General advice on Chinese Elm

ConorDash

Masterpiece
Messages
2,171
Reaction score
2,183
Location
Essex, UK, Zone 8
Hello,

I've shown my elm in my newbie thread recently, but thought I'd put it in here for the future progress pics and also asking for any general advice or tips people have.
I've made an album of the pics, because I took quite a few and didn't wanna load them all up in this topic:

https://imgur.com/a/YkfAC

But also here is one pic for those whom the link may not work, of a front on shot of it.

image.jpeg

So I think my 3 main things I'd like to know, if possible..

Does everything look ok on my Elm? General health, soil, etc. Are the roots above ground looking ok too?

Advice on next steps?

Advice on a styling plan?

It is planted in compost, pumice and perlite (2:1:1), I'm looking forward to repotting next year, as although I believe this mix is ok, I think there are better mixes which I'll ask your guys advice on, nearer the time :).
It is believed to be around 6 years old (opinion from more expert eyes on this forum), and the shop tells me it was a cutting from a 708 year old Chinese elm, from southern China.

Also there is a wiring cross over in the middle, I know about it, it's my first time wiring. The wires aren't doing much, just straightening out branches a little, very minimal, but that comes on to the styling advice I'd like, to see what you guys think would look best.

So I hope this isn't asking too much, but you all know a lot more than I do right now, so your opinion would be invaluable. I'm guessing some of you have potentially doing bonsai for longer than I've been alive, I'm 24.
As I said, much more detailed and closer pictures in the link at the beginning of this post.

Over to you...
 

Vin

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
5,187
Reaction score
7,402
Location
Panama City, FL Zone 9a/8b Centr
USDA Zone
8b
Look, I'm not trying to be to critical however I'd rather be honest than shoot a bunch of fluff at you. I know you're just trying to do the right thing but there is just too much wrong with this tree to explain in one reply. So, to cut to the chase, your tree really only exists up to just past the first bend. All the mess on the top two thirds of the tree is too far gone to even begin correcting. My advice would be to just keep it healthy this year and start with a chop and repot (into a bigger free draining container) in the spring of 2017. If done correctly, before you know it you'll have something that resembles a tree. Again, I'm not trying to be too harsh but there's just nothing you can do at this point to give it the good start it needs. The best thing going for you is it's a Chinese Elm and they can take some heavy punishment. Sorry.
 

ConorDash

Masterpiece
Messages
2,171
Reaction score
2,183
Location
Essex, UK, Zone 8
Look, I'm not trying to be to critical however I'd rather be honest than shoot a bunch of fluff at you. I know you're just trying to do the right thing but there is just too much wrong with this tree to explain in one reply. So, to cut to the chase, your tree really only exists up to just past the first bend. All the mess on the top two thirds of the tree is too far gone to even begin correcting. My advice would be to just keep it healthy this year and start with a chop and repot (into a bigger free draining container) in the spring of 2017. If done correctly, before you know it you'll have something that resembles a tree. Again, I'm not trying to be too harsh but there's just nothing you can do at this point to give it the good start it needs. The best thing going for you is it's a Chinese Elm and they can take some heavy punishment. Sorry.
That's ok lol, no need to apologise. Quite unexpected as it seemed to get some fairly ok opinions previously but I take on board your opinion :). So basically you mean in terms of the branches too bad, or the trunk or both?
And do you know why they would be so bad? Poorly trained I would assume? I've only had it 2-3 months so you wouldn't be insulting me don't worry.
 

Vin

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
5,187
Reaction score
7,402
Location
Panama City, FL Zone 9a/8b Centr
USDA Zone
8b
That's ok lol, no need to apologise. Quite unexpected as it seemed to get some fairly ok opinions previously but I take on board your opinion :). So basically you mean in terms of the branches too bad, or the trunk or both?
And do you know why they would be so bad? Poorly trained I would assume? I've only had it 2-3 months so you wouldn't be insulting me don't worry.
Well, both. The largest diameter branches should be the lowest ones. The branch above each branch should be smaller in diameter than the branch below it. There is a bad case of reverse taper right at your second bend that has the large branch. There are branches growing inward toward the trunk. There is no movement in the branches you wired. The list goes on.
 

KennedyMarx

Omono
Messages
1,708
Reaction score
413
Location
Indiana (Zone 6a)
USDA Zone
6a
I don't want to be a party pooper, but I agree with everything Vin said already. The trunk has movement, but it doesn't taper in thickness from the base to the apex. The apex is the same thickness as the bottom of the trunk. It either needs to fatten up considerably with sacrifice branches below the first branch or it need to be chopped like Vin said. Chinese elm is one of the toughest and fastest growing plants used for bonsai, but I don't think the trunk thickens up very quickly, especially in a little pot.

On the positive side, it is a Chinese elm. :D

Here is one Adam Lavigne chopped and regrew:

https://www.instagram.com/p/_fLeIBKPZy/
 

Thor

Seedling
Messages
19
Reaction score
30
Location
San Diego (soon to be back in FL)
Hey man I am in the same boat. I saw you posted on my thread a ways back....but here is something you could do. I plan on doing it to my Chinese elm. For now I am new so I am playing the "keep them alive game" and also playing with pruning and watch how it buds back and what not. I call this my experiment tree and I feel I learned a lot already. Hit up this link...

http://houstonbonsaisociety.com/air-layering-a-chinese-elm-mallsai-into-two-shohin-bonsai/

You don't have to make two, but you surely can do the one!
 

ConorDash

Masterpiece
Messages
2,171
Reaction score
2,183
Location
Essex, UK, Zone 8
Hey man I am in the same boat. I saw you posted on my thread a ways back....but here is something you could do. I plan on doing it to my Chinese elm. For now I am new so I am playing the "keep them alive game" and also playing with pruning and watch how it buds back and what not. I call this my experiment tree and I feel I learned a lot already. Hit up this link...

http://houstonbonsaisociety.com/air-layering-a-chinese-elm-mallsai-into-two-shohin-bonsai/

You don't have to make two, but you surely can do the one!
I had actually read that post when I learnt about air layering recently. Well this is all pretty grave news, I'll be honest!
Did not intend or plan on doing such a thing with my first ever tree.. But I guess I'll see and maybe do that. I was planning on getting a green maple soon any way, maybe that'll be my primary tree. The tapering the mentioned, I would guess that's the same sort of thing you'd look for in the majority of trees?
 

rockm

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
9,439
Reaction score
11,822
Location
Fairfax Va.
USDA Zone
7
Air layering is not a great alternative with most stuff, contrary to popular belief. The branches being air layered have to have something that makes them worth the time. While you're air layering, you can't do anything with the tree you're actually working on.

There is a lot wrong with this tree, but most beginners trees have many many flaws. Comes with the territory. I'd keep at this one for the next three or four years and wouldn't do much of anything too drastic with it. Wouldn't really worry about classic design along the way.

Learn what it has to teach you--about how to take care of it, how it grows season by season, etc. Simply keeping it alive is more than half the bonsai battle. The art part can't be done without mastering the horticulture part first...

The art part will always be there once you've learned the basics.

Next year, however, I would repot it into better soil. It's far too dense and will hold onto a lot of water. You will have to watch it closely this winter while its outside and dormant. Keep it a bit sheltered from too much rain.
 
Messages
1,639
Reaction score
2,441
Location
Belgium
I folow. Keep healthy and don't cut to much. Repot in more draining mix in spring. Container might be bigger. Let it grow roots before Doing the big cut. Meanwhile read some more. Looks OK healthy.
 

ConorDash

Masterpiece
Messages
2,171
Reaction score
2,183
Location
Essex, UK, Zone 8
Air layering is not a great alternative with most stuff, contrary to popular belief. The branches being air layered have to have something that makes them worth the time. While you're air layering, you can't do anything with the tree you're actually working on.

There is a lot wrong with this tree, but most beginners trees have many many flaws. Comes with the territory. I'd keep at this one for the next three or four years and wouldn't do much of anything too drastic with it. Wouldn't really worry about classic design along the way.

Learn what it has to teach you--about how to take care of it, how it grows season by season, etc. Simply keeping it alive is more than half the bonsai battle. The art part can't be done without mastering the horticulture part first...

The art part will always be there once you've learned the basics.

Next year, however, I would repot it into better soil. It's far too dense and will hold onto a lot of water. You will have to watch it closely this winter while its outside and dormant. Keep it a bit sheltered from too much rain.
Thanks, that's a bit of a silver lining to this cloudy topic lol. I've just been reading about dormancy. Our winters won't reach below -2 or -3C, and shouldn't go above 10, so it should stay dormant. However I wouldn't trust the rain or wind so I'll put in the garage when fully dormant.

I thought the soil wasn't too bad, but you are right, it holds a lot of water. I'm looking forward to repotting, although not as much, now I know it's a not so much a good tree.
I'm not a confident or risky person so I may take your suggestion and simply leave it, rather than air layer.

As I said, I'm looking to buy a green maple, maybe from kaizen if it has the stock so I'll ask you guys' opinion on that maybe at the time.
Thanks.
 

ConorDash

Masterpiece
Messages
2,171
Reaction score
2,183
Location
Essex, UK, Zone 8
I folow. Keep healthy and don't cut to much. Repot in more draining mix in spring. Container might be bigger. Let it grow roots before Doing the big cut. Meanwhile read some more. Looks OK healthy.
Cheers, either way I have till early spring to decide I guess :).
I'll have another primary tree to focus on by then so may not do the air layering, may leave to be healthy and experiment in future when I've built confidence.

Ok here's a crazy idea... What if I were to plant the Chinese elm in the ground...? It should start to grow again, slowly, taller and thinker. Getting rid of incorrect branches and just left to continue growing.
 

Vin

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
5,187
Reaction score
7,402
Location
Panama City, FL Zone 9a/8b Centr
USDA Zone
8b
It's all part of bonsai life mate. Even the most accomplished artists have trees they use for experimentation and learning. I just killed a couple nice ones this year because I worked them too hard in the spring; lesson learned for those species (by no means am I accomplished). If I'm not having fun, learning or helping then my bonsai days will be over.
 

ConorDash

Masterpiece
Messages
2,171
Reaction score
2,183
Location
Essex, UK, Zone 8
It's all part of bonsai life mate. Even the most accomplished artists have trees they use for experimentation and learning. I just killed a couple nice ones this year because I worked them too hard in the spring; lesson learned for those species (by no means am I accomplished). If I'm not having fun, learning or helping then my bonsai days will be over.
Yeh, someone had to break the bad news to me, it's no problem, thank you for your honest advise. Part of me hoped you were crazy and everyone else would disagree but alas :).

My previous post, the crazy idea it plant it and see what happens... What do you think of that approach? I'm not going try and make it an amazing bonsai due to physical flaws, so why not let it grow and see how it goes?
 

LanceMac10

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
5,589
Reaction score
13,578
Location
Nashua, NH U.S.A.
USDA Zone
5
Hmmm....looks like a spot for some clever gif's.....:p

First...enjoy learning how to grow a tree in a container....
tumblr_lrvw8fej0q1qlzduwo1_400.gif

Second...Enjoy yourself.....
Rodney_Dance_Caddyshack1.gif

Third? Don't work it if it ain't healthy or you'll be....
Judge_Smails_Caddyshack2.gif

Finally....Watch out for "gophers"!!!!!!!!!!:p
gopher.gif

Then, in a couple years.......
saw.gif
 

rockm

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
9,439
Reaction score
11,822
Location
Fairfax Va.
USDA Zone
7
You could plant it in the ground and it would probably grow like a weed. Chinese elm is a staple landscape tree. It's sold as "lacebark elm" at landscape nurseries. Trouble is, you would have to dig it OUT of the ground eventually (a three year stay is minimum to realize any kind of return in trunk development), chop it to size, re-containerize the root mass and regrow the branch structure. Which is also a longer term project, but it would also teach you how to work raw stock.
 
Top Bottom