This may be the strongest of the Water-elms I brought home this year. The shoots grew so fast that I even had to pinch a couple of them so they wouldn’t get out of hand. At 1/8″ thick at the base already, there’s no way I can delay getting some wire on this tree.

Now, you’ll notice that this tree has produced all of its recovery growth in the top third of the tree (excluding some diehard shoots that cropped up near the base – not useful for the design I have in mind). This may seem daunting, but the good news is the slender and curving trunk of this specimen makes it ideally suited to a quasi-literati form. In this case “quasi” means the tree does not strictly meet the definition of what is commonly established as the literati style. It has gentle but obvious taper, and commonly the literati style will have little to no taper. Regardless, I’m confident I can make something really nice out of this raw material.

Just to give you an idea of scale, the trunk base of this tree is 2.5″ above the root crown. It was chopped at 22″. And the nebari is awesome!

Here you can see what I mean when I say these shoots are super strong. If I don’t get wire on them now, they’ll be even stiffer in spring.

It’s always best to work your trees from the bottom up. Here I’ve wired my lowest branch. In order to make up for the fact that my first branch is very high on the tree, I’ll need to pull this branch down. That also, incidentally, will add drama to the style.

First branch done, pulled down some more, and now I tackled the second branch.

Sometimes as you work your way up the tree the design gets easier, but this is not always the case. Since this tree has so many branches in such close proximity, finding a space for each one is a bit of a challenge. And the thing is, I need just about every one of those branches!

Now I’m getting closer to the finish line. The apical branch is easy. I decided to keep an original branch that came with the tree, but it needed some movement so it got wired and shaped. Things still look a little wild, but I’m almost there.

I’ve turned the tree so it’s easier to see that branch in back that was shooting straight up. There’s a spot for it, I just had to wire and put it there.

The final step for today was to trim the branches back to what will ultimately be the tree’s silhouette. For tall, slender specimens, you must be careful not to let them grow out too far as this makes the tree look juvenile. In order to maintain the illusion of age, height and size, tall slender trees need a tight silhouette.

I may or may not slip-pot this tree soon. Root growth should continue well into November, even though we’re starting to cool off. If I do slip-pot, I’ll post a follow-up blog.

Let me know what you think of Water-elm #40. Leave me a comment below.