Seiju Elm Starter

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I got this Seiju Chinese Elm cutting in July last year. It looked like this.

IMG_20200719_183147.jpg

I let it grow without any trimming or root work (so I don't have any idea what the roots are like) and now it's much bigger.

IMG_20211101_194035.jpg

The overall image hasn't changed much since about the middle of summer, but it seems like it has thickened noticeably since then. I was looking at it today and noticed these fissures all around it:

IMG_20211101_164816__01.jpg

It has been healthy, and considering it's been thickening up, my best guess is it's just starting to produce the corky bark. But I've never seen one in this stage, so I would appreciate hearing from people that have.

My plan was to start working on the roots in the spring and probably put it into a bigger pot. I would love to put it in the ground, but that's not possible. I thought I'd give it at least another year before making any real changes. I attached a couple more pictures to show the lower trunk.

Any advice would also be appreciated. I'll probably be looking back at the thread @Shibui has about his Seijus when it comes time to make some cuts.
 

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Shibui

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Not a lot changes during the thickening phase except for trunk diameter. The great thing about Chinese elms is when they are pruned hard they will respond with loads of new buds and not only from old nodes. Chinese elms have the remarkable ability to grow new buds from any exposed cambium so they usually also produce a ring of new buds right round the exposed cut.

Seiju is a corky bark variety. That means the older, outer layers do not fall off but stay stuck on the outside of the bark as it grows from the inside. Obviously the old bark was around a thinner trunk so as the trunk gets thicker the outer bark has to split open. I think that's what you are seeing with the cracks now. It also happens occasionally with smooth bark trees when the trunk thickens faster than the bark can grow. I have not actually had such a close look at seijus as they grow so I have not noticed this on any here but pretty sure there's nothing to worry about.

Good growth for a year so you must be doing things well. Keep on doing it.

One word of warning for new Seiju growers. Seiju growth habit is very straight sections with little taper. You can see that in the upper left section of the after photo. Pruning is important to get good shape so cut back occasionally to appropriate side branches. Not only do you get a change of direction but also some valuable taper. Initially the bends will be angular but as the trunk thickens those bends soften to nice curves.
As with Japanese maples, don't be in too much of a hurry to grow the main structure. Regular cut and grow seems to make much better trunks and branches so far for me.
 
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That is one year o_O
I'm surprised, too. I wish I knew exactly what she struck this cutting in. There's lots of pumice, it looks like some diatomaceous earth, and I think the rest might just be peat-based. It was covered in liverwort when I got it, but I didn't leave that on too long.
 
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Thanks, @Shibui. The cracking wasn't there about a month ago, despite no significant growth since then - I had expected it to start happening during active growth. But from watching this one grow and seeing some of the great ones you have, it has quickly become one of my favorites.

Since I had planned on this being a shohin, I wasn't concerned at all with what's above that first branch. But with how fast this one is growing, it's tempting to let it go and think about making it a larger one. They just make such convincing small trees. It's also one of my wife's favorites, and I think she would like to see what happens with one if you just let it grow as big as possible. I've never even seen pictures of one bigger than a bonsai. I plan to try some cuttings, so maybe someday I'll start growing one I can let get full-sized.

Pruning is important to get good shape so cut back occasionally to appropriate side branches. Not only do you get a change of direction but also some valuable taper. Initially the bends will be angular but as the trunk thickens those bends soften to nice curves.
As with Japanese maples, don't be in too much of a hurry to grow the main structure. Regular cut and grow seems to make much better trunks and branches so far for me.
I have time to think about it still, but what you see of the tree in the close-up of the bark is pretty much what I was thinking I would cut back to when I'm ready. Do you need to let the bark fully cork up before making any significant chops like that? I wouldn't want to halt the corking.
 

Shibui

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I have time to think about it still, but what you see of the tree in the close-up of the bark is pretty much what I was thinking I would cut back to when I'm ready. Do you need to let the bark fully cork up before making any significant chops like that? I wouldn't want to halt the corking.
Cork bark is a function of the old, outer bark NOT shedding. I assume that every year a new layer of bark is deposited which should not be related to trunk growth???? I have certainly rubbed all the cork off a reasonable sized corky bark Chinese elm and it returned better in only a couple of years. I did not wait for cork on any of my shohin seijus before chopping and they all have good bark. In any case my thought is the structure - trunk shape, taper, branch ratios and ramification are all way more important than corky bark.
 
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I did not wait for cork on any of my shohin seijus before chopping and they all have good bark. In any case my thought is the structure - trunk shape, taper, branch ratios and ramification are all way more important than corky bark.
Thanks for that clarification.

I'm hoping to thicken the trunk a bit more, so I think I'll still wait until at least next summer to cut the main trunk. I need to decide if I want that first branch to remain a branch or if it should become an additional trunk. I've also considered making it the main trunk.
 
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I noticed a very unfortunate development with this tree this morning. I found a bunch of these grubs eating the trunk.
IMG_20220122_112238.jpg

I don't know if the soil was staying too wet and then these came in to eat the rotting parts or if these guys were the problem to begin with. But anyway, the trunk has been eaten out about 95% of the way around. This is the only section that appears to be intact. More pictures are attached.

IMG_20220122_114050.jpg

Advice would be very much welcomed, because I'm not sure what to do about it. Some ideas:
*Try to take cuttings from the top and start over
*Try to do root cuttings when I repot
*Chop it back to the ground and see if anything comes back up
*Treat it like a ground layer and mound soil around it, hoping some new roots grow
*Forget about it and find another Seiju

It's still early for a repot, but I don't know if there any more grubs left in the pot or if it will even survive until a better time for repotting in its current state.
 

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leatherback

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Add cutpaste over de damaged areas and backfill with soil well-above the damaged area and treat it as an airlayer. Wait till early spring and check whether the callus is bridging the damaged area of whether you are getting new roots.
 
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I sprayed it off to get rid of as much of the rotted parts as possible. The damage goes down well under soil level and I don't think I've gotten to all of it yet. There's a height of about two inches or more in the worst part. I think in order to have any hope of getting a good seal with the putty I'd have to remove the top third or the so of the soil. And there definitely are still grubs in the pot - they keep crawling up over the damaged area.
 
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bonsaijarq

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"*Treat it like a ground layer and mound soil around it, hoping some new roots grow" ; -> use some sphagnum moss , like an air-layer. Being an elm I would bet that you will get new roots. When I repot trees with a lot of roots cut back, I add some sphagnum moss around the remaining ones and the trunk, to encourage the new roots emergence. Good luck.
 

John P.

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First thing is to kill the grubs with an appropriate pesticide. I bet the tree lives … just raise the soil level an inch or two over the damage.
 
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