Zelkova serrata, the Chinese Zelkova, is a fine shade tree to consider planting instead of the ubiquitous oak or maple. It is not picky about soil and is drought tolerant once established. Its root system remains satisfactorily below ground rather than running along the surface. It is very fast growing when young. The branches form an upright vase, making it easy to mow under while offering good shade in summer and a beautiful lacy silhouette in winter. The leaves are small and finely toothed and a rich green in summer. Fall color ranges from tan to golden to russet to burgundy. The small leaves would be a misery to rake but are very easy to blow. The bark is extremely attractive. In youth it is a steely grey with prominent lenticels (neat little bumps in horizontal patterns.) With age the bark exfoliates to show an orange under layer. The Zelkova is a large tree, reaching 50 feet or more. If you need a narrower footprint, Green Vase is a good selection. As its name implies, it is narrower than it is tall. Village Green is more spreading and requires more room. For a splash of bright color Ogon leafs out bright yellow in spring, aging to light green in summer. Even the bark is golden rather than gray. If the size of zelkovas seems a bit overwhelming for your space try the variegated selection. It has a narrow white margin around the edge of each leaf, giving a shimmering rather than gaudy effect. It stays quite a bit smaller than other selections.
The Zelkova is a beautiful tree and worthy of much wider use in this area than it presently enjoys. The different selections allow it a place in almost any yard.