shit out of it. If you wish a little larger Chuin size tree, work more with what you have. You can virtually cut every branch off that thing and have a whole new tree by next November. Put it into an oversize pot for a couple years and let it go then cut back the branches and build a tree. You can get that trunk to 2 inches in a cut down five in three years, building branches as you go.
 

NaturalArt

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I’m not sure I would go all the way down to that first branch right away.
You might consider just cutting the entire canopy off at the highest point you can, just about at the second bend in the trunk. See where you get buds and then decide on a new leader. You might try to use the thickness above that lowest branch to create better taper. Either way that hideous canopy needs to be regrown. When you chop it make sure you keep that low branch in check.
@Maloghurst Thanks for the reply! I appreciate the feedback, I agree the canopy is awful, I think if I go this route I would chop in spring to allow immense back budding at the chop site to select a new leader but there would be a worse scar. It desperately need to be re-potted though because it is severely root bound and I don't want to chop and repot in the same season.
 

NaturalArt

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Take a look at a thread that Stacy Allen Muse made about working with these types of "S" type mallsai trees. I believe perhaps he was under the name Sawgrass at that time. Me, I'd take it off above the first branch. Maybe try to airlayer the top first so you can learn that technique on a tree that is easy to do it on.
@JudyB Thank you, I will make sure to check out that thread! I do like the idea of getting practice for airlayering, since I wouldn't really care if it didn't take. Where would you chop it if not at the first branch? Any idea when the best time to airlayer is? Thank you so much!
 

NaturalArt

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Hopefully this will make sense....I can only hope.

1. Elm...putty in your hands. Will virtually do anything, bud every where and grow super fast.

2. Impatient artist. Other than shohin, cutting the top off is a waste of resource. It will guarantee that you must keep a short tree.

3. Look at the tree as it is... and look at the image you drew after cutting it down. You have exactly the same shape as you started with except super small and nothing better.


So.... choose the size of your tree first. If you wish a super small tree then cut the shit out of it. If you wish a little larger Chuin size tree, work more with what you have. You can virtually cut every branch off that thing and have a whole new tree by next November. Put it into an oversize pot for a couple years and let it go then cut back the branches and build a tree. You can get that trunk to 2 inches in a cut down five in three years, building branches as you go.
@Smoke I was planning on keeping it as a shohin sized tree, I live in an apartment and have limited patio space so I typically lean towards smaller sized trees. I thought the trunk would make a decent shohin tree with the proportion of the intended height (~3 inches above the lowest branch). I would have to cut the very top of the canopy no matter what because of the ugly knob. I worry cutting off all the branches will cause excessive scarring that would be difficult to hide, please tell me if you have a differnt opinion. If I did go this route would you recommend cutting in spring to allow growth throughout the growing season?
 

Smoke

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Then cut away. Spring is good. Scarring will heal given time. Marathon, not a sprint.
 

NaturalArt

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Then cut away. Spring is good. Scarring will heal given time. Marathon, not a sprint.
@Smoke Thank you very much for the advice. I was originally planning on chopping in the fall because it is in desperate need of a re-pot (planning on doing this in the spring) and I didn't want to chop and re-pot at the same time. I know these trees are tough but...
Would it be better to chop in spring to get rapid growth at the cut site and sacrifice the better time for re-potting? (i.e. chop in spring, re-pot in fall)
 

Smoke

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I think you would be fine with both. It's a young tree and pretty tough. It can handle both. This is a weird year weather wise so make sure you are out of frost damage when you repot. Elms have fleshy roots and will freeze right off.
 

NaturalArt

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I think you would be fine with both. It's a young tree and pretty tough. It can handle both. This is a weird year weather wise so make sure you are out of frost damage when you repot. Elms have fleshy roots and will freeze right off.
@Smoke Great! Thank you for the advice, I really appreciate it. I'm in zone 5b and it is currently snowing here so it will remain inside until April most likely, it did not get a chance for dormancy this year as it was grown in a green house so it will stay in the comfort of it's western facing window until the weather warms up :)
 

WesB

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[QUOTE="Smoke, post: 623544,
2. Impatient artist. QUOTE]

Or maybe they see a different tree than you?
 

NaturalArt

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@WesB Thank you for the input, that was my initial gut reaction as well. I have posted a picture with a slight variation, planning to chop around the second bend instead of the first branch.

Any thoughts?

Thank you for the feedback!

Z
 

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