Spring Cleaning on an Elm

Posted by on May 16, 2016 | 2 Comments
Spring Cleaning on an Elm

With good spring growth going on this elm things were starting to look a bit overgrown. The tree was looking nice over the winter but the spring growth revealed that some of the smaller interior twigs had died off. I tend to think of elms as cyclical trees, you can get them looking good with lots of fine twigs, but then they will sometimes have dieback in the finer branching. Cutting back the tree and thinning it a bit more should cause some back budding and new branches on the interior.

The tree produced a lot of medium strength shoots this spring.   They were allowed to run and have hardened off.

The tree produced a lot of medium strength shoots this spring. They were allowed to run and have hardened off.

The top right side of the crown before trimming.

The top right side of the crown before trimming.

The top right after trimming the shoots.

The top right after trimming the shoots.

After trimming all the shoots.

After trimming all the shoots.

A pile of clippings...if I wanted to propagate corkbark Chinese Elm this would be an opportunity to strike some cuttings.

A pile of clippings…if I wanted to propagate corkbark Chinese Elm this would be an opportunity to strike some cuttings.

After trimming the shoots, I was tempted to cut the tree back heavily but I decided to go slowly. Elms can bud nearly anywhere, but that doesn’t mean that they will. The number of smaller branches that were dead told me that I had left the tree too dense last summer. I concentrated on eliminating the stronger clumps of twigs, the entire process from the shot above to the one below took over half an hour, and at least in the photos there doesn’t seem to be much difference. So what is the difference? My feeling is that the additional cutback will allow more light to the interior and increase the appearance of buds along the older sections of the existing branches. At the same time, I haven’t lost any of the mature structure of the tree.

After cutback, thinning and removal of some of the heavier clumps of twigs.

After cutback, thinning and removal of some of the heavier clumps of twigs.

It’s interesting to note the difference in behavior of this elm from the one that I have actively been developing. The mature canopy of this tree sends out a relatively even crop of shoots and the twigs remain fine. The larger elm consistently will send out a few shoots that are far stronger than the rest of the shoots – perhaps this is the difference between a tree with a mature canopy and one still in development.

2 Comments

  1. theresa
    May 19, 2016

    I have a Chinese elm. However, the bark is black. how do I clean it. Also, did you have any info on pomegranates, can they be potted (bonsai pot) in zone 9 it is a pre-bonsai an in a green bub pot. thank you.

    • Eric Schrader
      May 20, 2016

      Hard to say why the bark is black. If it’s a moss, lichen, algae or similar you could try using vinegar to kill it. Gently wipe it on with a small paint brush avoiding the foliage and roots.

      Pomegranates can be repotted, but not until the dormant season.

      I’d suggest you post the pomegranate question to ask.bonsaitonight.com.