My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

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My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  JamesEG on Sat Mar 30, 2013 9:59 am

I finally got my first bonsai Very Happy I've been doing a very small amount of pruning to try and thin it out and make it look better so that I can try and figure out what I want to do with it in the future.

However there is a couple of things I'm not so sure about, for example there is a branch that I want to try and develop into a foliage pad to improve the overall look and fill the large gap above it. I'm not really sure how I'm going to achieve this as the branch doesn't have many leaves at all, and overall it seems to just have loads of smaller branches that don't really add much to the look. I took the next two pictures to let you have a look and tell me what you would do.

Thanks, James



And a closer look at the offending branch...


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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  JimLewis on Sat Mar 30, 2013 12:14 pm

I'm not sure which branch you are talking about, but if it is one of the lower ones . . . I'd simply cut it off. Then you could let it develop. It should sprout branches up higher in the trunk.

That said, however, your tree has that long straight section above those sharp bends and those branches in the top are much too large for that high in the tree. That is always going to look awkward. If this were mine, I'd also cut it off just below that second right-hand branch, then grow a new top from scratch. Eventually, that first branch probably should go, too (It could even go now.). You could use all the left-over pieces for cuttings of various sizes.



I know that looks drastic, but your elm should sprout all up and down the trunk and with careful selection of which buds to keep you eventually should end up with a much nicer tree. Be very careful with watering when it is leafless.


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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  Oliver Muscio on Sat Mar 30, 2013 3:40 pm

Also, it looks as if the photo was taken indoors. If that is where you are keeping it, be aware that it will do much better ourside in full sun.
Oliver

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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  JamesEG on Sat Mar 30, 2013 6:37 pm

Thanks for the reply, that is very drastic! I'm not sure I could bring my self to cut that much off of the tree as you mentioned although I would like to if it makes the plant much better in the long run. I thought about repoting the tree to change which side is the front. If I do this would I still have to do the same thing?



If I don't want to do something that drastic to the tree have you got any other suggestions for now? I could always just try and build up to taking the top off. Also if I were to cut any branches off is there a thread with information on how to grow cuttings?

Thanks, James

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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  DreadyKGB on Sat Mar 30, 2013 6:46 pm

James,
It does look much better from that angle. I think what Jim suggests would be a good idea with more experience but not at the moment. This being your first tree take your time and enjoy it as it is for a while. Give it a gentle repotting to the new front when the temperatures stabilize above freezing in your area and put outdoors. As it starts to grow then you can start thinking about how you want to prune it. Just don't love it to death by doing too much at once. Look at lots of bonsai pictures and let your knowledge grow with the tree. If you have horticultural experience, taking cuttings isn't too difficult and you can find the methods by searching the forum.

Todd

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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  JimLewis on Sat Mar 30, 2013 6:51 pm

I thought about repoting the tree to change which side is the front. If I do this would I still have to do the same thing?

You don't HAVE to do anything, but the same problem would remain -- a long, straight section of trunk and a too-fat branch at the top.

Elms are TOUGH! Assuming a healthy tree (and your looks healthy) it shouldn't mind being chopped. Just don't overwater when there are few leaves up top!

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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  JamesEG on Sat Mar 30, 2013 7:15 pm

Okay thanks for the replies. I'll take Todd's advice and repot it at the new angle, then wait until later in the summer to do the pruning.

Thanks again, James

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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  JimLewis on Sat Mar 30, 2013 8:13 pm

Better wait to do that heavy pruning next spring.

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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  JamesEG on Sat Mar 30, 2013 11:24 pm

Okay will do, thanks

James

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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  Ryan on Sat Mar 30, 2013 11:51 pm

Hi James,


Are you growing the tree indoors or outdoors?

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Chinese Elm

Post  bonsaisr on Sun Mar 31, 2013 3:17 am

Join the nearest bonsai club. Don't do anything with the tree yet except get it outdoors. Get some books out of the library. My suggestion is the opposite. I would air-layer it at the third bend and use the straight section. Those sharp bends are actually not considered good taste.
Iris

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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  JamesEG on Sun Mar 31, 2013 11:25 am

Ryan, at the moment the tree is indoors but I will be putting it outdoors for as long as possible in the summer.

Thanks Iris, I'll try and join a bonsai club and I think I'll also wait until the summer until I do anything with the tree anyway, as I have my GCSE exams coming up soon which I have to prepare for.

James

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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  Ryan on Sun Mar 31, 2013 4:31 pm

JamesEG wrote:Ryan, at the moment the tree is indoors but I will be putting it outdoors for as long as possible in the summer.

Thanks Iris, I'll try and join a bonsai club and I think I'll also wait until the summer until I do anything with the tree anyway, as I have my GCSE exams coming up soon which I have to prepare for.

James

Be sure to keep it outside year round, not just for the summer. These are outdoor trees and thrive outside. It will probably need some winter protection though.

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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  Andrew Legg on Sun Mar 31, 2013 9:00 pm

bonsaisr wrote:Join the nearest bonsai club. Don't do anything with the tree yet except get it outdoors. Get some books out of the library. My suggestion is the opposite. I would air-layer it at the third bend and use the straight section. Those sharp bends are actually not considered good taste.
Iris

Not considered good taste to whom Iris? I think they are great, and if this were my tree I'd be sorely tempted to chop at the first branch and use that branch as a new leader to make a much smaller but more dramatic tree. Maximise the bends, and not get rid of them.

Cheerio,

Andrew

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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  bonsaisr on Wed Apr 03, 2013 2:36 am

Andrew Legg wrote:
Not considered good taste to whom Iris?
De gustibus non disputandum est. You have a perfect right to your opinion. If you ever see a tree with those bends at Koku Fu Ten or one of the major European shows or the US National, I would like to know about it.
Iris

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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  Andrew Legg on Wed Apr 03, 2013 10:00 am

bonsaisr wrote:
Andrew Legg wrote:
Not considered good taste to whom Iris?
De gustibus non disputandum est. You have a perfect right to your opinion. If you ever see a tree with those bends at Koku Fu Ten or one of the major European shows or the US National, I would like to know about it.
Iris

Et eo disconvenit suffricant. And therein lies the rub. Do as we say, not as you like. I am sorry to take issue with this Iris, but I have seen a significant number of trees that would not make any of the above mentioned shows, but are all perfectly lovely. Basing bonsai design advice on what fits current major show trends is not in my opinion the best recipe for exciting trees or for progress. There is a very intriguing trident maple done here by a local artist that has major trunk bends. It is often considered one of the better trees on show here. There should be more "Do what you think looks good" in bonsai, and not "Do what is accepted to be correct/normal". This is art after all - just my opinion. cheers

Cheerio,

Andrew

PS: Do a Google image search for "Root-over-rock style Trident maple displayed by Matt Ouwinga, Chicago, IL, USA at 2013 Kokufu Ten" - it's hardly straight!

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My First Bonsai

Post  bonsaisr on Wed Apr 03, 2013 3:04 pm

Matt Ouwinga's tree has nothing whatever to do with those zigzag mallsai.
I'm sure there are thousands of very nice bonsai that would not be accepted for a major show. That's why we have club & regional shows. There are tens of thousands of paintings all over the world that bring pleasure to their painters & viewers, but don't belong in the Metropolitan. I still think those zigzag mallsai are in poor taste. They don't look like a real tree and they are not a work of art. The only reason the growers keep selling them is because beginners buy them.
I am sorry if I offended our beginner here. It will be fine for a first tree and something to practice on.
Iris

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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  Andrew Legg on Wed Apr 03, 2013 3:42 pm

Ah, but Iris, there's nothing that stipulates that James must keep his tree in it's current shape (with a curvy base and then a long straight trunk). What if he air layers the top part, and uses the curving bottom part to make something interesting. If you you look at Matt's tree, its a curvy trunk planted RoR sideways with fantastic branching and ramification in a lovely overall composition (unless I misread the photo I see on the web). It's light-years from a mallsai, and there's no reason why in James' case, his tree can't end up far from a mallsai as well using that base and some imagination. How about airlayer above the first branch on the right in the first photo, use the top for something else, the first branch on the right becomes the new apex, you rotate the tree base by 45 to 75 degrees counter-clockwise and create a leaning or semi-cascade with that nice movement, and possibly use that other low branch as a bck branch to give depth? On the other hand, he could toss the base and use the top piece, ending up with a straight uninteresting trunk. He could potentially airlayer the top and make a broom style out of it as well, so that's another option, but at the end of the day, I think getting rid of the bottom bit of the tree is a waste of great material. Here's a rubbish virt of a possible design.



Cheerio,

Andrew

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My First Bonsai

Post  bonsaisr on Wed Apr 03, 2013 4:26 pm

I agree with you there. There are a lot of possibilities when he becomes more advanced. My suggestion would be to learn how to air layer, or have someone help him, style the top part, and put the bottom part in a grow pot (an over-large pot with coarse soil) until an idea suggests itself.
I hope we haven't lost him completely. Sleep
James, are you still there?

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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  Andrew Legg on Wed Apr 03, 2013 4:29 pm

bonsaisr wrote:I agree with you there. There are a lot of possibilities when he becomes more advanced. My suggestion would be to learn how to air layer, or have someone help him, style the top part, and put the bottom part in a grow pot (an over-large pot with coarse soil) until an idea suggests itself.
I hope we haven't lost him completely. Sleep
James, are you still there?

LOL. cheers

come in James . . . . . scratch

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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  fiona on Wed Apr 03, 2013 7:20 pm

Might be a good idea to bear in mind that James is only 16 and perhaps doesn't "get" these conversations we have on here. He is also swotting for his exams so maybe doesn't have much spare time.

James, your tree is perfectly fine for a beginner and you should use it to practise some skills on. We all have to start somewhere. While you're doing that, read read read and try to pop along to any bonsai shows you can find. Whereabouts in UK South East are you as there are some great clubs down that way?

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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

Post  Andrew Legg on Wed Apr 03, 2013 7:25 pm

Absolutely Fiona, but hey James, don't let supposedly advanced techniques intimidate you too much. One thing I regret is that I spent too long convincing myself I'm a beginner and not rolling up my sleeves and getting stuck in earlier! Fiona is 100% right - find a good club and get as much hands-on help as possible. Also ask loads of questions here! :-)

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Re: My first bonsai - Chinese Elm (need advice)

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