Elm Raft Bonsai Progression Series

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Looking at the original images of this Field Elm (Ulmus minor), taken just after I bought it in the Summer of 2005, it is hard to understand what potential I saw to inspire me purchase it in the first place!

The mistake I made with this tree was that the soil level was originally higher when I found it at a bonsai nursery. The soil covered the base and the nebari (surface roots) and the tree looked as though it had great potential as a raft-planting. (Where the branches of a fallen trunk continue to grow and become trunks/trees in their own right).

As can be seen in the images below, when I bought the tree home and the surface soil was removed, the actual nebari were much lower than I had anticipated. I had made a pretty basic mistake........... always try to check the position and condition of the nebari before buying a tree!

Together with the awkward positioning of an even number (6) of trunks, this wasn't the best purchase I have made!

Field Elm (Ulmus minor)

elm bonsai

August 2005: Designing and styling this tree started with establishing its basic structure, the trunks and their positions relative to each other. As with group plantings, connected-root/raft/clump form bonsai always look better with an odd number of trunks. This raft had 6, so one had to go. After some thought I decided to remove one of the smallest trunks (the furthest to the left above).

Having established the primary trunk (on the far right) in my mind, I realised that the secondary trunk (middle trunk) was growing at a very awkward angle; backwards, away from the viewer.

trunk of the Elmtrunk of the Elm

So the secondary trunk leant backwards too far and grew at a poor angle compared to the other 4 trunks in the raft. However, the trunk was too thick to manipulate into a more upright position by wire alone. This meant it was necessary to notch the trunk with a saw so it would be easier to reposition.

v'-shaped notch

A sharp, large toothed saw was used to make a 'v'-shaped notch so that when the trunk was pulled upright, both edges of the notch would meet and eventually heal together. The notch has to be deep to enable the wood to be bent; often it is necessary to cut over 2/3 of the way through the wood before movement is possible.

guy wire

The trunk was pulled upright and held into position with a guy wire. By late Spring of 2006 (8 months later) the wound had healed well enough for me to remove the guy wire. The trunk stays in its new position to the present day.

elm bonsai roots

February 2006: Early Spring and it was time to bare-root the tree to remove all of the old organic soil. The tree was badly rootbound and it took the best part of an afternoon to carefully untangle the rootball and remove the old peat and ground soil that was found within it. Removing the old compacted organic soil, rootpruning and repotting with a fresh inorganic soil ensures that the rootball will be healthy and reinvigorates the tree for faster development and healthy growth.

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