The "Hail Mary" Zelkova - IMBEDDED PHOTOS

Messages
1,706
Reaction score
111
Location
Bremerton, WA
USDA Zone
8b
(The following is a piece from the February edition of my local club newsletter, since it's doing so well I thought I would post it here.)

A “Hail-Mary” is what you do when you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. You cast your lot to the fates and do your best, hoping for a miracle. This Japanese Gray Bark Elm (Zelkova) was that kind of case. Forgotten in a nursery, it had escaped the confines of it’s can through a drain hole and had a 2 inch root that had to be cut off of it by the time we came across it. Not knowing what we would find in the near bursting pot, we still couldn’t ignore the shear trunk size or the interesting bark on the tree. Combined with the reasonable price we paid, it was worth the risk to try to salvage it.

The tree was cut from it’s can and it was indeed a long heavy club that reminded me of Jabba the Hut and went deep into the pot to the cut off root at the bottom. Once the worst of the lower wood and undesirable roots were sawn off, there were only a few small roots left and still a considerable club to contend with. So it was put into a deep 16 inch wide pond basket with the hopes that it would recover and work towards developing a healthier root mass. We watched, fed, and watered hoping for the best. It would make it or it wouldn’t. A true “Hail-Mary”.

Two vigorous years later it was time to see how it was doing and see if we could put it into a shallower Anderson flat. Any questions about the effectiveness of pond baskets were ended in our minds. What we found was a mass of roots so dense and fine that it was like Christmas as we gently picked away the soil. And much to our surprise there was a perfect division between upper roots and lower roots, with the wide heavy end of the “club” perfectly exposed for removal. After two minutes with a saw, the die grinder was opted for. At first we used a core box bit, but switched it out for our “big gun” the Ninja Master. (An inch wide with 4 cutting heads, it’s a wood hog for big jobs. But it’s so sharp it cut wet wood clean and smooth.)


(Photo by Dale Cochoy... who is also the man you can buy it from.)

With the tree bottom level, we were able to stand it up on it’s own, and it settled into the shallower pot depth perfectly. It’ll be left alone again for another couple years, with a plan to build the crown, and continue the progress of lowering the base and developing radial roots.

It is a Zelkova which by it’s very nature is an ideal species to tolerate this kind of work… but even so… it still felt like a little miracle to me.

Victrinia





(This last photo is current as of posting the thread.)
 
Last edited:

roelex14

Mame
Messages
140
Reaction score
1
Location
Milan, Illinois
USDA Zone
5
Its incredible trees can take abuse like this and come back like nothing ever happened. Looks like it has nicely recovered. Looking forward to see what the future has in store for this guy :)
 

rockm

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
9,682
Reaction score
12,356
Location
Fairfax Va.
USDA Zone
7
Nice Vic. Thanks for posting.

I had to do something similar with a Zelkova that had a really ugly 3 inch diameter Zig-Zag upper trunk. I chopped it in half and have been working it into a broom for the last few years. I also brutalized the roots:D

Zelkova, like most elms, are extremely tough trees and can take a lot of abuse.
 

grouper52

Masterpiece
Messages
2,371
Reaction score
3,584
Location
Port Orchard, WA
USDA Zone
8
Vic, Eric - great tree and great progression photos!

You can almost hear the tree whispering, "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen."

And speaking of the Joyful Mysteries, the tree has been resurrected to blessed perfection!

Roelex14, don't worry about "abusing" trees. Some of them can do quite well - often even better! - for all our "abuse." That's because it's not really abuse. I recall a day years ago when I got over my fear about the mysterious and seemingly delicate roots of trees. We know they're vital, and yet we don't get much of a feel for them because they are hidden most of the time.

The story goes that I had just taken a large-toothed lumber saw to expediently cut away about 2/3 of the root ball of some massive nursery tree - I forget what type, but one known to be a fairly hardy and forgiving variety. Then I savagely used a root hook (my favorite tool at the time!) to untangle what was left, then a high pressure hose nozzle to wash away all the soil, then some old shears and root cutters to trim it all to a reasonable size. Then I freaked out: in my enthusiasm to get the job done I had forgotten to decide on a pot for it, and certainly had not prepared any soil or anything.

So I picked the tree up in my left hand and went around the yard picking through nursery pots to find one the right size. It took a little while to find just the right one, and during that time it dawned on me how strange it was to be carrying around a living tree like that, bare, hacked off roots and all, like it was some hunk of wood. Well, that's what it was, I realized. A living hunk of wood you could carry around for a while like that with it's roots right there to look at. I looked at them. I studied them a while. I developed a feel for them and a bit of an understanding. It was an important moment for me. With this variety of tree there was no hurry and no harm with the tree like that for a while. I took my time. I carried the tree around a while longer as we went together gathering and sifting some soil components, filling the pot part way, etc. Then, after about 15 minutes I put the roots in the pot and covered them. The tree wasn't even set back a bit as spring came on.

It's important in bonsai to get a feel for what really abuses a tree and what doesn't; for what parts are vital and alive and growing, and what parts are merely structural; for what can be done to what sorts of trees and how often and at what season where you live. Once you know this, you are liberated and empowered to grow and style trees much more freely, and at the same time much more successfully. Horticulture always trumps artistry in this endeavor. Vic and Eric's tree was not really in need of Holy Mary's prayer - it was never anywhere near it's hour of death. :)
 

roelex14

Mame
Messages
140
Reaction score
1
Location
Milan, Illinois
USDA Zone
5
Yeah, i guess "abuse" wasn't really the word i was looking for. Maybe 'severe reduction' was more of what i was looking for....
 

Ang3lfir3

Omono
Messages
1,287
Reaction score
17
Location
Bremerton, WA
USDA Zone
8b
@Will the Hail Mary part....comes from when I put it into the pond basket from which it was replanted in the above photos.... when I put it in there.. I had left almost no decent roots and my story went much like yours... so maybe it never was.... but it certainly recovered wonderfully :)
 

Bill S

Masterpiece
Messages
2,494
Reaction score
19
Location
Western Massachusetts
USDA Zone
5a
Great job with the reduction, and I'll give testimony on those bits, they are DA BOMB talk about smooth cutting.
 
Messages
1,706
Reaction score
111
Location
Bremerton, WA
USDA Zone
8b
Have you gotten a Shogun Master yet??? *shiver* awwwwwesome does not come close to how cool it is for deep work.

V
 
Top Bottom