Posts tagged “Ulmus pumila

Siberian elm shohin

This small Ulmus pumila was displayed at this year’s Toronto Bonsai Society Fall Show and Sale.

Ulmus pumila

Ulmus pumila shohin. Yellow pot by Sugiura Keisen, accent pot by John Pitt.

The tree was developed from a naturally layered low branch from a much larger elm that was collected from a hedge, along with many others.

The shohin elm was a low back branch on this larger tree (circled in red).

The shohin elm was a low back branch on this larger tree (circled in red).

After separating the rooted branch.

After separating the rooted branch in April 2011.

Summer 2011.

Summer 2011.

Shohin Siberian Elm Sacrifice Branch

One nice thing about Ulmus pumila is that thickening branches doesn’t take very long, especially when the tree is small like this one. I let this sacrifice branch run wild since the summer, and it will be cut off this fall as I am hoping to show this tree. The branch is almost at the thickness I want it to be at, but I might let both the lower branches run a bit next year.

Let's go fly a kite.

Let’s go fly a kite.

Branch from above; sacrifice branch is coming out of the left side.

Branch from above; sacrifice branch is coming out of the left which is the back of the branch when viewed from the front.


Closer view of the branch (left side).

Closer view of the branch.



Siberian Elm Cut Back

Siberian Elm are very strong growers. Despite having 95% of its roots cut off, crammed in a small pot, and being roughly wired in March, this tree grew very well this spring.

The other day I cut back the upper branches. This process will probably be repeated two or three more times this year. The lower branches need to grow wild for most of the season to allow them to thicken.

March 24.

May 22 before cutting.

May 22 after cutting.

Spring Work on a Siberian Elm & Bonsai Aesthetics Aluminum Wire

This tree took a step forward over the last couple of weeks, but still has a long way to go. It is one of several Ulmus pumila I got from this old hedge in 2010.

Just out of winter storage

As a side note, this winter I ended up with about 10 kg of Robert Stevens’ Bonsai Aesthetics aluminum wire. This is the first tree I actually tried it out on. It is pretty good stuff… only slightly softer than Japanese anodized aluminum with a bit less holding power, but at a fraction of the price. As is typical with aluminum on deciduous trees, I found myself using wire about 1/2 the thickness of the branch to achieve the desired bending power. It is worth noting that this wire is pure glossy black, as opposed to the copper-ish colour of Japanese aluminum wire. It will be interesting to see how the colour stands up to the elements over this growing season.

Setting some secondary and tertiary branches with Bonsai Aesthetics aluminum wire.

Root work came next. This is the first time that this tree has had focused root work since coming out of the hedge. Almost all of these elms had massive taproots. This one needed some work with the reciprocating saw and a die grinder to further reduce the taproot. Furthermore, a few excessively long roots had to be pruned back. This may look extreme, but every root I have cut back on one of these Siberians has produced new roots near the cuts – even tap roots 15 cm in diameter.

Reducing a massive taproot with a reciprocating saw, then a die grinder fitted with a carving bit.

The root system of this tree is not ideal, and needs much further reduction, but this is where I left the work for this year.

This Nick Lenz pot was the right size for the rootball, but the tree is not planted at the right angle. I'm not concerned about that right now, since this tree is still very much in training.

This Elm has an excellent trunk for a classic informal upright design, but the nebari is terrible due to the presence of large taproots. On an informal upright elm, the nebari is one of the most important features. Root grafting may be in this tree’s future.

Siberian Elm (Ulmus pumila) Hedge. You’re Damned if You Do, Damned if You Don’t

This hedge belonged to a buddies neighbour in an old Toronto neighbourhood. It had been growing there somewhere between 50-70 years, and was sheared back pretty much every year.

Looks great, right? Unfortunately, it is the infamous Siberian Elm. They have a bad reputation for bonsai. The idea is that, being a pioneer species, they tend to die back once they reach bonsai maturity and you try to slow their growth down. We knew this going into the project, so common sense should have said “don’t waste the effort, step away from the hedge”. I received this warning from a more experienced bonsai friend who had suffered Siberian Elm Heartbreak in the past.

Well, being the fools that we are, we dug them up anyway. All of them.

Now I have plenty of great Siberian Elm trunks that grow incredibly fast and are lots of fun to work on. But I am trying to not get too attached. In the mean time, I have a few ideas that I am going to test to try and stabilize them for bonsai cultivation. But I am not getting my hopes up.

Bonus Tree

This big siberian elm was collected from a 50+ year old hedge in 2010. I found a little surprise when repotting it last spring.

An old low branch had rooted after being in contact with the soil.

Since the branch was too low to have any design merit, I cut it away.

Later in the season, it became clear that this freebie shohin has some nice potential. The pot is by Chuck Iker. Too small for the development of the tree, but its all I had handy when I separated it from momma.

It has nice bark, taper, and movement, alth0ugh it is far from perfect. There are absolutely no roots on the front of the tree (you can see this where it is lifting up above the soil level). I am certain that a large portion of the front of the tree is dead. It might take some time to figure out where. Nevertheless, it has good branch placement so even if the front becomes a hollow in the future, it should still make for an attractive little tree.

Next year I think I will reduce that lare jin to a hollow. It will probably go into a slightly larger pot to allow for some more rapid branch development.