Weeping Trees

Weeping Trees

Part of Ep. 1003 Weep No More

Join Ed Lyon, co-owner of the Stonewall Nursery in Oregon and the Director of Education for Olbrich Botanical Gardens as he introduces weeping trees that aren't willows.

Premiere date: Jul 24, 2002

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
Up to now, we've been talking about some beautiful willows for the back yard, but none of them were weepers. Now we're going to look at trees that do weep, but not willows. We're at Stonewall Nursery in Oregon, Wisconsin. I'm with one of the co-owners, Ed Lyon. Ed, in addition to helping to run this, you're also the Director of Education for Olbrich Botanical Gardens. How do you possibly do both and stay awake all summer?

Ed:
It can be difficult. It's seven days a week.

Shelley:
But you like it, obviously. This looks like such a fun place to play, too.

Ed:
Exactly. And as Director of Education, working in the nursery helps keep the dirt under the fingernails, so I stay real.

Shelley:
So, you're honest!

Ed:
That's correct.

Shelley:
Tell me about some of the trees that you're really proud of here.

Ed:
I know that you've been talking about willows, and willows that don't weep. I want to introduce you to a small-scale weeping willow. This one is called Salix purpurea pendula, which is the Weeping Purple Osier Willow.

Shelley:
It's got gorgeous foliage. It's much smaller. It's not this massive tree that I'm expecting.

Ed:
Exactly. It's actually a shrub that's been grafted on a five-foot standard, so it's going to max out at six to seven feet and no wider than about four feet.

Shelley:
So, it's perfect for a small back yard.

Ed:
Exactly. It's the perfect tree for the small-scale water features everybody's putting in now. It scales itself much nicer than the standard weeping willow.

Shelley:
And you get the nice winter interest, because of the shape, even without leaves.

Ed:
And not only the shape, but the branching stays purple through the winter, as well.

Shelley:
Well, what makes these trees weep?

Ed:
We all know about weeping trees.

Shelley:
Like the weeping willow?

Ed:
Exactly. The large-scale weeping willow. But there are also small-scale trees that we call "strictly weeping."

Shelley:
Give me an example.

Ed:
Well, what that means is there's no central leader on the plant. It's going to continue to spread outward, like this Picea abies pendula we're looking at now. That's the Weeping Norway Spruce.

Shelley:
It looks more like a ground cover.

Ed:
It can be used in that respect. Notice that there is no central leader going upright.

Shelley:
No, it's going sideways. You said it's the same tree as this one here.

Ed:
This is also Picea abies pendula.

Shelley:
What did you do differently?

Ed:
The trunk of the plant is actually over there.

Shelley:
Here's the trunk?

Ed:
That's where the trunk is. A lot of people think we've put two plants together. But actually, what we've done is we've taken a leader and we've trained it over this direction. Once we got it this far, we trained it upward on a stake. So, this is actually all one plant from that trunk over there.

Shelley:
So, basically, to get height on a weeper, you pick a branch and stake it upright.

Ed:
Right, anytime you take a branch and stake it upright, it then thinks it's a terminal leader.

Shelley:
So, if you wanted to turn this into a giraffe instead of a llama, you'd stake it up again higher and let it weep some more?

Ed:
Exactly, and each year you want more height, you stake up a new portion that is going to become your leader. When you've got the height that you want, just let it go from there.

Shelley:
This would be a lot of fun in a kid's garden.

Ed:
You can have a lot of fun with this.

Shelley:
What are some of your other favorites?

Ed:
One of my all-time favorite weeping trees is also very small scale. And that's the Purple Leaf Weeping Beech that you're looking at here. This is Fagus sylvatica purpurea pendula.

Shelley:
Gorgeous, gorgeous leaves on it. All season?

Ed:
Yes, it's dark purple all season. It's also very small scale and fits into a lot of spots. It's only going to get about three feet wide.

Shelley:
And then however high you stake it.

Ed:
Yes, you can see here how we've staked it for the height that it's at now. We like that height and we're going to let it go from this point on.

Shelley:
What about something on a little larger scale?

Ed:
Well, we actually have a beautiful pear. Pyrus salicifolia pendula is the Weeping Willow-leafed Pear. This plant is not really well known.

Shelley:
It doesn't look like a pear at all, but it's gorgeous.

Ed:
It's got a gorgeous silver-blue leaf. It's the perfect replacement for the Russian Olive, which has gorgeous color, but does so poorly here in the Midwest.

Shelley:
They always look half dead and dying.

Ed:
That's right. They're very subject to fungal diseases.

Shelley:
This has little pears on it. Will they get big enough to eat?

Ed:
No, they stay quite small and they're purely ornamental. The plant will be covered in a white flower in the spring.

Shelley:
Okay, one last one.

Ed:
The last one that we're going to look at is Betula pendula 'Youngii'. The common name of that plant is the Weeping White European Birch. Like the Paper Bark Birch that we have, it is subject to the Bronze Birch Borer. I have a tendency to call White Bark Birches "suicide trees." But as long as you take care of the tree properly, which means keeping the root system cool and evenly moist throughout the season, you can have a magnificent specimen, like this 20-year-old piece, here.

Shelley:
That's great. Ed, thank you. This is beautiful.

Ed:
You're quite welcome.

Shelley:
A little knowledge goes a long way. Next up, we'll explain why this is called a "suicide tree."

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