Does this (broom style) Chinese elm look right to you ?

Lawrencek

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Hi there, I bought a Chinese elm for my partner's birthday from herons bonsai, both me and her are complete beginners.

I ordered it broom style, but some pictures she sent me today the trunk looks bent, I can't work out if something maybe wrong with the tree or its just meant to be like that? (I assumed broom is totally straight) The other thing is which you'll see in the pictures is the trunk appears very thick with one side covered completely in soil, roots are also a bit exposed. again I'm not sure if this is just the way it's meant to be. I could be totally overreacting here. I will also show you what it looks like on website.

What do you think ?
 

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darryl1

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Looks pretty good to me. Thick trunk and exposed roots are a good thing. I think it is the same one in the picture.
 

BalconyBonsai

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I think Herons, unlike most other of the european online bonsai stores, do not put up pictures of individual trees unless they are of the more expensive kind. So I think the picture you found on the website is only "representative" of what you will get when you buy, not the exact tree. Regarding whether a tree is "allowed" to be bent and still be called a broom, I will leave that question to the more knowledged members. But it is all semantics I guess at the end of the day. If your friend likes how it looks, that whats important. The tree being bent is not a problem in itself. I would say most typical bonsai trees are far more contorted than that and to my knowledge they are not worse off for it if done correctly.
 

Forsoothe!

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It could be potted a whole lot better. Looks like it was fresh-dug and plopped into a pot that is too shallow. You need 8 or 10 oz. of soil to cover the roots for now. The worst thing that a newbie can do with a brand new plant is a lot of root work. It needs to survive shipping and a new environment first, then when you're sure it has stabilized, do minor work like a little trimming and slip-potting into a more suitable vessel. Right now, it needs to have the roots covered as well as possible, have as much indirect light as possible like sitting outdoors in bright shade, and be watered regularly and cycle between wet, dry, wet, dry. Wet means the whole mass is damp, and dry is the surface dry to the touch of your fingertip. Indoors, touch the surface, if damp, skip that day. Outdoors, water every day it doesn't rain. Buy some commercial brand like Miracle Grow fertilizer and feed every other week at box instructions from now until September 1st. It can be kept indoors over winter but will not be a really nice houseplant. It's happier if left outdoors in a protected place touching the soil and mulched with dead leaves over the edge of the pot.
 

leatherback

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You bought a starter plant, in a reasonably affordable category. It is what it is. alling it a broom might be pushing the boundary on several fronts.

Main concern is the tree healthy, which it seems to be.

I would not make it a formal broom. But how about an informal broom. There are voices that advocate looking at the trunk shape AND the canopy styling to decide on formal/informal upright/slanting/broom/etc
 

SeanS

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These little elms (“brooms” and the infamous S shaped ones) are produced in China in the millions and exported all over the world. When nurseries list them on their sites they show a sample image, the one you get will more than likely not be the one the photo.

As @leatherback mentioned it’s a starter plant, from here you make it what you want. If you want a perfectly straight trunk formal broom you’d need to go to a nursery and select one yourself with the characteristics you’re looking for.

Make your little tree want you want. An informal broom would be great. I’ve got a similar one in development 👍🏻
 

Shibui

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OK.
Neither the tree or the sample on the website are true Japanese 'broom' style but there seems to be a worldwide (Western) softening of the stricter Japanese requirements for bonsai. As mentioned Westerners have started to recognize a style called informal broom which gets round the strict Japanese definition of traditional broom. Not sure if Japanese growers are also following these trends or if any of us really care.
I agree with the sentiments that you have purchased a mass produced bonsai 'starter' rather than a show ready tree so don't be too tough on the seller. The tree you have received appears to be fine for the price bracket. If your expectations are higher I think you will need to shop in person and look at much higher price range.

Re soil, It does look as if some soil has been dislodged during delivery which is also to be expected. Just add some more potting soil or some sand/gravel topping to protect the soil from washing out when watering.
 

Bnana

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I do like this tree, I would cover the roots a bit more and repot next year. Then you can do some rootwork. But it's a nice start.
If you look at photos of elm bonsai, there are more developed examples but those will be at least ten times as expensive.

Good basic information on this tree can be found here: http://www.bonsai4me.com/SpeciesGuide/Ulmus.html

It's a great species to start with, it grows fast and is forgiving.
 

Lawrencek

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OK.
Neither the tree or the sample on the website are true Japanese 'broom' style but there seems to be a worldwide (Western) softening of the stricter Japanese requirements for bonsai. As mentioned Westerners have started to recognize a style called informal broom which gets round the strict Japanese definition of traditional broom. Not sure if Japanese growers are also following these trends or if any of us really care.
I agree with the sentiments that you have purchased a mass produced bonsai 'starter' rather than a show ready tree so don't be too tough on the seller. The tree you have received appears to be fine for the price bracket. If your expectations are higher I think you will need to shop in person and look at much higher price range.

Re soil, It does look as if some soil has been dislodged during delivery which is also to be expected. Just add some more potting soil or some sand/gravel topping to protect the soil from washing out when watering.
Thanks for your advice, is this just regular soil or some special type ?
 

Bnana

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Topping up the soil you can do with normal soil.
I do not know where it is in now but use something similar.
In bonsai inorganic soils (pumice, lava rock, akadama etc) are preferred over regular organic soils. They have many benefits in three long run. But combinations with different soils in different part of a pot are a recipe for disaster. On the Bonsai4me site (and many other sites) you can read about things like soils, watering, fertilizer etc., that's a good start and if you have questions you can ask them here.

Repotting is best done in early spring when the new leaves start to emerge, so that's for next year. Topping up should suffice for now.
 

PA_Penjing

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Good news is, yours seems to have a thicker trunk than the one pictured. The only thing I'd be butt hurt about is that soil haha. I won't repeat what everyone else said, it's all there. I don't know that I've ever even seen a true broom style bonsai for sale at any price, or a formal upright for that matter. Fortunately you can take pin straight cutting from this tree and develop your own strict broom style bonsai if you want. There are tons of step by step directions out there because it is such a strict style
 

Tieball

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It look like it originally was planted next to a rock but the rock could not be exported so it was removed And left the sharp void area on the left In your photo. Or, it was in the ground much lower but roots did not form on that left side....so to raise the height it was replanted higher for an exposed root sell. You have some work ahead of you. Let it get healthy. And next season you can change that soil for something better...or you can leave it as is if that appeals more to you.
6ECA4B34-6945-42C0-913E-0608F4D2ED13.jpeg
 

Lawrencek

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It look like it originally was planted next to a rock but the rock could not be exported so it was removed And left the sharp void area on the left In your photo. Or, it was in the ground much lower but roots did not form on that left side....so to raise the height it was replanted higher for an exposed root sell. You have some work ahead of you. Let it get healthy. And next season you can change that soil for something better...or you can leave it as is if that appeals more to you.
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Yeah I'm not bothered about the aesthetics so much because the person I bought it for loves it. I'm just worried about like what people have been saying about the soil. So do you think I can just leave the soil as is until next year and that will be fine? What is the danger of not putting in more soil?
 

sorce

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Welcome to Krazy!

Sorce
 

Forsoothe!

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If you can't locate 4 or 5 tablespoons of ordinary soil to cover the roots, then you're not going to be able to follow any of the more sophisticated processes you might find here. This has been noted a half dozen times here, that should get your attention.
 

Tieball

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I do things differently....and my methods may not be comfortable for you or others.

If it were me....and I am no expert on this tree....so take my thoughts quite loosely. I'd think how early it is in the growing season. There’s a lot of growth months ahead. I’d pull the tree out gently. I’d gently shake the tree causing the root ball to dislodge loose soil. I would not totally bare root the tree but I think the gentle shake will take care of a lot of the soil removal. I would not prune any roots right now. I would use a spray bottle to mist the roots while I’m working. I would then plant the tree is a finer grade of substrate. Finer meaning not the bigger 1/4” substrate commonly seen in photos. I use a finer grade like a Turface size. I find, and there will be lots of contrary comments, that the finer size keeps moist below the surface and drains better in these situations. There are lots of different substrates to use. And the finer size works for me. Not everyone. To me, for what you’re doing, any reasonable substrate could work better than that soil on the tree right now. After I was all done I’d keep the tree out of the winds and in a dappled shade/sun environment for a couple of weeks.

If I was not comfortable with a soil change, a shake out right now, I’d find soil right out in my yard and cover the roots more. Water the tree, let the soil absorb water...and refill more soil if needed. I'd fill soil in this pot almost to the rim. Almost. I’d want some edge below the rim so water does not just roll off quickly. I don’t do mounds in the middle.

The tree will grow like it is but some root covering will be helpful. Next year if your more comfortable cleaning out the soil...and the tree really survives this year...you’ll get your chance to see what underneath the tree and take corrective actions.

I'm not an expert on this tree. Others are giving their thoughts. Eventually, follow your thoughts after reading the various opinions. There are some Chinese Elm experts here. I’m just not one of them.
 

Shibui

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Thanks for your advice, is this just regular soil or some special type ?
When talking about potted plants 'soil' does NOT mean garden soil. Garden soil is not suitable for pots. Always use a potting soil/ potting medium/ potting mix - different terms used in different places and you don't have a location on your profile so just guessing the tree is in UK somewhere as it came from Herons.
 

Forsoothe!

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"Potting Soil" in the USA is almost always manufactured imitation pretend soil having zero mineral soil or garden soil or top soil of the olden days. It is a vehicle to make recycled cardboard boxes useful. Good cardboard is recycled into new cardboard boxes, but the US standards are high and a lot of what goes to the recyclers is not up to standards and needs another venue. Most of the low grade material goes into stuffing materials for packaging & shipping, but there are still leftovers and some of that goes into potting soils. So, potting soils in the USA is a mix of "recycled materials", AKA ground up cardboard including Styrofoam, composted or not peat moss, and vermiculite, usually in that order of content percentages. The vermiculite and peat content brings the pH down to an acceptable range, but the whole mix acts like peat for wetting purposes: hard to wet-out if it gets dry and generally stays too wet. In the olden days they augmented volume by adding the ground cardboard and Styrofoam to top soil, but guess which is cheaper? Volume matters and the accountants always get their way and quality is always eroded into the dirt, pun intended. The bags are colorfully decorated.
 

Shibui

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"Potting Soil" in the USA is almost always manufactured imitation pretend soil having zero mineral soil or garden soil or top soil of the olden days.
Down here potting mix is also manufactured and usually contains little or no soil as such but if your assessment of materials used over there is correct that's about where the similarity ends.
Potting mixes here are usually a blend of composted sawdust, sand and/or composted pine bark of various grades. We have cheap and nasty products where the proportion of sawdust and fine particles is high right through to premium products that have a similar particle size to modern bonsai mix including plenty of coarse sand.
All peat moss is imported here so is relatively expensive and only used in a few specialized mixes.

Some years ago the potting mix industry here was regulated to ensure some semblance of quality. Commercial product now has to comply with minimum standards of water retention/wetability, air filled porosity, pH and nutrient. Bags have either black ticks logo - meets minimum standard or red ticks logo for premium product which meets minimum standards and contains enough fertilizer for 3 months minimum.
pot mix ticks.JPG
Above and beyond the minimum standards there are a range of different formulations that hold more or less water, more or less air and/or more or less fertilizer. Most companies market a range of products aimed at different types of plants and different pots. Some are good enough to grow bonsai in and I used one premium brand for my bonsai for a few years before moving to my current custom mix.
I rarely purchase bagged potting mix because I get mine made in bulk but I have seen no evidence of recycled cardboard used in any here.
Polystyrene balls were used to increase AFP and reduce weight in the 1980s but consumers did not like that small pieces floated to the surface and blew around the yard so I don't think any commercial sources use that now. Good quality sand is still readily available and cheap enough to be a component.
 

leatherback

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I have seen no evidence of recycled cardboard used in any here
same here. Never heard that before!

Here it usually is green-waste that gets composted and bagged. Or coco-husk chipped. Or a mix. Peat-based is being reduced, as many people feel it is a shame to dig away a peat-bog so we can grow geraniums.
 

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