7 April 2014 found me taking photos for a commissioned portrait of a grand old American Elm that has been growing for over two centuries in the heart of Aylmer, Quebec. Its roots push under the pavement of Rue Broad, across from Parc Commemoratif, less than a block from Rue Principale. Rising like a monument to Nature's splendour, it sweeps the sky with the curve of its crown. Giant living relicts from the past; towering, fountain-shaped American Elms are becoming a rarity, which less than half a century ago were an abundantly common sight. Three-quarters surrounded by asphalt from road and an automobile-garage parking lot, the magnificent tree dwarfs a house on this side, and has for its constant companion a red-painted industrial-sized dumpster against its base on the other side. It measures 88 feet tall with a 5 foot diameter.
Our urban tree expert Owen Clarkin writes: "This tree is a good candidate for the Ottawa region's most massive living American Elm in 2015, being fairly tall and stout, and with what appears to be a fairly long life already behind it, the high branches themselves are noticeably thick. It is to me without doubt the most visually impressive specimen known to survive locally. Given that the tree is publicly accessible, and appears to be in the latter stages of its life with a slightly thinning crown and harsh day-to-day living conditions, it was a natural choice to be the representative of its kind for Aleta's painting. If Dutch Elm Disease or another ailment should claim it soon, a collection of other mature Elms will remain as botanical specimens for the scientist to examine. But a century or more of healthy growth may be needed 'till they would be as magnificent a subject as this for the artist."
With this painting, Owen's commissioned set of three Heritage Elm paintings is complete, and the original oil paintings are being sold as a fundraiser by the Citizen's Environmental Stewardship Association, East of Ottawa. For more information see the Facebook page, download the brochure