MAKING AN ELM BROOM

I have always admired broom style bonsai trees, especially the elms.  What’s not to like nice flare at the bottom and spreading branches up top, spreading out to make a perfectly round canopy.  I have had this elm that was in a batch of seedlings (I mean really just a seedling, only about two inches tall) that I picked from a parking lot several years ago while I was waiting on Favorite Minion to finish shopping.  I had placed it in a nursery pot and stuck in the corner of the yard and forgot about it and it grew to over twelve feet tall (that’s a six-foot privacy fence in the background).  Last year I decided that it was the perfect candidate for a broom project.  Knowing that the roots were probably a mess and unusable as they were, you know the ones I am talking about, the giant tuber roots that elms make that grow straight down before they start dividing; so, last spring, I applied a tourniquet with heavy-gage wire at the base and built a retaining wall to raise the soil level in the pot above the wire.
It was placed back into its corner and forgotten about, except for water, until this Spring. I decided it was time for the “big reveal”. The mesh fence was removed and the roots were combed out to what I had. The results were not really that spectacular and were not exactly what I had expected. Oh, it made plenty of roots, just in the all the wrong places, I was robbed of my dream of a perfectly flared nebari. All of the superfluous roots were removed to see what would be left to work with and examine what happened and what could be done better next time.

Now, I regret that I got completely caught up in the project and neglected to photograph some key elements to make it easier to explain what I found, so I will try my best to explain. What I should have done was cut a ring around the bottom of the trunk (just like and air layer) and then added the tourniquet for an added safety measure. The tree just absorbed the wire tourniquet, which made a real nice flare by the way, and just threw out some roots around the part of the trunk that was buried.

Here are some pictures of the process. I started by shortening the tree, not the final chop, just cut it some to make it more manageable. Then sawed off the lower portion of the roots with the saws-all.

The final cut was made with a hand saw, you can see the wire tourniquet swallowed inside the trunk, a good ¼ inch all the way around.  The remaining roots, such as the were, were cleaned up and the trunk was dusted with rooting hormone and then screwed to a plastic cutting board. This is where I was really caught up in the moment and forgot about the camera. The entire assembly was potted up in a training pot, we’ll see what happens, hopefully it will be good.

Ready For The Reveal

Image

Removed Material

Shortened Tree

Roots

Roots

Roots

And More Roots

Saws-all Cut

Removed Portion

Top Portion

Final Cut, Wire Embedded Inside of the Trunk

Screwed to a Board and Planted in Training Pot

All of that work was done on February 17th of this year, fast forward to March 29th, and we have this.  Not too shabby up top, a little thin on one side, but I think I can work with it.
Update April 10, 2018:  The new growth extended further and I was able to sort it out, so yesterday I thinned it to six or so main shoots.  These will be allowed to extend and then wired into position.

Extended Growth

Close Up

Thinned

Thinned

Thinned

We have almost reached the end of the growing season (September 2018) in the Heart of Dixie and I decided to share an update of the progress of the broom project.  If you look at the pictures, you can see that it really threw out some growth this season.
The growth up top has closed the chop about 30%, hopefully by the end of next year it will be close to being completely healed.  Next Spring, I'll give it a repot and we will see what the roots look like.  Hopefully we will find a nice, radial root spread, so, stay tuned...

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