As I’ve written on at least a couple of occasions, sometimes our best intentions when collecting or working on trees just don’t pan out.  Sometimes a tree will die, but just as often a tree may die only partly.  You can’t always make something out of these unfortunates, but then again sometimes you can.

Water-elm7-24-16-1A couple of years ago I collecting this Water-elm, Planera aquatica.  It started re-budding within a week … at which point I knew it probably wouldn’t make it.  As a general rule, at least for Water-elms, if the collected trees starts budding out a week after you collect it it ends up dying.  Two to three weeks after collection is a good sign.  In the case of this tree, I fully expected it to die.  However, it actually put out new growth down the trunk (in more places than you see here), so I kept it watered and ignored it.

Here we are two years later, and part of this tree wants to live.  Ordinarily you’d look at what’s here and think, “No way anything will come of it.”  So did I, actually.  But it was easier to ignore the tree than to unceremoniously pull it from the pot and toss it, so I left it alone.

Fast-forward to 2016, and the tree has put on a four foot-long shoot.  What’s not alive on this specimen is rotting away.  But there’s a definite clinging to life, so I couldn’t help but think “Maybe I can make something out of it.”

Water-elm7-24-16-2In this photo, you can see more clearly the living vein of wood that’s sustaining the nice little clump of shoots (five, to be exact; I’m liking that prospect).  The next order of business will be to cut away all the dead wood.  I need to get down to the lemonade in this lemon.








First went the upper trunk; all dead and rotting away.











Now I split off the wood surrounWater-elm7-24-16-5ding the live vein.











Just about all the dead wood has been cut away in this photo.  Although it looks like I could make an upright bonsai out of this remaining material, I’ve got other plans.










First, here’s the root mass associated with this tree.  Not bad considering most of the tree died!  Now, on to the “finished” product.









I thought that using a stone might be the best way to showcase this survivor.  As for the stone, it’s actually a fossil.  Over 20 years ago my daughter and I, while creek-walking near our home, stumbled across a number of pieces of petrified palm wood.  I still have a good bit of it.  While it’s not the sturdiest petrified wood you’ll ever run across, certain pieces of it are fairly tough.  For this tree, I was able to make use of a lengthier piece of the stone.  I draped some roots over and into the soil, and covered most of the exposed root with moss to keep it from drying out.  Only time will tell if the roots decide to grab hold of the stone.

I also need to do considerable work to the three branches I left on the live vein from above, which now forms the main trunk of this tree.  But that’s for another time.  For now, I’ll just feed and water this unusual Water-elm landscape planting.

I’d love to hear any feedback you might have.  Just leave a comment below.