Zelkova bonsai forest restoration part 2

This is a continuation from this post

I bought a large overgrown Zelkova forest. In order to refurbish it, I decided to take it apart. In order to take this forest apart, I started off by pulling the old pieces of deadwood out of the rootball. At times pulling, twisting, breaking and subtle use of pruners. Going slow pays off, as it reduces the number of roots that are pulled from the trunks. After this, I slowly pulled the individual trees apart. Again, gently tugging, moving individual roots and trimming roots in case of dense clusters. All in all it took about 2 hours to separate the forest into individual trees and a few manageable groups.

Zelkova bonsai forest split up
Zelkova bonsai forest split up

The attentive reader may have noticed: This work was done in early winter. It is good to realize I generally have mild winters, with most winters temperatures not dropping below -5 for more than a few nights. Besides that, I have a small greenhouse which in most winters remains frost-free, and I can move recently abused trees into the greenhouse or dark shed if temperatures do drop low.

After splitting the group into pieces, I proceeded to my shed where I work on my trees. Especially when it is bad weather it is great to have a sheltered outdoor space where nobody is bothered by some mud or other substrate flying around. I used a combination of a root hook, scissors and a bucket of water to clean the roots of all old mostly organic substrate, and trimmed the roots back to the minimum needed to survive. It is at this point that I trim back any downwards growing roots too.

Inspecting each tree individually it became clear that the best results would be obtained by creating a new forest altogether and not trying to put the old forest together in the old configuration. The planting over deadwood and eroding of the soil had cause very sloped nebari which could not easily  be put together in a flat tray. So I proceeded by selecting a few trees that were interesting on their own and potted those separately. One large root was also potted up, in the hope that it will produce buds in spring.