Help with the aesthetics on an Elm


Reaction score
Fresno, CA. Were all the food comes from if we ha
Help with the branch placement on an Elm

Bought this at Blue Oak last year and it has been nothing but fun and a quick grower.

I am thinking it needs to be ground layered at the widest part of the trunk to fix the ugly inverse curve.
I also have a major scar where I took two air layers off it and got rid of a huge knot.

If you measure to the top of the tree it is about 18" from the ground layer spot to the current top. The little side trunk is about 6" from the proposed new base. The first left branch is obviously about the same. Doesn't this branch need to go?

The next Left branch is about 7" up and 8" up to the next. I'm thinking the 8" one should stay?
Then its about 12" to the bottom of the top canopy. I made a quick attempt at the next step in photoshop?
Please help with the balance and the bones of this tree.

Please help, I just can't envision how to make this tree look its best.


  • elm seju blue.jpg
    elm seju blue.jpg
    33.2 KB · Views: 133
  • elm seju trunk blue.jpg
    elm seju trunk blue.jpg
    37.6 KB · Views: 91
  • elm seju blue scar.jpg
    elm seju blue scar.jpg
    25.1 KB · Views: 83
  • elm seju shoped blue.jpg
    elm seju shoped blue.jpg
    31.3 KB · Views: 121
Last edited:

I like the tree, grizzlywon. The inverse curve could very well be made into the signature of the tree.




  • elm%20seju%20blue1.jpg
    46.7 KB · Views: 55
  • elm%20seju%20blue2.jpg
    38.9 KB · Views: 54
  • elm%20seju%20blue3.jpg
    40.9 KB · Views: 73
Hold on a minute,something is amiss here!

The low branch is asking,'What am i doing here?'
The curved trunk replies,'You catch the eye and obscure my bend.'
The uppermost foliage says,'Well i'm alright jack'.
Meanwhile the various scattered tufts murmer,'I hope he don't see us!'.
A little twig to the left of the apex exclaims,'I am your new leader.'
The lowest branch retorts,'No way,i'm not about to be sacrificed for the sake of some pipsqueak.'

I would wait and see what develops in the next growing season before savage pruning.

As an afterthought i can suggest the Ronald Lee Ermey school of Bonsai,the tree should speak with just one voice.

Thay may be too cryptic.
Last edited:
Cascade, thanks for the time and effort. I like what you did, especially the third picture. What do you guys think.

P.S. here is what the tree looked like a year ago before two air layers and some major wiring.


  • elm seju blue orig.jpg
    elm seju blue orig.jpg
    38.9 KB · Views: 58
Last edited:
What do you guys think?...

I think it's fantastic! I think Cascade captured the essence of this tree. I like it thin, tall and sparse like that. I think that is the best solution with using both trunks like that. You could keep just the smaller trunk and go for a shohin sized tree as one option, but that would be too boring. Good luck with it!
I agree with what Dorothy sees and Si....Cutting off the upper tree would make it boring. Together they work well..
Yep, they nailed it. Now, all you have to do is get it there.

i vote for two trunks too:)

Two trunks works well for this one.
It will definitely take a lot longer than the previous suggestions, but here's what I would try to do with it. That bow shaped trunk just kinda bugs me.


  • elm20seju20blue1-1.jpg
    29.6 KB · Views: 20
hmmmm....interesting...a double trunked "Elm Pine tree".
I agree with smoke. I don't really understand the design. The original material suggested a more "oaky" design. That's water under the bridge though...
Yes it is pine-looking. But so were the other virts, so I figured he wasn't opposed to pine styles. Also, I'm not a very good artist, so I'm sure that he could take the basic design and make the foliage look like a deciduous tree instead of a pine. This idea came from remembering a tree in John Naka's "Bonsai Techniques II." The tree I was recalling had a "hemline branch" like this elm, and this was the way Naka took the tree (only his drawing was immensely better). The tree was also a broadleaf species.
no offense to noissee or cascade (I know you were just trying to be helpful)... but I'll throw out my favorite personal maxim...

"For the love of god... don't style a deciduous tree to look like a pine.":p
It's not the subsequent designs that I don't understand. They're working with what's left.

The raw stock looked to have potential for a kind of modified broom style more appropriate for the species.
I bought the tree because I really like the look of twin trunk trees. I did the air layer because where the three large branches met, there was a huge knot that was getting bigger and were making more of an inverse taper by the day.

Ya, Al, I guess I tend to try to make all my trees look like pines. I also have an olive that looks like one. I guess I'm stuck in a rut.

Just a rhetorical question. Is it, or why is it "wrong" to style a deciduous tree to look like a pine/evergreen? If the tree in the end looks good to the eye what does it matter isn't this art? (other than maybe a judge at a show would laugh at you?) These are not loaded questions, just a newbie trying to understand.

On a side note here is a tree off the net that has a similar design I really like. Podocarpus isn't deciduous right? Buddhist pine, I know.


  • podocarpus.jpg
    53.1 KB · Views: 32
It is not wrong. You can do what you want.

The thing is, trees don't grow the same. Deciduous trees don't grow in the same way as pines and vice versa. The "end look" of an oak and pine are vastly different. That's because growth rate, growth vigor and type of foliage are different, which results in different mature silhouettes.

In other words, it's not because its "wrong" so much as it is the tree just "doesn't look right." It's forcing a dog to be cat or vice versa. Sure, there are exceptions to every rule. A literati oak isn't "wrong" so much making a convincing one is not easy to do.

This particular tree in its raw state mimicked how oaks grow. It didn't appear to be swelling in the branch unions as to be a problem and had some very natural looking possibilities. I have often seen oaks growing in that inverse vase shaped pattern in the Southern Plains of the US.

Podocarpus are tropical plants and large ones are rare in bonsai. As bonsai, they are treated as pines as their leaves and growth habits more resemble conifers than deciduous trees.
How 'bout this? Too boring?


  • bonsai.JPG
    48.8 KB · Views: 34
Last edited:
Top Bottom