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Bonsai Progression Thursday - Margaret’s Elm

Good Thursday to you & yours! Welcome to another installment of #ProgessionThursday, where I share a progression of one of the trees in my garden. Be sure to check out all my previous progressions here.

When I lived in St. Louis, I had the sweetest next-door neighbor. Her name was Margaret. The majority of my bonsai garden was on the southside of my house and her home stood close by. Margaret was a widow who fed the birds and took great care of her home & garden. Always a smile on her face, she was the type of neighbor that would do anything for you. The type of neighbor I aspire to be.

One morning, as I was watering my trees, I noticed a small plant growing around her house (next to her air conditioner, to be exact). It looked to be an elm, so I decided to keep an eye on it. I was hopeful Margaret wouldn't pull it from the ground, thinking it was a weed. Lucky for us, she never touched it.

Here's the first picture I took, Spring of 2016

Elm seedling
Baby elm

In the spring of 2017, I decided to pull it from the ground and see if I could make something out of it. As you can see, I was very aggressive with my root pruning, but being a young elm, it made it through. I should also add that the timing here was important. I looked at that little seedling almost every day for 10 months. Believe me, I wanted to reach down and grab it several times. But I didn't. And I think my patience was rewarded when the tree used it's stored energy to come out super strong after the repot.

Repot - Spring of 2017

By 2018, the tree was growing strong and I began thinking of growing the elm in a broom or globe style.

Summer - 2018

Bonsai Elm Seedling in a small plastic container
Elm Broom Beginning to Take Shape

Here is the tree in 2019. Not a lot of change, but growing strong and I had made some cuts here and there.

Summer 2019

I moved to Nashville in 2020 and I didn’t do much with this tree. As a matter of fact, I can’t find a single photo of the tree, which is saying something, since I’m constantly taking photos. 2020 was a lost year in many ways, so we’ll just fast forward to the spring of 2021.

I received two very nice Chuck Iker pots for Christmas. They are lovely, and also quite shallow. I was thinking of a tree that might pair well with one of the pots, and immediately remembered how aggressive I was with Margaret’s elm. So I tried it out, and boy, was I happy with the result.

Chuck Iker Pots - Winter 2020

See below for a quick look at my repot. Having grown this elm in good substrate from the beginning, it had great roots. The lesson here: There is a payoff to being aggressive early in a tree's development. Again, when I did the root prune in 2017, the tree was very young and could respond well. Now, 4 years later, I have great roots and an excellent start to the root spread needed to use this shallow pot.

Repot - Spring 2021

It is said that a pots' depth should match the thickness of the trunk. I think this shallow pot pairs nicely with the younger (and skinnier) elm.

My thoughts will now turn to refinement. Next year I’ll most likely defoliate. I would this year, but since I just repotted, I don't want to stress the tree too much. (Although being a young elm, it probably would be ok).

I haven’t seen Ms. Margaret in over a year. I’m sure the birds are well fed and her garden looks beautiful. And while I miss her smile and kindness, I know I have this tree to remember her always.

5 year Progression - 2016-2021

So, what do you think? Do you like the pot pairing? Would you defoliate this year if it was your tree? Have you found seedlings around your property that have become trees? Be sure to let me know in the comments below subscribe to the blog for future updates to Margaret’s Elm!

Until next time, Peace Love Bonsai!

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