Diamond from the rough.

Posted: March 7, 2013 in My Trees
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When looking for material for my bonsai collection, I’m always on the look out for a bargain. I’m not saying all I like to buy is cheap rubbish, far from it. I think we should always aim for the best material we can afford to aim for the highest quality collection we can have.
Sometimes though, if you look very carefully through some of the mass-produced tree’s you can spot a potential gem. When I say mass-produced I mean the trees which have been bought in as a job lot. They are all bought in at the same price each and no real attention is given to see which are better or not. Most the time these trees are pretty bog standard and there is little chance of them ever making a possible show tree out of them, without spending time in the ground and a long time developing them after.
However, last October at WindyBank Bonsai I believe I managed to find one such tree among the general riff-raff.

2013-03-04 19.51.20

It’s shohin sized cork bark chinese elm. Yes, I did say chinese elm (Ulmus Parvifolia). They are really looked down on but, in my opinion they are a wonderful tree and deserve more time & respect they are given. They have perfect attributes for bonsai, as good as any deciduous tree if not better than many. They have superb ramification (second to none), lovely mature bark on corked & normal, excellent leaf size and they develop fast.
One thing I have learnt (the hard way) is that whether they are corked or not they need some protection. especially if they start to grow and we get some particularly cold weather. They will start to swell at the meer smell of spring.

This tree is different and has a lot of potential in my eye’s, for several reasons.
The first was the taper, for one of these mass-produced tree’s the taper is good. So often you see mass-produced shohin cork bark chinese elm with a thick straight trunk with inverse taper and a hedgehog of foliage on top. There is no way of curing this, unless you air layer and go for an octopus style tree or maybe start taking chunks out of it. Either way its going to be long-term.
The second was the movement. It had potentially two good options for trunk lines both with good movement and taper.
The third was minor but, certainly a bonus. Where the main branch should start on the tree there was a nice thick enough branch to start one from. Which certainly would save me some time in developing the tree.

You can see on the left in the picture that I have already started to bring the main branch down. I did this a couple of months ago as I knew that this would be needed to be done, which ever trunk line I decided to go for. I decided to go for the trunk line on the right, you see in the picture and with this front. The other had reasonable movement but, it seemed a little contorted with a little bit too sharp an angles. Also near top the trunk line ran out of taper and would need to been grown more, takeing more time.
The picture was just before I did major work on Monday. The tree has been well protected and was starting to leave out. I needed to cut back hard but, where there were any branches I wanted to keep, I left opening leaves or at least swelling buds. Here is the result.

2013-03-07 18.07.01

I think it turned out well, the tree has good taper and reasonable branch structure. I changed the angle tilting it to left to improve the trunk line.
There are several scares which are hidden out of view which is a bonus but, they should heal quite quick.
There are certainly some branches that will need to cut back or go and few to be grown but, most are in good positions.
I’ve not checked the root spread yet but, my fingers are crossed there are ok. I do find that cork bark chinese elm do have a tendency to make good Nebari and I hope this one’s decent enough. In a lot of books they always say you should go for trees with good nebari’s. Which is true but, they can be worked on and developed with the right techniques.
In a few years if it grows well it should look fairly reasonable and in a few more probably ready for an exhibition. I certainly think it wouldn’t look out-of-place in a shohin composition, if it’s finished to a high enough standard.
Not bad for sixty odd quid.


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