Siberian elm from a stump - BonsaiSouth-inspired

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Location
Montréal
USDA Zone
5b
#1
I heard everybody say that:

1) Elms are amazing growers, and almost unkillable.
2) Therefore, perfect for beginners.

Siberian elms grow like weeds here, in the most incredible places (cracks in the pavement, gravel beds, etc). I collected this stump on May 5 of this year, which was probably a week too late according to the standard (the leaves were beginning to emerge). The tree was about 4-5' tall, clearly quite young but getting a lot of sun, not much competition.

It was pushing buds 5 days (?!) after collection, and leaves were emerging about 10 days later. It had a big push in late May-early June, slowed down for 2 weeks or so, and then started growing again recently, with buds forming on the chop site. The only thing I did to it was bud selection (lots of 2-3-4 buds pushing together) and fertilization in mid-June.

The last 3 pics are from this morning. Thoughts, suggestions?

Should I start thinking about wiring the branches this growing season? My preference would be to shape the tree using clip-and-grow where possible. Should I prune this year? (some branches already have ramification).

The only issue I have been encountering so far was yellowing/drying of leaves at the base of branches. Doesn't look too alarming. Siberians here often have ravaged foliage, very ugly, to something to monitor I guess.

Thank to Zach Smith for his informative blog posts.
 

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Location
Albuquerque, NM
USDA Zone
7
#2
Here in NM they are also everywhere. I’ve had quite a few over the years. “Had” being the key word. While I still collect a few from time to time, I try not to get too attached to them as they are prone to branch dieback, in particular several year old branches that have undergone lots of development and ramification. Ive always pushed them real hard becausee they are very hard to kill ie. multiple prunings a year, hard root prunes and at different times a year etc. im wondering though if that’s partially why my branches are dying off. I’ve also heard that because they are a pioneer species that the branches will do this regardless. I’ve got one in training now that I’m moving much slower with. You’ll find different thoughts on American grown Siberian’s on the internet.

With all that said, they are great to practice with and expirement different techniques on. I’ve got one in training now that I’m moving slowly with. So far so good.

Several branches on yours appear ready to wire into place. But I wouldn’t prune too hard just yet. You want your main branches to thicken as much as possible and pruning won’t help that at this stage. Great start though! Should be a fun project and could yield great results!
 
Messages
218
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307
Location
Montréal
USDA Zone
5b
#3
It's fascinating to me that the same species of elms can be invasive in New Mexico and in Québec, several zones apart. Kudos to them, tough cookies they are.

The topic of branches dying suddenly is mentioned a lot in the numerous topics on siberians in here. I think I remember a member speculating that full exposure to hard frosts and annual repotting seemed to lessen this tendency. Looking forward to see how full that pond basket will be at the end of the growing season.

I see this tree it as a learning/pratice tree, I have nothing invested in it. I will keep maybe more branches than necessary to compensate for the fact that some could die unexpectedly. There is another one I might dig up next spring, less movement than this one but slightly wider base.

Another question, maybe @Zach Smith can chime in: I trimmed all the buds at the cut side except for three, but the tree already seems to have chosen the branch just below as the apex, and it is quickly thickening. Should I keep the branches at the cut site or remove them, ie do they serve a purpose, like helping the wound heal or something like that?
 
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Location
St. Francisville, LA
USDA Zone
8
#4
It depends on the species. I'm not familiar with Siberian elm, but if it were msot of the elms I work with I wouldn't hesitate to lose the extras provided you have a branch or two not too far below your leader. I'm assuming you sealed the chop, so it should hold up for another year or two until you can carve down to live wood.
 
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218
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307
Location
Montréal
USDA Zone
5b
#5
I did not seal the chop (hence the 3 shoots growing straight from the exposed cambium). Is it too late to do it? And what are the benefits (I know you seal yours systematically)?

Thank you.
 
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1,027
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Location
St. Francisville, LA
USDA Zone
8
#6
I did not seal the chop (hence the 3 shoots growing straight from the exposed cambium). Is it too late to do it? And what are the benefits (I know you seal yours systematically)?

Thank you.
It's just a measure to prevent drying out and dieback at the chop point. Some species are more at risk than others. No need to do it at this point.
 
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1,670
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1,577
Location
Essex, UK, Zone 8
#7
I heard everybody say that:

1) Elms are amazing growers, and almost unkillable.
2) Therefore, perfect for beginners.

Siberian elms grow like weeds here, in the most incredible places (cracks in the pavement, gravel beds, etc). I collected this stump on May 5 of this year, which was probably a week too late according to the standard (the leaves were beginning to emerge). The tree was about 4-5' tall, clearly quite young but getting a lot of sun, not much competition.

It was pushing buds 5 days (?!) after collection, and leaves were emerging about 10 days later. It had a big push in late May-early June, slowed down for 2 weeks or so, and then started growing again recently, with buds forming on the chop site. The only thing I did to it was bud selection (lots of 2-3-4 buds pushing together) and fertilization in mid-June.

The last 3 pics are from this morning. Thoughts, suggestions?

Should I start thinking about wiring the branches this growing season? My preference would be to shape the tree using clip-and-grow where possible. Should I prune this year? (some branches already have ramification).

The only issue I have been encountering so far was yellowing/drying of leaves at the base of branches. Doesn't look too alarming. Siberians here often have ravaged foliage, very ugly, to something to monitor I guess.

Thank to Zach Smith for his informative blog posts.
I always said that too but I think my first ever tree, mallsai Chinese elm is in a bad way and dying cos I didn’t repot it lol. I might kill it!
 
Messages
218
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307
Location
Montréal
USDA Zone
5b
#8
So this is two months worth of growth. I can see the white tips of roots poking through the hole under the basket.

Trying my luck: @Bananaman , wanna help a beginner with branch selection and styling? Just like you did here. Now may not be the time to do major pruning, but it could be helping me with a plan for next spring.

I think this drawing that you posted here and on your blog is an attainable design with this tree.
 

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218
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Location
Montréal
USDA Zone
5b
#9
This one is sheltered now (not that it really needs it hehe), since we’ve had an intense cold front since Tuesday night.

I’m happy with the growth, and I have plenty of branches to work with. But I would have done a few things differently. I would have sealed the chop, because it didn’t heal over at all, but more significantly, I would like the tree to be shorter, something like the altered picture below. I’ll be debating this decision over the winter. If I keep the tree at its current height for now, I’ll need to select a branch probably above the turn in the turn with the tiny uro.

The work on ramification will begin in the spring, and the tree will likely get repotted in 2020. The pot is already full of roots.
 

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287
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186
Location
Porterville, California
USDA Zone
9a
#10
2 years ago I collected a mystery elm (the bark looks somewhere between a Siberian and chinese). it's right at 2 inches in diameter just above the root flare. about 2 months ago i chopped the trunk about 5 inches from the soil level. next spring ill be putting it in the ground to speed up the growth of the next trunk section. hopefully by next fall, it should be ready for trunk chop #2. your trunk looks exactly like the part I chopped off mine. these elms are everywhere, but i still regret not air layering the top section. lol.
 

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Location
on the IL-WI border, a mile from ''da Lake''
USDA Zone
5b
#11
I have harvested some 40 Siberian elms from a field I wanted cleared. Gave them away at a bonsai society meeting. Most of the ones we gave away were between 3 and 9 feet tall when dug up. (1 to 3 meters)

2018 is the 2nd growing season for the whole bunch. First year was mostly growing roots and a moderate explosion of back budding, but not huge amounts of extension. This year was fairly wild vigorous growth. Some styling will have to be done in 2019.

What is different about Siberian elms? Sun - more so than any other species of elm, Siberian elms want full sun from sunrise to sunset. You will lose branches and eventually the whole tree if you give it too much shade. I really think excess shade is likely the cause of the complaint that they drop branches, all the branches lost I've seen were on the shady side of the tree. Get them out in the open, open field is perfect, and let them get sun.
A lot of tree species noted for establishing in disturbed areas are trees that like or need full sun.

Second, they are very, very winter hardy. I leave mine out all winter, right were it grew all summer, full winter sun. No die back yet. It is in an Anderson flat, so I don't have to worry about a fine ceramic pot surviving repeated freezing and thawing.

Third thing I learned, ''I should have chopped lower''. I really should have cut my trunks at 4 inches right from the start. (10 cm for you in the rest of the world).
 

M. Frary

Bonsai Godzilla
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12,930
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Location
Mio Michigan
USDA Zone
4
#12
I have these things. Quite a few.
They should be root pruned every year.
From my observations with the ones I have they do great until the minute they feel root bound. Then they start losing branches. Happens to me all of the time. Mine are in full sun all the live long day. Put one in a bonsai pot in spring and the next summer it starts losing fine twigging. Plop it back into a colander and it recovers because now the roots can grow. And these trees grow roots like nothing else.
Hard chops also need to be done in spring just as buds swell. They sprout out of the cut without fail without sealant and will be completely healed over in 4 years.
They suck up copious amounts of water and can take fertilizer at strengths that will make you cringe.
Cut off branches that will sucker from the base of existing branches. These sprout out as you trim for ramification. If you leave them the tree will abandon the existing branch for the new one.
You will lose some fine twigging every winter. Right at the tips. Its okay though. It needed that trimmed off in the spring.
 
Messages
197
Likes
168
Location
Atlanta, GA, USA
USDA Zone
7B
#13
2 years ago I collected a mystery elm (the bark looks somewhere between a Siberian and chinese). it's right at 2 inches in diameter just above the root flare. about 2 months ago i chopped the trunk about 5 inches from the soil level. next spring ill be putting it in the ground to speed up the growth of the next trunk section. hopefully by next fall, it should be ready for trunk chop #2. your trunk looks exactly like the part I chopped off mine. these elms are everywhere, but i still regret not air layering the top section. lol.
Your tree looks fine for Chinese Elm. Also, that is a fantastic gif in your profile image!
 
Messages
218
Likes
307
Location
Montréal
USDA Zone
5b
#14
Thanks for your input, Leo and Mike. Here in Montreal, Siberian elms and poplars are the two species that will colonize an open field first. There are some amazing Siberians growing straight from building foundations and other impossible places. There are a few monsters (6-8 inches trunks) growing from an abandoned gravel patch nearby, but there are too big for my limited growing space.

This tree was getting, I’d say about 8 hrs of sun on average this summer, next year it might be moved to the "spruce/mugo" zone of 10-12 hrs of sun.

Do you guys think I should go for a repot next spring? Even in a large-ish pond basket like this?

For maximum would healing, do you think it’s better to seal the chop or leave a few shoots to grow from it and elongate, even if they are to be cut later? I really think I should chop it like in the virtual I posted.

There is another Siberian from the lot where I collected this one, as well as what I think is a large (2.5 m or so) American elm, both in the same 2-3" trunk ballpark. I might collect both next spring. I might even try root cuttings, why not, depending on what I find under there.
 

M. Frary

Bonsai Godzilla
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12,930
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Location
Mio Michigan
USDA Zone
4
#15
Get that one to play with for sure. They're great.
When collecting elms chop at the desired height. No need to worry about not getting enough and having to cut back later.
I would repot next spring. Like I said they need a repot every year.
 
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