Developing taper in an elm

Atom#28

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This is an elm log I threw in a pot last year. It’s big and ugly and I love it. I want to grow the leader a bunch to try to get some taper in the top portion. (I’ll be carving the stumps later as well to introduce more taper.)

So my question is this: while growing a leader for taper, is it best to let the rest of the tree grow unabated as well, or should I prune the other shoots shorter? My instincts say to just let it all grow like crazy, but I wonder if I need to keep the other growth in check.

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thatguy

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So I'm sure more experienced individuals will pop in to answer your question with a ton more certainty than myself. But I believe it would make sense to reduce some of those shoots around your chosen leader to both promote its growth and not have any unsightly bulging develop etc. As for the other shoots on the tree not around your leader, letting them grow will help grow the roots, but you may want to cut them back at some point to direct energy up top? Though a majority of trees tend to be dominant at the apex anyway so perhaps not much of a concern. However, when you cut back it should influence the tree to back bud and then you can select your future branches from there. Without some cutback the tree will continue to send energy primarily to those growing shoots iirc ymmv 😄
 

Atom#28

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i was wondering about the bulgification, especially, and your reasoning sounds pretty solid to me. So, seems like I should slam the brakes on growth that may cause problems, allow benign growth to go cray and drink mucho sunshine for roots. Thank you!
 

sorce

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I wouldn't just cut the unnecessary stuff back, you gotta remove it all the way, then stay removing it till it learns to stop trying to grow there.

I'd keep the big top one and the low right one. One long one on the left.

Best to remove them when you can pull them clean off. Small. Buds.

Nice.

Sorce
 

Shibui

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What they said, especially about the clusters of shoots creating bulges and unwanted ones leaving large scars after removal.
It may take a few years to get a new leader to match the trunk while growing in a small pot like that one. I usually use a larger grow pot for this stage to get more rapid growth and thickening.
After the new leader has thickened enough you will need to make another chop and then grow out a new leader again.
Each time the grow and chop cycle is shorter and less growing.
Final stages can be done in a smaller pot to reduce internodes.
Don't make the mistake of going for full height too soon. Really good lower trunk with a long apex does not look good but you don't usually notice until too late.

You can start to develop lower branches and ramification while thickening a new leader.
 

Atom#28

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small pot
Thank you for your advice! I think I’ll need to move it into a big ol nursery pot, then. This is the biggest ceramic container I have. The Log is a vigorous brute, indeed.
 

Adair M

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The way to develop taper is to “let grow, cut back”. Let grow, cut back. Repeat over and over.

Want more girth? Let it grow for a longer time before cutting back. The trade off is you will have larger scars to heal.

If you cut back frequently, you’ll have smaller scars to deal with, but the whole process takes longer.

You can choose to wire the new shoots that emerge to direct their growth. Or not.

There is an excellent thread that addresses pretty much all these issues:

“Ebihara Maples” started by markyscott. Yes, it’s primarily about maples, but it’s relevant to elms, too.
 

BobbyLane

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Thank you for your advice! I think I’ll need to move it into a big ol nursery pot, then. This is the biggest ceramic container I have. The Log is a vigorous brute, indeed.
doesnt look that vigorous. just looks to be a bunch of clustering shoots all in the same area. you will need shoots coming out the trunk to build a tree.
 

Sekibonsai

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So I'm sure more experienced individuals will pop in to answer your question with a ton more certainty than myself. But I believe it would make sense to reduce some of those shoots around your chosen leader to both promote its growth and not have any unsightly bulging develop etc. As for the other shoots on the tree not around your leader, letting them grow will help grow the roots, but you may want to cut them back at some point to direct energy up top? Though a majority of trees tend to be dominant at the apex anyway so perhaps not much of a concern. However, when you cut back it should influence the tree to back bud and then you can select your future branches from there. Without some cutback the tree will continue to send energy primarily to those growing shoots iirc ymmv 😄
^ this...

I would keep the leader and maybe a back up or alternate or three... unless you have a crystal clear vision of where you are going. You want all the energy and resources to be between the desired shoots and the roots supporting them. And don't trim them back just let them go gangbusters. Just remove what will definitely have no use.
 

Atom#28

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doesnt look that vigorous. just looks to be a bunch of clustering shoots all in the same area. you will need shoots coming out the trunk to build a tree.
This is why I wondered if I should be cutting stuff at this point. If I let it just grow unchecked for a season or two, would the odds of new shoots further down become greater?

by vigorous, I meant the speed at which it grows. These shoots are adding an inch per day right now
 

BobbyLane

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This is why I wondered if I should be cutting stuff at this point. If I let it just grow unchecked for a season or two, would the odds of new shoots further down become greater?

by vigorous, I meant the speed at which it grows. These shoots are adding an inch per day right now
what were the roots like when you threw it in the pot? any better photos?

i have this one, im letting everything grow because the tree was dug up and the roots cut back hard. there is a progression thread on it with clear images from the start.

i usually trim off the shoots i dont need, and keep 2 from each branch, the stronger or more desirable ones.

IMG-20210521-WA0001.jpeg


yeh elms back bud on old wood. but tbh we have no idea how strong your tree is just going off a crappy, tiny photo😊
 

Atom#28

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with 500 plus messages im guessing youve learnt that elms and most deciduous back bud on wood?
Yes, but with only a tiny bit of personal bonsai experience, I’m still learning HOW to get those buds!! Leave it alone, or let it grow? Sounds like the consensus is “yes, let it grow, but cut off what you don’t need, as well”.
Here are the roots I found at repotting in March. Aside from a single coarse root, his thing was a literal log when I planted it last year. Thank you, BTW, for taking the time to help me

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BobbyLane

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Yes, but with only a tiny bit of personal bonsai experience, I’m still learning HOW to get those buds!! Leave it alone, or let it grow? Sounds like the consensus is “yes, let it grow, but cut off what you don’t need, as well”.
Here are the roots I found at repotting in March. Aside from a single coarse root, his thing was a literal log when I planted it last year. Thank you, BTW, for taking the time to help me

View attachment 376220View attachment 376221View attachment 376222
so it was previously in a grow box? thats a lot of fibrous root, so you must have cut off quite a lot of root when you stuck it in the tiny bonsai pot. so it was taller, then you chopped it and what we see in the first image is the resulting back budding from the chop! thanks for clearing that up for us. yeh id let it grow out then, looks weak. we didnt know that you had already chopped it a few months ago lol
there's some cambium missing too, or bark?

wanting advice but not revealing the full story of the tree.
 
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Atom#28

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Sorry, @BobbyLane. My bad for being unclear. So, when i moved the tree from the box to the pot, no roots were removed whatsoever. Honestly, I wimped out because i was not confident about how much root i could safely remove. The "chop" i performed up top was only to remove the 5"of dead wood above the uppermost growth. I poked all around and there was no green beneath any of the bark above that point, so i sawed it off to make way for the new leader. The growth you see in the first image in this thread is growth from a live branch that i had retained from last season in with plans to make it the new leader. I chopped the dead wood off after i saw the growth emerge from that point and verified there was no living tissue above that point. Does that make sense?
 

BobbyLane

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with all the bark that appears to be missing yeh i would just leave it alone to grow.
 

MrWunderful

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How vigorous are the roots? If the roots are well ramified and great and overall health is good, I would be fine personally putting it all into a big leader instead of a ton of shoots all over. Its a big stumpy log, but I would still want it looking a bit more like a tree.

If you need to build the root system, then leave everything.
 

Atom#28

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I thought the roots looked pretty amazing. Tons of fine, fibrous feeders. No rot, no smelly anaerobic stank....but the more I discuss this the more I realize how little I know! I’ve been studying my ass off and lurking this forum for a long while, but actually practicing bonsai is definitely a study in humility :)
 

sorce

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I think you did a fabulously correct job repotting, it's alive and now you have a health gauge to utilize in subsequent repottings to further clean it up.

You're asking questions BEFORE messing things up too.

Your diligence shows.

Sorce
 

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