Chinese Elm Update and Styling

I decided to work on my Chinese Elm today. After looking at it during my update post last week, I had to get my hands dirty. It has been growing like a weed and put on a lot of leggy growth this year. It has been in training for some time, but I dont know a lot of the specifics on the tree’s background.

You can see my first post about it here:

Here it is today. The beer is for scale…kinda. It’s mighty hot here in Beaufort. You can see that it is very healthy and vigorous despite a repot at the beginning of the year. Since I didn’t do a real root trim and only removed a couple of the thick roots, it still had plenty of energy to blow up this year.


I decided to defoliate this tree for a couple of reasons. First, defoliating helps to induce new growth and create more ramification. Second, it’s hard to wire with the foliage on the branches. I could have waited to style it in the fall, but I wanted to take advantage of the tree’s current energy.


Ah! I'm nekkid!

Here’s a quick shot of the base.


There were several branches that had died back that I had to remove. I also removed a few of the longer thicker branches so they can even up as the tree matures. Another consideration is to match your styling to mature trees. Lower branches are thicker than upper branches in mature trees so you need to style your tree accordingly. To do this, trim your apical branches shorter and leave lower ones longer to thicken.


I stopped here to reevaluate and could easily tell that I needed to remove more.  You can see that my uppermost left branch is almost as thick as the lower left branch. The proportion would be way off in another 5 years. I will end up taking quite a bit off but I feel it is necessary when considering bonsai is a long term plan.


This was my final product after more trimming and wiring some of the final branches I want to keep. You can see the bulk of my tree will be on the left side of the trunk. I brought one of my upper right branches down to try to even out the tree and get some branching on the right to even it up. The wiring isn’t perfect, but I’m still learning and practicing. I’ll feed heavily and give another update towards the end of the year when the new growth hardens off.

Stay tuned!


2 thoughts on “Chinese Elm Update and Styling

  1. Wow – SO glad I discovered your blog through your reply to my own CE question on BonsaiNut (I’m TKR99 there) 🙂
    This has fascinated me.utterly – I’d no idea you could strip a tree back that far & it recover the way yours has! I’ve always assumed trees need foliage to survive & grow hence my reticence in pruning my own (now obviously overgrown & leggy) specimen but now thinking maybe it would indeed do it the world of good. It was pruned by a professional 5 yrs ago, which at the time horrified me as he left me with sticks & a few leaves which I was sure would be the end of it, yet, looking at pics I can see how it did indeed recover & gain a ton of growth esp 2 yrs later.
    Obviously a TON yet for me to learn & figure out, but am going to keep checking in on your work as well, as you show so much more than most on the processes involved etc.
    Thanks again.

    1. Elms can tolerate their fair share of abuse but there’s always a limit. A healthy tree can respond to a chop or defoliation very well. Just always make you let them recover before trying something else drastic.

      Thanks for the kind words! I am relatively new myself but wanted to start this blog to take a more informal look at bonsai and show work from a novice’s point of view. I am glad I could help!

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