Air Layering a Chinese Elm
My uncle Pete has a tremendous amount of stock material and has been very generous in allowing me to propagate pieces I like. I have had my eye on this Chinese elm for a while and finally found the the time to air layer it. ‘Frosty’ has white tipped leaves and a nice mottled bark.
In John Naka’s book Bonsai Techniques II he demonstrates an air layering method where he cuts 4/5 of the way through a trunk and inserts a thick piece of plastic into the cut and then adds stakes to support the trunk until roots develop and the piece is finally removed from the trunk. My uncle Pete has shown me a more simple method.
I score and remove a one inch ring of bark from the trunk. I scraped down the wood to get past the sappy layer and reach hard wood. There is now no lifeline from the lower to upper trunk.
I brushed on a liquid root hormone forcing it up under the bark to reach the cambium layer.
Finally I wrapped moist sphagnum moss around the trunk and covered it with clear plastic sealing the top and bottom with string. The last thing to do is cover the future rootball with aluminum foil to keep the roots from getting sunburned.
Uncle Pete says that deciduous trees air layer much faster than conifers. He showed me a Japanese maple that had filled it’s plastic bag with roots in only 1 month. Conifers can take 2 years. I air layered a Shimpaku 2 years ago that took about 12 months to be ready for removal.
This is a very easy project. If you haven’t tried air layering yet you are missing an opportunity to aquire some great bonsai material.