I tend to think of elms as cyclical trees; they can look good with lots of fine twigs, but then they will sometimes have dieback in the finer branching. With good spring growth going on this elm things were starting to look a bit overgrown. After a good clean-up the tree looked nice over the winter, but the spring growth revealed that some of the smaller interior twigs had died off. Cutting back the tree and thinning it a bit more should cause some back budding and new branches on the interior.
The tree produced a lot of medium strength shoots this spring. They were allowed to run and have hardened off.
The top right side of the crown before trimming.
The top right after trimming the shoots.
After trimming all the shoots.
After trimming the shoots, I was tempted to cut the tree back heavily but I decided to go slowly. Elms can bud nearly anywhere, but that doesn’t mean that they will. The number of smaller branches that were dead told me that I had left the tree too dense last summer. I concentrated on eliminating the stronger clumps of twigs, the entire process from the shot above to the one below took over half an hour, and at least in the photos there doesn’t seem to be much difference. So what is the difference? My feeling is that the additional cutback will allow more light to the interior and increase the appearance of buds along the older sections of the existing branches. At the same time, I haven’t lost any of the mature structure of the tree.
After cutback, thinning and removal of some of the heavier clumps of twigs.
It’s interesting to note the difference in behavior of this elm from others that I've developed. The mature canopy of this tree sends out a relatively even crop of shoots and the twigs remain fine. My larger elm consistently will send out a few shoots that are far stronger than the rest of the shoots – perhaps this is the difference between a tree with a mature canopy and one still in development.