Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Chinese Elm, Ulmus parvifolia 'Lang Yu'

The Chinese Elm, native as well to Korea and Japan, is one of the perfect smallish (10metre) trees which can be safely planted in medium to large gardens without fear of it blowing down in one of the regular gales which now feature as part of our more extreme climate.  It is relatively low and spreading with graceful, flexible and pendulous branches and small leaves which means it is better able to cope with strong wind gusts. It is usually regarded and grouped with deciduous trees but in warm climates this may only partly be the case. Some blanches facing away from cold winds may retain most of their leaves throughout winter. 
My attention has been drawn to this tree because I have a bonsai version of it which has a new flush of tiny scalloped leaves emerging like tiny fans along the branches and delightfully shaded a silvery pea green. 
For landscape use this elm is ideal when planted in a raised garden bed or above a wall so the attractive orange and brown patchwork bark can be seen to best advantage. A local housing development has used them as an avenue planting on top of a retaining wall which allows visitors to walk under the arching canopy.  There is always a worst case scenario when it comes to tree placement and from my observation the Sydney suburb of Rockdale takes the cake for the street planting on a main road. There is clearly not enough room for the branches to spread on a narrow footpath or across parked cars, and, to make it doubly ugly the trees have been given a flat top haircut just in case a branch dared to reach a power line.
This tree is a good choice for situations where a wonderful shade tree is required which is both hardy and of low maintenance. There is no massive leaf drop requiring the overuse of a blower and the seeds which occur in autumn make minimal mess.

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