Collected Winged Elm

markyscott

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I've posted pictures of this elm on a number of different threads. But it's a big boy - thought it deserved a thread of its own.

I believe that this is a Winged Elm - Ulmus alata, although it may be a Cedar Elm - Ulmus crassifolia as well. It was dug and chopped by longtime Houston Bonsai Society member George Pepitone in the early 90s. George planted it in his yard where it grew until his death - nearly a decade. A friend purchased it from the family, dug it out of the garden and grew it in a training pot for many years until I purchased it in 2013. By then, the massive chop was completely barked over, but the branches had grown wild. The tree is big - it's 44" tall and the trunks is about 7" across 4" above the soil line.

It was healthy, but not trained. Thick branches had grown, but they were straight and had no taper. I decided to start over on the branch structure. So February, 2014 was a major cutback and repot. Sorry I can't find the 'before' pictures, but here are some 'during'.

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During repot, I attempted to graft some roots into place on bare spots along the nebari.

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markyscott

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During the 2014 growing season, the tree grew like crazy. The person I purchased it from had thought it was a Cedar Elm (and it still may be), but when I saw the incredible wings that expanded on the new growth I suspected it was alata.

Here it is during the 2014 growing season.
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As you can see there is nearly 3' of new growth on the leader. And look at the wings that formed -
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Cedar elm and Winged elm are often confused. Here's what I understand - Cedar Elm (Ulmus crassifolia) is one of only two native elms that flower in the fall. The rest are spring flowering elms. So if your tree flowers in the fall it's for sure a Cedar Elm - they can also develop wings. The only other one that does is the September Elm (Ulmus serotina) and it's very rare and there are no wings. All of the other native elms flower in the spring. So Cedar Elm do not hybridize as other elms do as they flower out of season with other native.

Also, crassifolia is from the Latin crassus meaning "thick". The bottom of the leaves are supposedly rough when they harden off. But I've never found that to be especially diagnostic.

If it's truly a Winged Elm (Ulmus alata) it flowers in the spring. It should develop thick wings on vigorous new growth. Wings that develop on trees that I know are Cedar elm tend to appear kind of gray in color and aren't so large. The bark on this tree also look different than trees I know are Cedar elm. I've never seen this tree flower so I don't know for sure, but I suspect it's a Winged elm.
 

markyscott

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So 2014 growing season, I pretty much just let the tree grow. I did some minor wiring, but that was it. Winter of 2015, the real work began - first the cutback in February 2015.

Look at the huge amount of wood this tree put on during it's first growing season.
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And a last look at those spectacular wings before I cut them all off.
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I needed to carve down the old apex to the new growth.
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Putting on some finishing touches.
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markyscott

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By the end of November 2015, it was looking pretty good.

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If you look very carefully you can ALMOST, JUST BARELY see a hint of fall color. Oh well, sometimes fall needs a bit of an assist.
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Goodbye leaves
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Look at that beautiful carpet of freshly fallen leaves. Well - stripped anyway.
 

markyscott

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Now it's time to cut back again. Here's the before - compared to how it started the season, it's really remarkable how quickly these things develop.image.jpeg

After
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You can see I've started to think about changing the position of the trunk. Winter is a good time to see this. Also during the winter while the tree is naked, it's a great time to think about the future. What do you want the tree to look like? How is the primary branch structure developing? Do you need to prepare any grafts during the next growing season? I really like to do a little sketch at this time to check the direction of the tree. This is one I did at the time. I think if I were to draw it today, I'd want a broader canopy and more rounded top.
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Also, the pot is too big. But that's easy to change on paper.
 

markyscott

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Holy.........thats a crazy cool elm, how did the root grafts do if you know yet?
Hi HJ - I believe at least some of them did, but I won't be able to tell until the next repot. That'll be this winter - it'll definitely need it by then.
 

markyscott

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So that brings us to a new point. These big trees are really impressive.

But they're dang heavy. This one weighs at least 150lbs. Easy to hurt yourself moving these bad boys around - not very safe for the tree either. Here's an investment to consider:
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This is a 1000 lb hydraulic lift table from Harbor Freight. I removed the girly-man wheels it came with and fitted it out with the monster truck tires. Way cooler and, as a side benefit, can roll over my uneven lawn with heavy load with no problem. Total cost for the lift and the pneumatic wheels was around $300. Just wheel it up to your bench, pump the table up to the level of your tree and slide it right over.
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Then lower it back down and move it wherever you want to go. This also doubles as my work bench as I can put a turntable on it and easily raise and lower the tree to my working level. If you've got big trees - this thing is worth it's weight in gold.
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markyscott

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So this year, I'm not waiting on July to wire out my deciduous trees. This year I wire and prune in April and do it again in July. Twice the work, but twice as fast of development. Rodney Clemons was in town this week for the Texas Tour, so I took the opportunity to work with him on this tree. Really like working with Rodney - he's a really great guy and very insightful. He pointed out some additional possible fronts for the tree that I hadn't considered - need to think about those some more.

Anyway. You know the drill. On the extending shoots, remove the old leaves. Leave the weak interior growth alone. Big leaves cut in 1/2. Cut off downward facing shoots. Thin all branches to two. Make sure that light can get into the interior of the tree to keep the interior growth healthy and strong. Prune to build branch structure and wire out the spring growth. You know it's time to work the tree when you start to see yellowing interior leaves like this.
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Cutting downward facing shoots:image.jpeg

Removing old leaves on extending shoots:
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Cutting leaves in 1/2. I just fold them in 1/2 and cut diagonally across the leave like this. It looks like a little elm leaf when your done.
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coh

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Coming along well! Way too big for me to handle, but I can live vicariously through your aching back.

Someone else had asked about the root grafts - did you use seedlings or did you just take pieces of roots from this tree and attempt to graft them directly to the trunk? If the latter, I'll be very curious to see how well it worked.

Chris
 

markyscott

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Coming along well! Way too big for me to handle, but I can live vicariously through your aching back.

Someone else had asked about the root grafts - did you use seedlings or did you just take pieces of roots from this tree and attempt to graft them directly to the trunk? If the latter, I'll be very curious to see how well it worked.

Chris
It was the latter. I'm curious too. We'll all know next repotting season...
 

markyscott

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One last thing before I shut it down for the night. Please note on the 'after' picture above that I left the leaves on the bottom alone and cut all the leaves on the top to the tree in 1/2. I left more strong branches with growing tips intact below and cut back to weaker growth on the apex. This is how you balance the energy on an apically dominant deciduous tree. Weaken the strong parts, strengthen the weak.
 

Zach Smith

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I believe this is definitely a cedar elm. There are two telltale signs I see: one, the new growth has a hint of red which I've noticed on my cedar elms but not on my winged elms; and two, in the closeup of the leaves the serrations on the edges have a distinctly rounded shape versus the winged elm leaf which is straighter and sharper. This last feature can be very subtle, so you almost have to have the two leaves side by side for comparison.

Super nice tree!

Zach
 

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