Wiring a New Leader on a Chinese Elm Cutting

This Chinese Elm (ulmis parviflora) is a cutting that was shipped to me by a nice member on one of the forums.  I got this one (and a few others) for long term projects.

I want to be able to style these from the beginning and just let them grow for the next 5 or more years.  Maybe longer. The time will pass either way so why not start now?


Above is what the tree looked like before it was shipped.  To make a long story short, shipping was rough and when it arrived, it was..well a little different.

The entire top half of the tree had broken off!  Needless to say I was disappointed.  Oh well, it’s still young and this can be fixed.  My first concern though was if the tree would make it.

Here is is after I unpacked it and cut the broken part off:

Left tree is a Maple, the Elm is on the right.  As you can see the top half of the tree is missing

It did get stuck on Sunday with the post office for an extra day.  That worried me.  So, before even cutting off the straggling broken trunk, I just left the tree alone for a week in the shade and protected from wind.

Shipping can be rough on trees and sometimes they will look bad, real bad when you get them.  Shipping is very stressful on the trees, but after a week they will recuperate. Sometimes they may even look dead or drop all their leaves depending on species and conditions.

Just make sure they are watered well and out of direct sun.  Once they push new growth you know the tree is fine and can take a little work.

I was relieved once it broke new leaves because it made it.  But also meant I can fix this currently gimpy tree.

You can see new growth on the right.  That branch above the new growth will be the new leader.

Now for the new leader the choice was between that little branch already growing up, in the back of  trunk, or the middle branch growing from the side.  (see above pic)

I chose the second branch for a few reasons.  By going with this branch I can chop away that little “nub” and there will be a very smooth transition from the current trunk to the newly grown in leader.  This branch is also much more vigorous than the other and thicker as well.  This is a little head start.

I used 16 gauge wire on this.  I wired it loosely because the branch is still so thin.  It will give it room to grow and avoid wire marks.  The branch is also not thick/stiff enough to push the wire out of form and won’t be by the time the branch sets and is ready for more wire.

I had to bring it inside to finish as it started pouring rain while I was half way through this.  My air conditioner is on every day, all day…so I had to work quick.

Hence, the lack of pictures during the wiring.

This tree just came inside from being in the rain and in less than 10 minutes the leaves, trunk and branches were almost totally dry.  Perfect example of why you shouldn’t keep your bonsai trees inside. Air conditioners are dehumidifiers.

Anyway, here are a few shots after wiring and placing the new leader:


So for now the work is done on this little guy.  Through this summer I will only snip back the long “runners” to encourage more branches, but nothing more.  Unless the tree asks for it.



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