Good Together: Curly-leaved Willow & Golden Scots Elm

Change comes to gardens whether or not it was your idea. This past June, I pollarded the golden Scots elm in exasperation that it had still not flowered despite my having let it mature for three years. My hoped-for routine was to pollard in late spring, after the early-spring display of flowers and dangling seed clusters that, I now know, only free-range Scots elms produce. But even by late June there were still no flowers on the branches that had arisen from that last pollarding four springs ago, and those well-foliaged but florally-barren branches were now about fifteen feet long.


So I sawed them off, leaving only a few tiny, soft new stems of foliage to fuel the pollard's recrudescence. I needn't have worried that regrowth would have been tentative, let alone unsuccessful. Below, this Ulmus glabra 'Aurea' as it appeared this morning, not even three month later. It's crowded with new stems six feet long!


Ulmus glabra Aurea 090318 915


To the elm's right—as if it were the mike for the gold diva's bring-down-the-house aria, is the young pollard-to-be of curly-leaved willow, Salx babylonica 'Crispa'. Below, the head-on view.


Salix babylonica Crispa Ulmus glabra Aurea 090318 915


The contrast of the willow's gray-and-green corkscrew foliage with the elm's dense explosion of large, toothy, incandescently-gold foliage is already exquisite.


The willow is now tall enough—just over seven feet—for its tip to be pinched. Next spring, new stems will emerge all up and down the young trunk. I'll clip away the lower ones promptly lest this pollard's spread occlude the nearby path that's barely eighteen inches wide. Each early spring thereafter, I'll prune back all the youngs stems of both the elm and the willow, so that their vigorous heads of new growth will emerge simultaneously, and keep pace with each other as they swiftly enlarge.


First-year stems of Ulmus glabra 'Aurea' pollards can lengthen to ten feet by September. Because they emerge at the sides not just at the top, the result is a half-sphere of growth up to twenty feet in diameter. First-year stems of Salix babylonica 'Crispa' can lengthen to eight feet or more by September but, in my experience, project upward and outward in a vase-like shape, not a hemispherical one.


When this pair of pollards is mature—say, three years hence—the elm's new canopy will always be larger than the willow's. Then, the gold diva will be the huge backdrop—the peacock's tail, as it were—to the wiry, kinky star in front.




Here's how to grow curly-leaved willow.

Here's a look at the fascinating & contrasting barks of first-year stems of curly-leaved willow (smooth & green) versus that of the mature trunk (increasingly tan & fissured) from which they arise.


Here's how to grow golden Scots elm.

Here's how immense the canopy was after three years, just before I pollarded it this past June.

Here's how lengthy and vigorous the first-year growth of a pollarded Scots elm is.

Here's how the canopy of this pollarded Scots elm looked in late February of 2017, giving no clue as to whether or not any stems were bearing flower buds.

Here's a close look at golden's Scots elm's intriguing flowers & the seed clusters that follow them.

Here's a close look at the profuse seed clusters of an august weeping Scots elm.


FacebookTwitterRSS Feed

Stay in touch!


Sign up for twice-monthly eNews, plus notification of new posts:


* indicates required