Siberian Elm Overdue Repot!


If you reveal your secrets to the wind you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.

Khalil Gibran

With highly swelling leaf buds that were showing colours between dark brown to deep purple; a sure sign that new leaf is imminent; I decided today to repot the Siberian Elm.

I have recently been informed this tree has been selected as an exhibit for BOBB 2011 over the weekend of April 9th and 10th.

First up was removal from the Walsall Ceramics pot. On this occasion I have selected a round pot and will position the Elm dead centre which is quite acceptable with round pots. I have never had such a struggle to remove a tree. It took just over an hour to free the tree and remove it.

Out of the pot this is what greeted me!

Before any work starts on the root ball I had to get a picture. I cannot actually get all the roots in shot they are so long. From soil base to the end is just slightly shy of three and a half metres! Somewhat over-due a repot then.

Over the last twelve months the tree has risen up in the pot by quite a bit.

I’m now ready then to start work on the root ball. I just know this is going to be hours and hours! Here you can see from just a quick tease what I have. The really good news is the roots system is incredibly healthy with absolutely NO sign of winter damage. Considering said length of root that was wrapped around the inside of the pot I am quite frankly amazed!

This is the thickness of root that was wrapped around the pot several times.

I have no alternative but to remove this huge section of root to see what I have to work with.

From a side view the thickness was around two and a half cm! Once removed I can finally see the tying in mesh buried deep within.

The following image is just one section of roots that I have removed before starting work on the root ball proper. Unfortunately the image does not show just what a pile this is.

This small amount of root has taken me an hour to tease out. So much more to go. I will at some stage use a razor sharp knife to slice some away as this is going to take forever. It is vitally important to use a knife that is as sharp as possible.

Here the root ball can be seen as a cross-section after taking a slice away. In the end I took several slices out. It was becoming quite clear that it was 80% roots and 20% soil.

I’m now two hours in, well, plus the hour to remove as well, and the very base is starting to look cleaner. Still so very much remaining. I am spraying now to keep exposed roots moist.

Ian will be delighted to know I have decided NOT to stop for coffee; I had tea instead but carried on working:-)

Rootball base then. Far from complete, but getting somewhere now.

I’ve decided to wash now. No, not me … the rootball. It gave me a better view of what I had to work with. It is reduced at this stage by some 40% and washed using a jet spray off the garden hose.

I continued to work the root ball. Here it can be seen with further work carried out. The dense mass of roots is plain to see. Makes a change from the recent Larch repot with just a handful roots to work with.

I’m taking advantage of softened lichen and removing with my tweezers. I have seen people scape away and curse about how difficult it is to remove.

When washing the root ball, set the gun to mist and just spray over the entire top of the tree. Simply leave for about five minutes and it just peels away in seconds. I took much off in just a couple of minutes with no damage caused.

This piece just came away in one and took all of two seconds.

One last look at the removed roots.

With preparation of the root ball now complete, the mix will be a 50/50. 25% coarse aqua grit and 25% rounded particles. The remainder is all akadama medium and large. I am including trace elements, frit and a new organic root boost additive that I am trialing for the first time.

Tree is secured into the new pot, and after filling with my soil mix it is top dressed with small akadama.

Usual methods apply for making certain no significant gaps in the soil remain.

After almost six hours including removal time I am complete. Here then is the tree in the new pot duly finished. Normal post care is essential, out of direct sun, protect from wind and other movement; water well on this the first watering and then wait until the soil is just showing signs of dryness. At this time of year with care regime I am suggesting that is likely to be between five to ten days. This is only a guide though for this size of tree and pot; you must judge your own carefully and not consider my recommendation as a ‘rule-of-thumb.’

Thank you for following this repot, and should you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact me. I am now receiving questions from all around the world; could you please write in English, otherwise it takes  further time to translate. I try always to respond within twenty-four hours.

11 thoughts on “Siberian Elm Overdue Repot!

  1. Don. Smith

    The original pot looked like a walsall creation. The colour matched the bark to a T. I like the new pot but its a shame that you couldn’t shrink the original one a bit. Wonderful outcome nonetheless. =Don

    1. Mike Jones

      Hello Don, thanks for commenting. Yes one of Walsall’s finest from many years ago. being less heavy looking the new pot speaks volumes when viewed rather than a quick image. The previous oval pot (which can not clearly be seen) was far too heavy looking in appearance; plus the tree was far too central. End game is to look towards a very shallow possibly rectangular pot. I may change my mind by then though:-) Such is the wonder of a simple pot choice for your bonsai:-)

  2. Martin Philpott

    Love it Mike, youve done a cracking good job of what was an epic re-pot, them roots were incredible… must be very happy with the end result, youve definately earnt a cuppa and cake after this one mate….all the very best, Mrtin 🙂

    1. Mike Jones

      Many thanks Martin. It turned out to be two ‘tinnies’ followed by a substantial G&T:-)

  3. Wow, Mike! What a marathon! But what a beauty, too. I think the new pot is just right, and I love the gentle but substantial flare at the base of the trunk. I suspect the tree would not look so elegant if it had a more obvious flare of several main roots in its nebari .

    John M

    1. Mike Jones

      Thanks John. I really am happy with the pot. I have decided however to go very shallow and possibly rectangle over the next two to three repottings. It was a marathon for certain.

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