Bonsai For Beginners
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As much as I don't want to believe in global warming or climate change, you can't get past the unseasonal weather we seem to get these days, or maybe its just Auckland. A lot of people I speak with seem to think the seasons were never like this when they were small, and I have to agree. I'm sure we used to get long hot summers and cold winters with a definite change in between. Anyway what started me on this thought is the fact that some of my Chinese Elm are starting to bud up for spring, just after loosing their leaves for winter.
Chinese Elm or Ulmus parviflora are in my opinion one of the best plants someone new to bonsai can experiment with.
They will grow indoors, although I wouldn't recommend this unless you are very careful. They will still require adequate light and water. I have more trees brought to me killed from keeping them warm and dry indoors like a pampered pet than any other reason.
If the Elm is placed under stress like this it will drop all its leaves but still may recover if watered and placed outdoors. Unlike a Juniper which by the time it looks dead probably has been for some time. Elms will sprout new growth from any where on the plant, branches, trunk or even roots.
They are hardy and quick growing a very nice looking tree can be achieved in only three years from a cutting.
This means that even a novice can trim and wire without fear of mucking up. The beauty of these plants is you can always alter branch structure or stimulate new growth to conceal a mistake. The speed of growth also allows for a reasonably quick result which we all love but seldom get with bonsai.
This tree is only three years old from a cutting and even without leaves it has a pleasing shape and good branch ramification.
Ulmus parviflora 'Chinese Elm'
This is a medium sized tree in nature originally from central and Northern China, Korea and Japan. The Chinese Elm has a light coloured bark that flakes off in rounded plates when mature. The leaves are small and oval with small serrations around the edge. The top of the leaf is dark green and slightly lighter on the underside.
Most of your potting and pruning work should be carried out during early spring or about now if you have seasons like Auckland. They should be grown in an open soil mix about 70% potting mix and 30% stone chip. Elms should be fed every 20 to 30 days over the spring and summer months. Your basic shaping should be completed when repotting in early spring.
Chinese Elm are vigorous growers and require regular pinching over the summer to maintain
their shape. The roots on the elm are quite thick and fleshy which makes them very easy to get up on a rock.
Root over rock demonstration
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They are very resistant to disease and pests and should require little in the way of sprays.
A word of warning they do not seem to like systemic sprays. These are sprays that are taken up by the plant and kill the pest as they feed, an example of this kind of spray would be Orthene. If you do need to spray stick to contact sprays such as Maldison or the two brick method, where you place the offending insect on top of the first brick then slam the second brick on top with considerable force, this works for me.
I don't know if you have been back to the website recently but I have changed it. I have started a section on New Zealand native trees as bonsai which I will be adding to as time permits. I have also started placing a few photos of some of my trees in the photo page, I would still love to get some photos of your trees for this section even if they are still in training.
I had a call from China last week and the pots and tools are all made and on their way. I think the slow boat from China takes about three weeks so they should be here in early August. This is only a sample order with only a few of each type, so if you are interested in one or more of these large pots let me know, first in, first served. I'm sorry I can't give an exact price at the moment but if you send me an e-mail with the code of the pot you might like I can probably give you a rough idea. These pots will only be available to New Zealand subscribers at this stage.
If you are in New Zealand and would like a cutting of the Chinese Elm send me your postal address and I will see what I can do.
Until next time
Yours in bonsai
New Zealand Native Bonsai