Sunday, 10 June 2018

A New Front for my "Big" Elm

Ever since I bought my "big" elm in December 2017, I've been pondering the way forward.

December 2017 - as purchased

From the moment I laid eyes on my tree I was aware that it had many flaws which I would have to deal with but at a cost of $30, I was up for the challenge. However, before cutting anything, I was determined to see what suggestions I could get from other members of the bonsai community rather than rushing into a decision I would come to regret.

That's probably just as well because nobody approved of the idea I proposed in my earlier post:

Virtual pruning - December 2017

I received an interesting suggestion from someone whose opinion I asked on Facebook. He didn't like the lower trunk and felt I should air layer the top to create a smaller tree. This was his vision:

Virtual styling by Andrew Legg

No doubt I could have created a nice little tree that way, but I'd bought the tree for its size so, after giving it a lot of thought, I decided against the air layer. But my uncertainty over what to do with the tree remained.

The breakthrough came yesterday, when I took it to my club's meeting for the second time. The plan was for one of the members to do a little carving to get rid of the ugly bulge at the base of the first branch, while retaining the original front and all existing branches.

That was before another member started looking at the tree from all angles. He suggested a better front, one which I hadn't contemplated before because of this ugly root crossing the trunk:

I'd actually considered removing that root when I bought the tree, but had been advised against it. Now I was persuaded that it had to go. Luckily the hollow left behind was a lot shallower than I'd feared it would be.

Here is the tree showing its new front after the root was removed.

New front - June 2018

With the change of front, the problem branch is now pointing too far backward to be moved by wiring. Instead one of the men at my club will help me to graft a new branch in a more suitable position, approximately where we put the piece of loose wire for this photo:

June 2018 - wire shows where new branch will be grafted

The plan for the next few months is pretty simple:

  1. Move the tree to a larger pot at the end of August (late winter). The slant will be adjusted slightly as per the tilt in the photo above and the soil level will be raised to help improve the nebari.
  2. Carve away a little dead wood to tidy up some of the old scars, most of which are now facing the back of the tree.
  3. Wait for one of the branches to grow long enough to be used for grafting.
The problem branch will remain in place until the graft has taken.

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