Plant of the Month August 2017

Graceful beauty with English charm

Ulmus minor ‘Jacqueline Hillier’ – Elegantissima elm


This time one of the probably oldest specimens of the variety Ulmus minor, ‘Jacqueline Hillier’ from 1970 starts off our plant of the month for August 2017. The tree with the picturesque growth was originally planted in a private garden in Switzerland in Uitikon Waldegg, Zurich and had to give way to a new building there 12 years ago. This distinctive elm was then transplanted to the tree museum of the landscape architect Enzo Enea in Rapperswil-Jona. Today, the tree shows off its outstanding vitality and lovely growth in the face of a wall made of Italian sandstone and creates an aura of immortality. The walls consist of the same, harmoniously proportioned and massive blocks of stone from an Italian stone quarry that had already been used by Enea's father for his sandstone pots, reflecting the history and identity of Enea through its natural and rugged character.

The Elegantissima elm ‘Jacqueline Hillier’ originated spontaneously in a private park near Birmingham in 1966. Afterwards it was cultivated and marketed by the Hillier & Sons tree nursery in Winchester, England.

The Elegantissima elm is often referred to in the older literature as Ulmus x elegantissima. It is said to be a hybrid from the wych elm (U. glabra) and the Plot elm (U. plotii, now referred to as U. minor var. Lockii). This name continues to exist in the variety’s German name.

The variety grows as an extraordinarily small tree from 4 to 6 m in height and the leaves are very small with a length of 2 to 3 cm and width of 1 cm. The tree forms mostly long shoots. The main trunk and side branches become picturesque later with their twists and turns. Old specimens often develop an open, half-bifurcate to umbrella-like crown in old age. The Elegantissima elm is quite popular as a garden tree, but it is still used very little in Germany. The variety is also suitable for hedges. When pruned into shape, this elm shows itself form its best side – due to the small foliage and the beautiful branching with striking bark, this variety is an interesting basis for an interesting garden bonsai. In trade or in well-sorted tree nurseries, this variety is now available in many different sizes as a bonsai for every garden size.

The soil should be moderately dry to moist, nutritious and deep, slightly acidic to alkaline. The variety is completely hardy.

The Dutch elm disease does not affect this variety because the small tree is barely beaten by the elm bark beetle (the beetles orient themselves towards the light and fly upwards from their nesting place).