Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

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Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  Tom on Thu Aug 27, 2009 10:06 pm

I've got a Chinese Elm I've been working on for a few years. I bought it from Ken at Windybanks in about 2005. If I remember correctly, I believe he grew it from a cutting. This is what it looked like originally.



The top has been chopped and grown out several times. The trunk was hollowed over a couple of years (lime sulphur has just been re-done so it looks a bit bright). The trunk is starting to look the way I want with the lines filling out and the new bark corking nicely. I'm expecting the transition from the old trunk to the new growth to become smoother as the bark ages and swells in that area. I may eventually extend the hollow further up the tree, joining up with the smaller hollow in the new section. I'm now starting to focus more on the branches and ramification.

This is how the tree looks today - still very much a work in progress, but you can see the direction I want to take it. The basic plan is for the hollow to be the focal point. The lower branches will define a negative space between the foliage, trunk and soil level - the branchlet halfway along the lower left branch is the line I expect the bottom of the foliage to eventually take. The top of the tree will obviously become much wider, almost broom-like, and perhaps a little lower.



When I bought it, Ken told me that I should probably get rid of the first branch on the right, as he thought it was a distraction. I was not sure at the time. However, I am now reconsidering that. After several attempts at reshaping and regrowing that branch, I'm not happy with it - it just doesn't seem to quite 'work'. So I'm now considering chopping it off, and using the smaller branch above it as the bottom right branch instead. This actually points away at a 45 degree angle, but could be brought forward to occupy the 'right' space. If I did this, I'd expect it to follow the same kind of line as the current branch, but obviously a little bit higher up.



I'm a bit nervous about making the chop, as I'm not sure how it will affect the overall 'flow' of the tree in terms of the relationship between the trunk and branches. The current branch also has a few years work invested in it (thicken, cut, thicken, cut etc...).

Any advice? Persevere with the current first branch, or chop it off and start again with the higher one?

Thanks in advance for any thoughts.

Tom

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Re: Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  JimLewis on Thu Aug 27, 2009 11:19 pm

I like that branch. I like the tree, too. Smile

What I DON'T like is the lime sulfur on the deadwood. Deciduous trees just don't bleach like that. I usually use one of the MinWax Wood Finish Stain Markers -- usually Early American color -- to darken the wood.

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Re: Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  John Quinn on Thu Aug 27, 2009 11:22 pm

I think you will eventually tire of the hollow as focal point. Could the back side have potential?
The roundness of the shari is also distracting to me...perhaps extending it has potential. There's an abrupt change in trunk diameter which is jarring...I'm not sure which option helps to alleviate that better, but here is a visual representation of your two options as you have described. There appears to be a small back branch just above the step off that could be brought towards the right to eventually fill in.


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Re: Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  NeilDellinger on Fri Aug 28, 2009 3:14 am

Nice base.
My thoughts were the same as John's regarding the front/back more or less. What's the back look like? From either vantage point there maybe too much taper. I think you cut the leader back too soon and began building the crown too early. I am not a fan of the shari/uro, but if you did keep the present front, a rounded broader crown (not a triangle) would work well. To do that you will need to thicken the leader quite a bit more & extend the shari as John suggests then put some movement into the branches.

If you maintain the current shape/design I think you'll need a back branch on the left.

Good luck with your tree! Keep us posted.

Neil

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Re: Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  Tom on Wed Sep 02, 2009 10:19 pm

Thanks to all for the comments and suggestions, all taken on board.

John, thanks especially for your images - you’ve really helped me decide how to proceed (use the current branch, your right hand image).


Just to address some of the points:


Jim - I agree about the colour of the lime sulphur - the hollow will be darker eventually. At the moment I’m only concerned with preservation, not presentation.

John & Neil: both of you comment on the abrupt change in diameter. I agree, as far as the current appearance goes. I am expecting that to change over the next couple of years though - this tree develops very thick corky bark, and as that section matures I think it will thicken and the transition will become smoother. The bark is quite different from the ‘normal’ Chinese Elms I have (as are the leaves to some extent). Time will tell.

As far as the rear of the tree goes, I think that also has potential as a front - although the roots look better from the current front. Sorry for the poor quality of the pic below, snapped with my phone in a hurry and I won’t be able to do a proper picture for a while. I think I will stick with the current front for now, but the back is always there as an option for the future.

Thanks again,
Tom

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Re: Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  Kev Bailey on Wed Sep 02, 2009 10:32 pm

One problem I foresee is that they only develop the corky bark when growing out vigorously. To get yours to bark up, the best option would be to allow sacrifice branches to grow completely untrimmed from a few points for a year or two. This has to be carefully thought out so that it only thickens the parts you want.

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Re: Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  Tom on Wed Sep 02, 2009 10:48 pm

Thanks, I'll probably do that. It regularly develops adventitious buds all over the place, so there should be plenty of options.

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Re: Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  Rob Kempinski on Thu Sep 03, 2009 12:04 am

I made a virtual design to show what I would try to do with your tree. A pine tree look is not going to work.


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Re: Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  Tom on Thu Sep 03, 2009 12:31 am

Rob, thanks very much for that. The overall shape of the branching/canopy is very much what I had in mind.

One question: is there a specific reason you have the lower branches rising upwards? To me that says 'young tree', which is somewhat at odds with the appearance of the trunk.

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Re: Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  Rob Kempinski on Thu Sep 03, 2009 3:45 am

Tom wrote:Rob, thanks very much for that. The overall shape of the branching/canopy is very much what I had in mind.

One question: is there a specific reason you have the lower branches rising upwards? To me that says 'young tree', which is somewhat at odds with the appearance of the trunk.


The reason is not all branches on an old tree sag. Other clues will convey age - the frequency of direction change, the ramification, the shape and contour of the trunk, and the bark character. The trunk on your tree defies the cookie cutter mold so don't follow all the rules exactly - figuring out which rules to break is where the artistry and artistic accomplishment will arise. Good luck with it. I think it has potential as long as you don't treat it like a pine tree.

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Re: Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  BobbyLane on Thu Jun 12, 2014 12:39 am

Tom, What happened to this tree?

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Re: Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  Tom on Thu Jun 12, 2014 9:33 am

Not a lot of progress to report: development has been slow, I've had to regrow some branches due to either losing them or becoming displeased with them and cutting off. The transition from lower to upper trunk is improved, but there's not much else to show - a couple more years (at least) required. I'm now trying to follow Rob's virtual as closely as possible - I did try flipping the tree round and using the back as the front for a year or so, but wasn't happy with it.


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Re: Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  BobbyLane on Thu Jun 12, 2014 10:08 am

Tom wrote: Not a lot of progress to report: development has been slow, I've had to regrow some branches due to either losing them or becoming displeased with them and cutting off. The transition from lower to upper trunk is improved, but there's not much else to show - a couple more years (at least) required. I'm now trying to follow Rob's virtual as closely as possible - I did try flipping the tree round and using the back as the front for a year or so, but wasn't happy with it.


Ah ok, Yes that virt is fantastic, thats where I would go with it too for sure. I think sometimes these short and stocky or even sumo looking trunks, actually look more imposing if the branches are going slightly up like in the virt and also if you see my avatar how imposing that Oak looks, almost as if its engulfing the viewer IMO.
Sorry but how tall is this tree?

Cheers mate

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Re: Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  Tom on Thu Jun 12, 2014 10:13 am

About a foot from bench to top.

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Re: Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  BobbyLane on Thu Jun 12, 2014 10:17 am

Ah ok good luck with it mate, Keep us updated Cool 

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Re: Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  JudyB on Fri Jun 13, 2014 3:05 pm

I have a similar tree to yours, mine even has the same sort of "hollow" but it is in the back of the tree.  Here is a photo of mine, if you want to see a possible direction for yours. I'm still working on this tree, and am still trying to fatten the top portion. This winter, I'll cut back most of the branching as I"m unhappy with some of the straight parts. But I'm planning on leaving a few to grow for a year or more to get that top where I want it.
Good luck with yours, it's nice.


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Re: Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  Tom on Fri Jun 13, 2014 3:33 pm

Thanks Judy - really like your tree, thanks for showing it. I'll keep that picture on file as it does have a lot in common with the planned direction.


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Re: Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  BobbyLane on Fri Jun 13, 2014 3:53 pm

Judy, Ive seen your tree on Bonsainut and seen its progression;)  Its a lovely tree, I love Elms and thanks for sharing Smile 

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Re: Cork bark Chinese Elm in progress: Design thoughts?

Post  JudyB on Fri Jun 13, 2014 9:32 pm

Thanks Tom and Bobby, thought I'd look up a leafless one for you, so you can see structure better.

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