Time for a new pot. Or is it a slab? How about “container”? That could work.

The tree is a winged elm, Ulmus alata, which, for your Latin lesson of the day, means “winged elm” (my favorite line when giving a demonstration on this species is: In English, it’s “win-ged”. Two syllables. In America they usually say “winged”, one syllable. In the south they call it a “Wanged Elm”, like, ” I’ll have ten chicken wangs, as hot as y’all make em’…I wanna feel ’em going down, annnd I wanna feel em’ when they comin’ out, sittin’ on the pot, iffn ya’ get my meanin’ ” )

Speaking of pots, the current one it’s in isn’t a bad pot, really. It’s a nice deep blue glaze,

If I’m correct, it’s a Tokoname production pot from Japan. High quality, from the last century. Very shallow. I think a ficus will look good in it.

What’s amazing to me is how it just doesn’t drain very fast, being as it can only hold less than a quart of soil in it. It’s paradoxical, but the more shallow a container, the slower it drains. Look at the pic below, you can see the drainage hole screen, it has so little soil…..granted, it is winter and the tree is dormant, but, still. This tree hasn’t ever wilted.

Originally, The tree started as an air layer, and, just to be contrary, it’s a “how many ‘rules’ can I break and still make this thing look like a tree” kinda tree.

It has a deadwood feature, called an “uro” , pronounce it like ooooo-rrroh, rolling the “r”. From the Google:

To make “r” sound, start to say “l”, but make your tongue stop short of the roof of your mouth, almost in the English “d” position. It is more like the Spanish “r”. The Japanese have trouble to pronounce and tell the difference between the English “r” and “l’ because these sounds don’t exist in Japanese.

As a deciduous tree, it breaks the rule of the “first branch, second branch, back branch” tango, as all the branches are at the top third of the tree….

Except for a scraggly one on the left bottom, the first branch is generally the thickest branch on the tree, but it’s thinner and wimpy compared to the branches higher up. I call it an incidental branch. It is a part of and accompanying the design but it’s not a major part of the tree, yet.

And the tree has little taper.

I’m trying to make it look like a natural tree, in the process of transformation, where maybe a windstorm broke the top off and knocked it sideways. It survived and it’s just about recovered, the top is beginning to fill back in, and that skinny branch on the bottom has sprouted, first, because it’s now in the sun, and second, to help balance the weight, something a tree does when it finds itself suddenly sideways (kinda like a drunk man walking all arms akimbo, like the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz, ready to grab the wall or a pretty lady in case he stumbles. Or in the case of the pretty lady, even if he doesn’t stumble).

That’s a lotta back story, but the tree is beginning to be able to tell it itself, through its own language of branches and leaves.

I think I can help it out with a new pot. Set and frame the scene so to say.

It’s always good procedure to prepare the new pot before we take a tree out of the old pot. Sooooo…….let’s start with screen.

1/8″ hardware cloth to be exact. 27 gauge. I think it might have been a 3’x15′ roll. Galvanized, At the time I bought it, it was cheap. Now, not so much…..you’ll have to shop around for a reasonable price. I bought it when made my own soil sifting trays, which I still use today.

The hardware cloth is rigid but bendable and formable, easy to cut to size, and lasts a long time. A good investment, maybe a better one than that nylon craft screen from Hobby Lobby.

And for those who wish to bring up “heavy metal buildup in soil being bad for trees” , we repot our trees too often for that to become a factor, key word being “build-up”.

Drain hole cover wire, using the best technique, of course. My technique is always the best, ignore all others, only use mine.

The pot was made by a friend of my friend, Rick (the Old Wise One) named Rob Mitchell, who has since passed away. An ex-firefighter and an amazing potter. I do believe I have three pots from him now, and I jump at the chance to buy them when I see them.

I like that Rob’s pot has modern style tie down holes, which helps the repotting process. The old pot only has drain holes, no wire holes, which isn’t conducive to tying trees into it.

Pot is ready, now to the tree. I’ll be removing the old leaves, unwiring, and trimming it back. Getting it ready for spring growth.

Being dormant (though there’s still green in the leaf, as we don’t always get good autumn color) it’s easy to pluck off the leaves. But you gotta do it correctly.

First, using your index finger and thumb, delicately (make sure you extend your pinky, classy-like and all), pluck toward the trunk…

Like so….

If you don’t, you can easily remove the dormant bud on the inside of the petiole and the branch. Like this:

If you want a new branch, it’s best to not remove those buds when defoliating. Then again, there are times when you don’t want them, of course, so feel free to rip them off as you see fit, it’s not my job to tell you what to do (except you should cover your face when coughing and sneezing, wash your hands after voiding the bowels and bladder, tip your server, and eat your dessert first…).

Now, in the growing season, if you are defoliating, you might just cut them off with scissors, as the bud is usually more firmly stuck to the leaf, and pulling the leaf either way can remove the bud or pull the bark off down the branch.

Now for some pruning:

Elms get a bit of dieback, so you’re always cutting off dead ends.

Now it’s time to un-pot:

I know, it looked like I did it already but I was showing you the lack of wire holes in the pot, in the pic, nine spaces above.

Wow, that’s a shallow root pad!

Which makes it easier to repot. More like “sit the roots untouched upon a bunch of new soil”

Tie it in securely..

Put some new soil on top.

I guess I need to mix the soil a bit better, looks like I hit a pocket of fir bark.

Yeah. Bad form! Bad form!

A little organic fertilizer.

Pre-emergent weed preventer.

Now we are ready for Spring to get sprung

Wait, got a cowlick sticking up.


And now….Bob’s yer uncle

I know, traditionally, the tree has flaws, but if one is intentional in leaving them, in order to tell a story, then those flaws become part of the trees legend. And I believe it’s beginning to tell its own story. Hopefully it raises questions in you, my dear readers. Questions about why we do things, how we do them, what could work and what doesn’t.

That’s the whole point of the blog, to ask “Why?”, and that’s all that matters now, doesn’t it. To quote Socrates:

“The unexamined life is not worth living”

3 thoughts

  1. Hi Adam, Always enjoy reading your posts. (Attended a carving class you did at Erik’s forever ago.) Will you please update my email so I can continue reading your Blog. Thanks, Sandy [ mailto:sandyfree52@gmail.com | sandyfree52@gmail.com ]


    1. That’s only able to be done by you. I can’t add peoples emails to the list. Scroll down a bit and go up until you find the “follow” tab and re-enter the new email address.


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