Help me decide between Siberian Elm and Chinese Elm for a hedge

bonitaapplebum(z5 MA)January 16, 2006

Here's the situation: a Dunkin' Donuts is going up right down the street from me. Naturally, I don't want to look at it.

Our driveway is paved with asphalt. There is so much surface area paved (thanks to the previous owner) it is like a parking lot -- we have plenty of driveway to spare. So, we are ripping up about a 10' wide strip along our property line, amending the soil, and putting in a hedge.

The hedge needs to grow fast and be able to put up with being near a heavily travelled street. Two types of hedge I've read about that apparently meet the bill are Siberian Elm and Chinese Elm.

Any thoughts? Alternatives? Experience with either hedge.

The hedge doesn't have to be a fabulous specimen, and it doesn't have to live forever. I'd like it to serve its purpose for about five years, I'm hoping to grow something else (slower growing) for the long term. But in the interim, I gotta block that Dunkin' Donuts ASAP. I don't mind doing a lot of trimming.


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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Often ugly Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) is often called Chinese elm by mistake. Chinese elm (U. parvifolia) is a better garden plant. But is it hardy in your zone?

    Bookmark   January 16, 2006 at 7:41PM
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bonitaapplebum(z5 MA)

Well, I am looking at Chinese Elm in Gurney's catalog (linked below), which lists it as hardy to zone 4. (Naturally, Gurney's does not provide Latin names!!) Hmm.

When you say ugly (regarding Siberian Elm), can you be specific? Photos I've seen are just sort of generically hedge looking...

I really appreciate your opinions.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gurney's

    Bookmark   January 16, 2006 at 9:05PM
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bonitaapplebum(z5 MA)

Spring Hill lists Ulmis Parvifolia as hardy to zone 4 as well...

So, what can people tell me about Chinese Elm? How long will it take to grow a decent hedge (the million dollar question, right?)

Here is a link that might be useful: Spring Hill

    Bookmark   January 16, 2006 at 9:11PM
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bonitaapplebum(z5 MA)

a privet hedge?

Which would grow faster? Thicker?

I really appreciate any advice.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2006 at 2:35PM
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I have no experience with either elm and I don't know your zone, but is chinese elm deciduous? If that's ok then it looks like a winner. Are you planning to get them locally so you can get bigger plants?

What about hollies?

    Bookmark   January 18, 2006 at 6:07AM
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sbeuerlein(zone 6)

I'm not a big fan of Gurney's either (nor any catalog that doesn't list Latin names). But check for the opionions of their customers. (I believe that is the web address; if not, Google garden watchdog).

The elm you would want would be Ulmus parvifolia, the true Chinese elm, sometimes also called lacebark elm. Hardy to zone 4.

But I'm not really sure if any elm makes a good, true, hedge. It might work, I've just never seen it used like that before. U. parvifolia is a very twiggy tree, however, so if clipped will probably result in a dense plant that, although, deciduous would probably provide decent privacy year round.

The privet idea is more typical, although it is not an attractive plant especially, and is often locally invasive. Evergreen arborvitaes make excellent visual barriers.


    Bookmark   January 19, 2006 at 9:37AM
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laceyvail(6A, WV)

I would certainly opt for arborvitae, especially where deer are not a problem, which they are for most eastern types. I'm told they are not as interested in the western arborvitaes. And I wouldn't trust a word from Gurneys or Spring Hill--these are not quality catalogs.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2006 at 8:06AM
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bonitaapplebum(z5 MA)

Will arborvitae grow as *fast* as privet or a siberian or chinese elm?

Like I said, right now I'm not as worried about it being beautiful -- just fast. (Frankly, anything is more beautiful than a donut shop!)


    Bookmark   January 30, 2006 at 4:38PM
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bonitaapplebum(z5 MA)

(I'm a little afraid to ask, I always feel so foolish when I post in these forums! :) )

If you don't consider Gurney or Spring Hill quality sources for shrubs, what catalogs would you recommend?

I appreciate your advice.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2006 at 5:03PM
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lisa_in_pa(z6 PA)

My husband and I were looking for evergreens to give us some privacy from a busy street corner that our property is on. We went to our local garden center and were able to find arborvitae that were already the height we needed (about 5-6' tall). It was nice that we didn't have to wait for them to grow-they were perfect as soon as we put them in the ground. The birds like them too-good cover for them. Oh-and the best thing-they weren't that expensive! Good luck.


    Bookmark   February 7, 2006 at 7:18AM
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Do NOT plant Siberian elm unless you want to be fighting a battle with eraticating the weeds that come up from the abundant seed crop. It would make an OK hedge and grows very fast under adverse conditions but it is a real weed. I spent my childhood weeding these out of garden and flower beds.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2006 at 12:46PM
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I see your question was from January but had a couple of thoughts even if they are a bit late. Or did you plant something already?

First we have ordered TONS of plants and trees from Forest Farm (link below) and you just cannot go wrong. Everything always arrives in a very timely fashion and well packaged. I have ordered a couple of plants from Gurneys and it has always been a nightmare. I'll never do it again. If you want lush plants that are the size described order from Forest Farm. They also have an unbelievable selection.

On that note, we ordered six Thuja Green Giant trees from Forest Farm this year for the purpose of creating a privacy screen in the back yard. Although I thought they perhaps could have been a bit lusher they were nice trees, about five feet tall and very healthy. I would recommend these trees for being reasonably fast growing. In my experience with the five I have from a few years ago they don't grow three feet in a year like the hype says but they are lovely, tough little trees that make a hedge. And they don't really require pruning and trimming to look nice.

Hope this helps.


Here is a link that might be useful: Forest Farm

    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 9:38AM
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bhrost(zone 5 NY)

Arborvitae would probably be good for your longer term quality screen. If you just want something fast and temporary Siberian Elm might work - if it is cheaper than Chinese Elm than get that if you aren't going to keep it long term. Siberian Elms are only occasionally planted in my area, and they don't seem to be very invasive at all. Obviously they are in other areas since it is pointed out so often.

The problem with paying for Chinese Elm is that you may end up with Siberian anyway at a higher price. I know of one government project where they were supposed to have planted Chinese Elms. I checked it out and the elms they had were producing seed in spring, but from what I've read Chinese Elm flowers and produces seed in Fall? If they don't have older style bark yet, it may be hard to tell the two apart.

Too bad everyone wasn't like me, then your donut shop would go out of business. Not that I don't like donuts, but the last time I went into one of those places I paid about $2 for one donut - I'm not made out of money.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2006 at 5:35PM
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I would skip the elms completely. the siberian elm gets to be a huge tree, with lots of weak wood. (it sheds twigs like a willow, grows about as fast. mature specimans are very nice looking) Butr you are talking about trying to make a 100 foot tree into a hedge!!!! then digging it out--
they resprout. Chinese elm is still a tree. I'd spend my money on some Thuga 'green giant' 4-5 foot ones will do--
in 5 years you will have an 18 foot wall of green year round. Its a popular tree so you sould be able to find a
source that isn't too expensive as it is a fast grower.


    Bookmark   June 28, 2006 at 9:44AM
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I planted a Chinese Elm hedge of about 40 plants along my drive about 17 years ago. I donÂt remember now how many years it took to become a view blocker. It adds about 3 feet of growth on top and a foot or more out the sides every summer and I trim it down in the fall to10 feet high and the sides accordingly  enough so I can pass by when mowing without getting stabbed. The trunks are 4 - 6 inches in diameter and while trimming the tops I also cut out a lot of the heavier branches. The plants are very water tolerant and for a time after heavy rains the roots stand in a couple inches of water, which is caused by the heavy clay soil we have here and the resultant poor drainage. I have lost only one plant in all these years.

When I planted the hedge I also planted three of the plants in the back of the property and have never trimmed them. They now stand 30 feet tall. The branches are rather skimpy and itÂs not an especially good looking ÂtreeÂ.

IÂm very happy with the hedge. ItÂs a great view blocker, a.k.a spite fence, although thatÂs not why I planted it.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 5:34PM
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My neighbour told me that the chinese elm hedge between our properties is an invasive plant and should be removed. Is this true and if so should i remove it.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 10:16AM
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If you were the very first person to plant it in your region, I might agree with your neighbour. You are not the first though, and whether you remove it now or not will have very little impact on the spread of the species in your region.
That said, Siberian Elm & Chinese Elm don't seem to be particularly invasive in Southern Ontario....naturalized, yes....invasive, no.
I suspect the real motivation is the annual appearance of elm seedlings in flowerbeds. In a natural environment though, they have a tougher go.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 3:53PM
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My neighbour's hedge is chinese elm. He's ripping it out. The neighbours across the road ripped theirs out 5 years ago. There's a reason they grew to hate them.

As hedges they are very hard to keep neat, they get odd knobby bits, and grow like weeds, requiring constant trimming. They suck as a formal hedge, and grow too loosely and too large for an informal hedge. Neither fish nor fowl.

Privet is much better for a trimmed hedge, emerald cedar make nice informal hedges with little trimming required. Those grow fairly quickly. Never done arborvitae.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2011 at 11:59PM
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Siberian Elm is invasive in North America. It takes over open spaces quickly and is very difficult to eradicate. It is also spread easily by seed, so planting it can have permanent impacts far beyond the boundaries of your property. PLEASE do not plant it intentionally.

For more info:

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 7:31PM
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