Chinese Elm, Indoors or outdoors in South of England.

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Chinese Elm, Indoors or outdoors in South of England.

Post  Old Geezer on Mon Nov 11, 2013 11:57 am

Hi I have just registered with this site and though I have had bonsais for a number of years I consider myself very much a beginner.

I currently have 2 Chinese Elms who stand about 30cm high and are between 5 and 10 years old at least. Up to this year they have always been brought into the house for the winter, normally in October. I wish to take my cultivation of these more seriously and have started to seek advice and read the information available online and in books. In reading this I see that Chinese Elm can be either brought in for the winter where they will act as an evergreen or allowed to remain outside with wind protection but being exposed to mild frost (-5C) and only put into a shed/ garage etc. if extended periods of heavy frost are experienced.

My question is twofold:

1. Is this correct?
2. Bearing in mind that both have always been brought inside in the past (at least for the last 5 years in the case of the one I have had the longest) should I risk both trees this year or bring one in and leave the other outside? Monitoring it frequently of course.

Both trees I have been advised need a good pruning and one is in the position of being good for training. Up to now it has largely run wild with very amateur trimming and thinning. The older has had the beginnings of training including wiring but again in a very amateur way.

Both trees where repotted this year into Akadama during summer (I know this was not the ideal time but they were both suffering from congestion in their pots with the wrong soil. They both have settled in well and are looking much stronger and healthier with less leaf drop and yellowing so don't seem to have suffered from the repotting)

I look forward to advice.

Old Geezer Smile Wink

P.S. I am located in the extreme south east corner of Kent, England. Here we have a bit of a micro climate sheltered from the north by the North Downs so don't get the snow from the north and influenced by the sea in the English Channel that moderates the temperature a little. The area is also generally drier than other areas of Kent.


Last edited by Old Geezer on Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:03 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Missed something out)

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Re: Chinese Elm, Indoors or outdoors in South of England.

Post  fiona on Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:35 pm

To the Old Geezer from the sheltered south Downs from the getting Older Git from the frozen north.

I keep my Chinese Elms in a cold but bubblewrap-insulated greenhouse over the winter (brought it in yesterday to be precise) as long as it is not the truly awful type of winter we had two years ago. Our overnight temperatures can dip to 0C to -5C but the cold greenhouse seems to be fine. Two years ago in that really prolonged very cold spell, I brought them into the house just as a precaution but that was as I say in an exceptional circumstance.

Hope that helps.

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Re: Chinese Elm, Indoors or outdoors in South of England.

Post  JimLewis on Mon Nov 11, 2013 12:55 pm

I'm a gazillion miles away from you, but my two elms (one 18 inches tall, one 3 inches) both stay out on my benches 365 days a year and we routinely get down to -5 C. or less.

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Re: Chinese Elm, Indoors or outdoors in South of England.

Post  Old Geezer on Mon Nov 11, 2013 2:09 pm

fiona wrote:To the Old Geezer from the sheltered south Downs from the getting Older Git from the frozen north.

I keep my Chinese Elms in a cold but bubblewrap-insulated greenhouse over the winter (brought it in yesterday to be precise) as long as it is not the truly awful type of winter we had two years ago.  Our overnight temperatures can dip to 0C to -5C but the cold greenhouse seems to be fine.  Two years ago in that really prolonged very cold spell, I brought them into the house just as a precaution but that was as I say in an exceptional circumstance.

Hope that helps.
Thanks Fiona, this gives me a bit more confidence. I am still a little inclined to bring one in as I have done in the past to hedge my bets. As you keep yours in a greenhouse does this mean you check for watering daily or if not how often. I have the option of leaving mine in the 'shed' (a total enclose but unheated covered passageway between my garage and the next door properties, lock-up garages). Here the roof is clear plastic and light only comes from above so they would only get indirect sunlight though it is south facing. The only worry I have is that I may forget to check and they could dry out, senility Laughing 
I was hoping I could leave them on a stone rack I have, raised from the ground open from above to allow natural rain but protected from strong winds with fleece screening.

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Re: Chinese Elm, Indoors or outdoors in South of England.

Post  Old Geezer on Mon Nov 11, 2013 2:16 pm

JimLewis wrote:I'm a gazillion miles away from you, but my two elms (one 18 inches tall, one 3 inches) both stay out on my benches 365 days a year and we routinely get down to -5 C. or less.
Thanks Jim, did you keep yours outside from the day you got them? I am not sure whether mine could suffer if their regime is changed. Since I got them, about 15 and 8 years ago, they have always been brought in over winter and have behaved almost as evergreens or semi-evergreens never totally losing their leaves.

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Re: Chinese Elm, Indoors or outdoors in South of England.

Post  JimLewis on Mon Nov 11, 2013 7:22 pm

They've never been inside. The small one was a cutting from the other one.

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Re: Chinese Elm, Indoors or outdoors in South of England.

Post  Old Geezer on Mon Nov 11, 2013 7:49 pm

Thanks Jim, I'll be coming back to you as one of my next ambitions is to start a bonsai of my own from a cutting. I am hoping to use the early growth/ pruning from next spring. Is this correct or do I need to do something before they go into rest state or while they are in their rest state over the winter to prepare for getting the correct cuttings?


Last edited by Old Geezer on Mon Nov 11, 2013 7:58 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Missed a bit .)

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Re: Chinese Elm, Indoors or outdoors in South of England.

Post  JimLewis on Tue Nov 12, 2013 2:46 pm

Spring is ideal. I'll be very surprised if every twig you stick into the dirt doesn't turn into a tree.

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Re: Chinese Elm, Indoors or outdoors in South of England.

Post  marcus watts on Tue Nov 12, 2013 6:20 pm

Hi and welcome to IBC,

Outdoors every time. I'm in North Cornwall and my biggest elm has been sat outside on the benches for 24 years now - never bought in, never put in a green house or poly tunnel. It never drops every single leaf even when covered in snow but it does drop quite a lot. Last January the tree was chosen to be part of the Swindon winter image show and a week before I had to pick off the last leaves with tweezers so it had a true winter image. The tree was sat on the draining board for a night then spent 24hrs in the boot of the car - at the show new buds were starting to swell!

Trees kept in, or bought in seem to have less dense foliage and branching can appear a bit leggy or empty at times, while outside trees seem to be 'tighter'. Now we have the tree sales side to the business there are 40-50 elms here most of the time and they all stay out - if indoors was better I'd keep them in i guess Smile 

try one of each for one winter so you learn what happens in your exact location - after a full growing season cycle you can report back with the findings, that would be interesting

cheers Marcus

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Re: Chinese Elm, Indoors or outdoors in South of England.

Post  Justin_ on Wed Nov 13, 2013 11:39 am

I'm in NW London and they are fine outside all winter. You might want snow protection if it's likely to be heavy but that's only to prevent the possibility of a fragile branch breaking. Something worth noting is that they can suddenly lose all their old leaves if moved to a new location in early spring.

Can someone confirm, they are deciduous trees that happen to hold onto their leaves through the winter. They aren't classed as evergreen or semi-evergreen?

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Re: Chinese Elm, Indoors or outdoors in South of England.

Post  JimLewis on Wed Nov 13, 2013 12:25 pm

Yes. Elms are deciduous. Elms GROWN in southern climes sometimes keep some or many green leaves overwinter, but by mid to late spring they will have replaced them all.

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Re: Chinese Elm, Indoors or outdoors in South of England.

Post  Old Geezer on Fri Nov 15, 2013 6:46 pm

marcus watts wrote:Hi and welcome to IBC,

Trees kept in, or bought in seem to have less dense foliage and branching can appear a bit leggy or empty at times, while outside trees seem to be 'tighter'. Now we have the tree sales side to the business there are 40-50 elms here most of the time and they all stay out - if indoors was better I'd keep them in i guess Smile 

try one of each for one winter so you learn what happens in your exact location - after a full growing season cycle you can report back with the findings, that would be interesting

cheers Marcus
Both my trees have been brought inside since I got them. For the first 5 or more years they were kept in the entrance porch where temperatures normally never dropped below 5degC with no ill effects. Then we had a bad winter and temperatures in the porch dropped killing some of my other bonsai so I moved the survivors into our bathroom. This has an easterly facing window, double glazed so not subject to draught or chills. Unfortuneately they were subject to severe 'hair lacquer abuse'when my mother-in-law came to live with us for a few months. This resulted in severe leaf drop and the death of some more immature Chinese Elms I had been given a few years earlier.
With this history I am familiar with how they behave indoors here. Normally as you have described (if not subject to hair spray abuse Smile )
I think after all the comments I have received I will be leaving both outside, using some form of sheltering if severe wind or snow is forecast, with the final option of moving them tempoarily into the shed if longer periods of extreme cold occur. Fingers crossed Smile

Thanks Norman (Old Geezer)

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Re: Chinese Elm, Indoors or outdoors in South of England.

Post  Old Geezer on Fri Nov 15, 2013 6:49 pm

marcus watts wrote:Hi and welcome to IBC,

Trees kept in, or bought in seem to have less dense foliage and branching can appear a bit leggy or empty at times, while outside trees seem to be 'tighter'. Now we have the tree sales side to the business there are 40-50 elms here most of the time and they all stay out - if indoors was better I'd keep them in i guess Smile 

try one of each for one winter so you learn what happens in your exact location - after a full growing season cycle you can report back with the findings, that would be interesting

cheers Marcus
Both my trees have been brought inside since I got them. For the first 5 or more years they were kept in the entrance porch where temperatures normally never dropped below 5degC with no ill effects. Then we had a bad winter and temperatures in the porch dropped killing some of my other bonsai so I moved the survivors into our bathroom. This has an easterly facing window, double glazed so not subject to draught or chills. Unfortuneately they were subject to severe 'hair lacquer abuse'when my mother-in-law came to live with us for a few months. This resulted in severe leaf drop and the death of some more immature Chinese Elms I had been given a few years earlier.
With this history I am familiar with how they behave indoors here. Normally as you have described (if not subject to hair spray abuse Smile )
I think after all the comments I have received I will be leaving both outside, using some form of sheltering if severe wind or snow is forecast, with the final option of moving them tempoarily into the shed if longer periods of extreme cold occur. Fingers crossed Smile

Thanks Norman (Old Geezer)

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Re: Chinese Elm, Indoors or outdoors in South of England.

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Fri Nov 15, 2013 9:56 pm

Justin,

down here they stop growing around Christmas, but hold the leaves, after repotting and resting for month, then a month of weak fertiliser, I prune for shaping.
Thus far no problems [ Catlin down here since 81, Chinese elms 84 and 94 and many sprouted roots ]
These were bought from Texas, London and Florence.
Absolutely no complaints.

Hello Norman [ Pops Smile ] here's to a trouble free winter to late spring.
Later.
Khaimraj

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Re: Chinese Elm, Indoors or outdoors in South of England.

Post  Richard S on Sat Nov 16, 2013 9:46 pm

Given the wealth of experience that other contributors to this thread clearly have I'm almost reluctant to add my comments. However, as I have faced and indeed still face exactly the dilemma described by "Old Geezer" I thought I'd share my limited experience.

I started bonsai about three years ago when I bought a Chinese Elm from the local garden centre. This was sold as an "indoor" tree so I kept it indoors (in the kitchen). It did fine but as I got more into the hobby and bought more trees (inc several more Chinese Elms) I came to realise that they would be much happier outdoors.

The trees were placed outside in late spring and they thrived. Come Autumn however I was not quite sure what to do with them so I started looking for advice (on this forum and elsewhere). Having read pretty much the same as has been repeated in this thread I decided to leave my three Chinese Elms outside only moving them into a plastic green house when the night time temp threatened to go significantly below 0'c.

The trees went dormant as you would expect and lost some leaves although not all. Once winter really arrived they stayed in the plastic green house. Eventually losing almost all their leaves by the end of winter.

Come the spring two of the trees burst into life with real vigour but the third was stone dead!

Now I can't be absolutely sure that it was the cold that killed it but it had seemed very healthy going into Autumn and it was literally next to the two that survived and treated exactly the same so what does that say?

Maybe the tree wasn't as healthy as it looked, maybe it was a slightly different variety or maybe they are just very variable regarding hardiness. I don't know but it made me very wary of leaving them out again.

Mind you, the following year (last year) I moved them into an unheated conservatory next to the house as soon as the first frosts came and that didn't prove ideal either. We had a very mild December with day time temps around 8'c or 9'c and they came out of dormancy and began to grow aggressively. We then had a seriously cold spring preventing me moving them outside again until early May by which time they were very congested and suffering badly from mildew!

Fortunately once treated and placed outside they recovered well and are fine now but this year they're staying in the plastic green house unless temperatures get really low. I guess I'll just have to wait and see how they fair.

I don't know whether any of this helps Norman but your certainly not the only one facing this dilemma.

By the way, I should add that I live in Cambridgeshire so a bit further north than you but not much in the grand scheme of things.

Regards

Richard

PS One solution is to grow Siberian Elm instead! I have several of these now and they seem oblivious to our erratic British winters

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Re: Chinese Elm, Indoors or outdoors in South of England.

Post  Old Geezer on Sat Nov 16, 2013 9:54 pm

Thank you Richard. Glad to know I am not alone in my situation and I appreciate reading of your experiences. Like you I will be leaving them out this year and keeping a weather eye out and fingers crossed.

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Re: Chinese Elm, Indoors or outdoors in South of England.

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