Looks like I have some weeding to do. Being that it’s winter, there’s not much else to do, though. I’m bored. Well…..I might can do a little….. like remove the old leaves on some deciduous trees or summat. I could also work on junipers but, meh. Not feelin’ like junipers today.   The tree above is a cedar elm (ulmus crassifolia) from Texas (how many people see the word Texas and, because of the motto “things are bigger in Texas”,  think of big things, and therefore pronounce it Tex-ass and think of big butts?)

It was collected several years ago by Erik Wigert, I’ve written about this tree before (the first post is Here and the follow up is Here). Today I’m just going to show you how to pluck the old leaves and give you an idea about how a deciduous tree works (and the difficulty of growing them in the F-L-A). 

An elm’s leaves, like this one, can be plucked either by pulling forward or backward, in the direction of the branch.  

  Try pulling back first, if it doesn’t fall off easy, go forward. You just have to be careful not to remove the bud at the base of the leaf’s petiole. 

 There’s no real reason to do this except to tidy up the silhouette; the old leaves will fall off when the new growth comes in, if not sooner. If I were up north, with a lot cooler winter ahead of me, I might do some pruning. Wait, what does that mean, if it was cooler? Well, it means you’re gonna get some learning. 

Deciduous trees (like maples, elms, hornbeams, bald cypress etc. ) have evolved a way to survive the freezing dangers of winter by withdrawing their sap, chlorophyll, nutrients etc, from the stems and dropping their leaves (for a full article on the subject, click here for an article by Joe Lamp’l). Basically, less sunlight in the winter triggers the tree to go dormant (it is generally thought to be cold, but it is the shorter daylight hours). 

How does this affect deciduous trees in Florida? It’s lack of light triggers dormancy but, you see, it’s sustained temperature at the root zone that triggers new spring growth. Today it is in the 80’s F in beautiful Orlando. A few days ago it was in the 50’s F and it will get colder again as the temps tend to be very cyclical. This warmth/cold in the winter really confuses our deciduous trees. It’s a battle to keep our deciduous trees to stay dormant. And they need to stay dormant because they only have so much energy to wake up in the spring. Ok, with all that, what’s does the last 130 some odd words have to do with pruning this Texas cedar elm? 

Pruning deciduous trees in the warmish Florida winter weather will stimulate the tree (from the sudden lack of auxin at the growing tips) to begin growing. That makes for hard cultural conditions for many deciduous trees, like acer palmatumn or such. They simply run out of energy. Or, to use the vernacular, they fizzle out like good ol’ king Edward the Second in the presence of Queen Isabella. Ok….sorry for that one. Let’s get back to our elm, shall we?

  Pluck. Pluck. Pluck.  
  Now what? Is that all? How about if I point to places that need pruning and we can pretend I made the cuts? Ok.

There are too many branches here.     

There are two tops. I’m keeping them.   
A nice scar. Tells a story.   

These next pics show the too-long branches that need shortening.    

 Makes you want to do some snipping, don’t it? I want to do some cutting so badly that I kinda feel like this dude: 

 Creepy. If you’ve ever driven on Florida’s highways, you’ve seen this doctors billboards. Makes me shudder every time I see it. I think it’s somewhat funny that I use the appearance of his billboard on I75 as a landmark to begin looking for the exit for Wigert’s Bonsai.  

Sorry Erik, but I’m trying to make a post about pulling leaves off of a tree interesting and funny.   


I can do some work on a willowleaf ficus I just picked up! I got it from the CFBC Holiday party auction. 


Aha! It’s a little grungy, time for a scrub. 


To use a tired joke again, I think I need to use my wife’s favorite toothbrush to clean the trunk.  


Actually, I’ll be using this perfectly angled nylon brush instead.  


A little bit of the “universal solvent”, dihydrogen monoxide, to aid the cleansing. 

 Which is just water, by the way. 

And we are clean.  

What shall be the new front? 


This was the original front.   

I’m kinda liking it around here somewhere.   To show off that scar, because scars are cool. Chicks dig scars. 

In order to change the front, I’ll need to put the tree into a bigger pot though. I could wait until spring but, then I’d have nothing to write about now, would I?   

Prepare the pot.   
Remove the tree.   Uh oh…..maybe I should have asked the previous owner (the incomparable Mr. Rick Jeffery) when this tree was repotted last. Not much in the way of roots. I guess it’s either a good thing (maybe it was just put in this pot) or a bad thing (it hasn’t grown roots since it was put into this pot months ago). Either way, maybe hopefully putting it into this pot now won’t hurt it. Not much to do but continue.  

 Better tie it down right. 
  That’s better. Looks like it’ll be happy. Now, the restyle. I’ve already made the back the front. Unfortunately for that, the whole tree is now slanting backwards.  
 If you’ve been following the blog for a while, and you’ve been paying attention, a tree should be leaning towards the viewer. This is important to help with the illusion of making a relatively small tree look like a big tree. 

Also, by turning the tree around, I have created a big no-no called a pigeon breast.  

 I can’t really help it (although I have heard tell that pigeon breasts are now fashionable these days….). What I can try to fix is the backward slant.   

Time for a little scissor discipline.   Yessssss…. 

Kinda looks like The Butring Man here.  
…..and just a little wire…… 

    There we go. 

Before,   and after….  

I think that’ll work. Oh! I didn’t show the elm after defoliating it. Here you go:    

I figured that, since I was pulling leaves on the cedar elm, I might as well work on this chinese elm.    It’s looking good.  And that’s all…………….

Oh! I did eventually work on a juniper; I was invited to give a demo at Dragon Tree Bonsai down in the east coast of Florida in Palm City.  

 I had my choice of trees. I picked the one on the right. 

Here’s the audience and Robert, the owner.   

I had a little help from Kaya, making some Jin.   

The finished tree:   

I even got a bottle of scotch from a client.  

 I carved her buttonwood for her after the demo. 
But, after all that,  I just had to come back to the elm.  Like the sign says….. 

It needs just a little wire. Just a little. A little won’t hurt. 

 From the top.   

From the right. 

The left.     

The rear.   

And the front.   Comparatively, say, to an elephant, a pound of wire is a little. 

Ok, I’m done. I just needed to finish that, sorry. It’s been bugging me so much that I couldn’t even finish this blog post.  

Literally. I had it written, up to the Chinese elm part. But it was bothering me so much, leaving it untrimmed like that, I  was I losing sleep, kicking the cat, yelling at the goldfish, being a little rough on the beaver…… 

I still need to trim it, but I was able to add some nice bends that should set up over the rest of the winter without cutting in too much.

 And that, as they say, is that. Happy holiday everyone! 


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