Here is 'Root Reject' the Chinese Elm we'll be looking at today. I bought this little guy and gave it such a name as it's my least favorite of the Chinese Elm Bonsai that I recently acquired and it has a protruding root that needs to be pruned that I covered up with some moss. Names will eventually help you decipher which tree it is. This was the previous front and the next photo is from the back.
It was planted in 50% pumice and 50% lava, but I just wish the pumice wouldn't float to the top! Lava top dressing for the future as a mental note.
The first thing you want to ask yourself before doing work on a tree is "What is my goal?" or "What am I trying to accomplish?" as these questions should help to narrow down the decisions you have to make. Knowing whether the tree (or parts of the tree) is in refinement or development is immensely important.
My ultimate goal for this tree at the moment is for it to be and informal upright that is medium-sized. It'll need to be taller (about to the window in the photo below) and will need to have a significant amount of time for trunk development. This answers the next question by stating that I'm trying to accomplish height, trunk thickness, and primary branches to accompany my informal upright style.
I plan on using the lower branch that is covered up as a sacrifice branch to increase the trunk thickness. Everything below that branch with increase in thickness while it creates a good taper to the trunk in relation to things above it.
The next thing I do is see if any of the branches I currently have can function as a first primary branch, and look at the height in comparison to the eventual full height. This one I'm holding below is the closest thing I currently have to a first branch, so that is what I'll be "using" right now for it. I'd prefer it to be a tad bit lower if possible, but maybe I'll just make the tree taller. I do have a smaller branch right below that branch that has been pruned and might possibly develop some more branches. I might use that, but let's let it happen and see if I change my mind.
I have an issue of the branch right next it and the fact that it points right out at the viewer. I can change the front and make it a back branch that helps to fill out the tree, I can prune it and wait awhile for it to heal over and try and make it look nice, or I can just keep it and try to use it better with possible back buds. I think I'll start with flipping the front and back. If I end up using the smaller branch below as my first primary branch then I can prune both of these off and be done with it.
I originally wanted to keep the upper canopy and thought about removing these specific branches.
I also would've had to address the apex since it wasn't moving in a direction I wanted it and it didn't look pretty at certain parts.
The good part is that I want to either prune it all off or air-layer if it I can. I can use this small branch as a new leader and as a directional change back towards the center.
Here's a few more views:
This is what my tree will look like after I do my heavy pruning:
With this I'll accomplish both the first primary branch and taper. Taper will happen in a few ways: thickening the trunk with sacrifice branch, taper as I move up by chopping the apex off and finding a new leader, and taper on side branches as I keep them small by continual pruning and by keeping sacrifice branches below them.
I did choose to sacrifice height as we usually need to for taper. Height will come in time as do most things in bonsai. I'll post pictures of the tree after its lovely hack job.