Well now, who is in my passenger seat today? Or should it be “what…..in the helll?!”This…odd….tree, is an elm, believe it or not. An American elm to be precise (some people make a distinction for American elms that are in Florida. But genetic testing reveals that they are just like all the Ulmus americanas in the rest of the USA). What’s interesting about this is it’s literally Just chopped off roots that had been pruned from a larger specimen and then raised, so that the roots are now the trunk. I acquired it on one of those Facebook auctions about two years ago from a Florida seller. I felt sorry for the guy as he was in need of money, but I’m not a softie, I do find the shape interesting. I realize it’s not quite to everyone’s taste as a bonsai form, but it’s my tree and my blog. I also find working on odd shapes like this (if you haven’t noticed) a challenge.

The leaves are pretty small on this tree, and this is often the reason people believe that the Florida Native American elms are a sub variety of the regular ones. But, in my observations, deciduous trees tend to be smaller and even weaker in Florida. Take the red maple (acre rubrum), which grows from Miami all the way to Canada (duh, the Canadian flag). Up in the northern climes, red maples are big trees. Down here I’ve never seen one more than 20-30 feet tall (less than ten meters. Or metres if you’re in Quebec).

When I was in Pennsylvania, I saw an American elm with leaves as long as a Coca Cola can. It’s weird but plants and even animals (look up the key deer) don’t seem to grow as large as they do up north. The acorns are tiny on our oaks too (insert joke here).

Well now, this is an interesting mix for a tree in a bonsai pot: perlite, scoria, and regular potting soil. I guess it kept the tree alive when I was neglecting the tree. The question that is often brought up is “Why use bonsai soil of a regular mix keeps the tree alive?” I might be able to add to that conversation. Maybe.

The reason we use bonsai soil, period, in bonsai pots, is drainage.

It doesn’t make sense but, the more shallow a pot, the less it drains.

You read that correctly.

The physics have to do with both molecular cohesion of water (surface tension) and a small part of fluid dynamics called perched water tables. Here’s an amazing link that explains the concepts better than I can (I’d just be copying what they wrote).

Basically, the potting medium has a level that water will drain to, depending on its water retention, it’s particle size and shape, etc. (interestingly, the whole idea of adding bigger sized particle to the bottom of a bonsai pot to increase drainage, as was taught by the old timers and traditionalists in bonsai, raises the perched water table and therefore decreases real drainage. Makes you go “hmmmmmm?”).

Regular potting soil has a high perched water table. Bonsai soil not so much. one thing I took away from that website is that it doesn’t matter how big the drainage holes are, if your mix doesn’t drain well, it won’t drain. Which means that theoretically, you could have a pot with no bottom and regular potting soil and it’ll still drain to it’s lowest point and still wouldn’t be effective in bonsai culture.

So, to make it short and sweet, and to answer the question, we use bonsai soil because it’s all about the drainage. Without good drainage, a tree will only persist, it will never thrive. You’ll not get branch ramification, vigorous roots, or even a healthy tree. Kinda like how the deciduous trees in Florida landscapes are. They’re usually planted over a hard pan (which is important for buildings stability, not good for drainage purposes).

Here’s the pot I’m choosing for my elm.

I think that’s a grape vine…..

Only one hole but I can work with it. In fact…..

…..a few lengths of wire, a bit of chopstick, a drainage hole screen….

Loop it….

Attach to the bottom…..

Take the chopstick…..Tie the other two wires to it……Like so…..Put that into the pot…..And attach the first wire (the one we used with the screen) to the chopstick. Now we have tie down wires and a drainage screen, all nice and tight and ready for the tree.

Some good soil.

Add the tree….Tie it all down and voila!

We are ready for some styling.

Let’s see now…..

We don’t need this, and it’ll improve taper and movement to get rid of it anyway.

We just need one branch here…

We don’t need this….

Sharpen the knife….

Smooth the cut…..

A little wire and some trippy, twisty movement…..

Almost there…..

Wait for it….

I think I’m digging it.

Can you see it yet?

My name, is Adam, last name, Lavigne. Sometimes I sign my name with just an “A”, and my last name.

Which is French in origin. It’s is not the real last name of my ancestors, it’s called a “dit” name. Dit meaning a region or place a person is from. La vigne means, literally, “the vine” or “the vineyard”. My ancestors were probably serfs in a winery in the French countryside. So, we have “A. Lavigne”……

…..Now you’re getting it.

The vine…..

Yes, you may groan…..

It is that bad.

I apologize.

I literally downloaded about forty pictures and wrote about a thousand words just to make a really bad visual pun.

I’m a dork.

But aren’t we all?

11 thoughts

  1. Ahem, Adam, ummm, I just googled dork and this is what I found “Dictionary

    Search for a word
    a contemptible, socially inept person.” AND ……. more interestingly;
    What is the real definition of dork?
    Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary. A dork is actually the penis, usually used in reference to whales. ( i.e. The dork of the blue whale is the largest of all mammals’.) True fact.
    Talk:dork – Wiktionary


    “Urban Dictionary: Whale Cock (Dork)
    The blue whale’s penis, or dork, is the largest that ever existed. The average size for an adult male is 5m (15ft). The testicules weigh 10kg (22 pounds). The blue …
    dork | Definition of dork in English by Oxford Dictionaries
    Definition of dork – a contemptible, socially inept person., a man’s penis.”

    I thought it was funny, so I must be a dorkess!?!?!


  2. Hi Adam,
    First time writer but long time fan. Would like your advice: I live in S. Florida and yesterday
    I collected a Green Island Ficus. I cut a lot of leaves and placed in a shaded area. Do i need to
    cut all the leaves and when should i fertilize it? Thank you for your time


  3. I have heard that a drainage layer can be useful for pots with poor or even no drainage holes, as long as you have some height to sacrifice. In most cases it would be easier to increase the drainage holes though.


  4. NICE!!!!! I like the tree, the style, the pot, and the signature. In all the BS you put out, which is amusing, I learn useful stuff, which is educational. Thanks Adam.


  5. A variation of your last name, Living, is very common here in Sicily, Italy. It’s interesting to see how last names survives to the centuries and to the cultures even to thousands of miles of distance.
    Of course, thanks for posting another interesting tree,very unusual


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