Siberian Elm

(Question)

We have a very old hedge (might be 50 years?) and it looks like it might be Siberian elm.  This morning someone driving carelessly lost control of their car in the snow and hit it, breaking off five large trunk-sections right near the base.  It’s hard to tell from the picture but most of what you see is broken but still held up by an old chain link fence it’s become enmeshed with.  We are pretty upset about losing it and will now have a huge gap.  Can you recommend a good nursery that might be able to help us find replacement plants for the missing section?

(Answer)

Siberian Elm (Ulmus pumila) is a non-native tree/shrub that is frequently used for hedges as it is a fast growing plant.  It requires frequent pruning to keep it under control.  Purchasing replacement shrubs for those damaged is one option.

As Master Gardeners, we do not recommend specific garden centres.

I would suggest you contact your local or favourite garden centre, that carries shrubs and trees, and ask them to source the required number and size of Siberian Elms that you need to fill the gap.  It may be difficult to source Siberian Elms as they are considered invasive, but your nursery may be able to special order them.

You do not state your location, but if you are in an area with a Horticultural Society, it may be worth while approaching them to see if they have any ideas about sourcing shrubs for you.

There are a couple of other options if you cannot find new Siberian Elms and are determined that you want to keep the hedge.  If the damaged plants have diameters under 10 cm, you can cut them back to within several centimetres from the ground.  New shoots will emerge from the trunk and eventually fill in the space.  A second option would be to look through your hedge in the spring for seedlings which could be transplanted.  Siberian Elms produce copious amounts of seed and seedlings can often be found.

If you have difficulty replacing these shrubs, it may be just the opportunity you need to plant something different that is not as invasive, but affords your garden the privacy needed.

For more information on the Siberian Elm, see the link below:

www.torontogardens.com/2009/04/warning-siberian-elm-needs-firm-hand.html/