Cork Elm 066


In 2015 I purchased this Cork Elm from Steve DaSilva. In the picture it is the largest tree in the picture. Most of the other elms are gone and this one was left due to it’s ungainly trunk and lack of good taper. It had taper, just not smooth taper, with waists and hiccups along the way.

The tree came with a profusion of branches which had to be thinned.

The first thinning was pretty random and I kept a lot of the larger stuff not really sure how big the tree would be.


The following year it grew out well. Lots of branching again, this thing makes foliage all season.

With this haircut we can see how the trunk is shaping up. It just looks like three or four balls of wood stacked on a dowel. The apex was cut back to that small ball. We will see how that turned out!

A little closer.


In 2017 I thought about making an air layer on the trunk to try and improve the shape and taper.

It had a bad waist right in the position of the beer can and I thought if I could layer that part out I could improve it. I placed a red line on the trunk at the site I thought looked good.


I didn’t work on the tree for the last couple years while taking care of the home front after my wife died. I now have renewed interest in the tree and have decided to layer the tree, but in a much different spot. The apical nature of elms is evident here.

Remember that knob I took the apex back to? Well it’s still here and much larger also.

I decide to cut that whole top off. I put my saw right into the slot between the small right branch and the knob.

Cut that thing right off.

I prune back everything and wire the leader up. Seal all the cuts and prepare it for the layer.

I placed a string around the trunk in the location I thought I would layer it to.

The trunk at the string is about 4 inches across. The tree is about 6 inches tall.

I decided to use a die grinder to make the cut around the trunk. Cutting cork bark with a knife is not a picnic.

I mix up some hormone and paint it on the wound and cambium.

All wrapped up with sphagnum and plastic.

The layer has been taken off, and with not as much of a root structure as I would like. It has been nearly three years since I started this layer strategy and this was my last hoorah as I am done messing with it. It will either grow or die, It’s choice. To see what happens with the layer go here.

The middle section of the tree was tossed onto the firewood pile and I had this stump left. I used the sawzall to cut a raking cut down the side of the stump for taper.

The area marked in red is the part most promising to stay alive. The section marked in blue, without supporting branches above will dry out (from decreased sap flow) and will never have a branch nor able to graft one on. The top of the tree seen to the right conversely has branching all the way around the tree and if the small number of roots distributed around the trunk can support it, the tree should respond with leaves all the way around. The key is to get some shoots growing as soon as possible around the trunk and out of the cut edges. It could happen that way, cork elms are Hella hardy.

A virtual of a possible look way into the future.

Posted May 19, 2019 by California Bonsai Art

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