Town hall’s elms: Axe men cometh Tuesday, what trees next?

The Siberian elms on either side of town hall’s front entrance are scheduled to be taken down Tuesday, Aug. 7. — Macklin Reid photo
The Siberian elms on either side of town hall’s front entrance are scheduled to be taken down Tuesday, Aug. 7. — Macklin Reid photo

Emerald Sunshine? Or the Accolade?

With the two big old Siberian elms by town hall scheduled to come down next Tuesday, Aug. 7, two elm species are under consideration to replace them.

“The new time for the Siberian Elm removal is Tuesday, early morning,” First Selectman Rudy Marconi said at the end of the day July 31.  “Bailey Ave. will

need to be closed in order to stage a crane that will be used to lower the wood as cut, for obvious reasons.”

The tree removal work is being done by Miceli Tree of Ridgefield.

“The overall project, which is not just trees, will take approximately two months and will include new footing drains for the north side of the building, new concrete sidewalks, rebuilt brick areas including a wall as well as the front steps to correct frost heave issues every winter,” Marconi said.

A different contractor — Champion Maintenance Contractor of Rye Brook, N.Y. — is doing the reconstruction work and the drainage installation.

So, new trees will be planted where the old ones came down. But what kind?

“The Tree Committee is looking at two replacements for those trees,” Marconi said Monday, July 30. The leading contenders for replacements, at this point, are the Emerald Sunshine elm and the Accolade elm, Marconi said.

The Emerald Sunshine elm is described as a “medium shade tree” with “bright medium green, thick lustrous” foliage that turns “yellow or golden-yellow” in the fall, according to the Bold Spring Nursery, a Georgia-based wholesale tree grower.

Emerald Sunshine elms grow to 35 feet tall with crowns about 25 feet wide, according to the nursery.

The visual profile is described as “pyramidal when young; becoming vase-shaped with age.”

They are said to have a “fast” growth rate.

“The bright medium green leaves on Emerald Sunshine really stand out,” Bold Spring Nursery says. “Borne on vigorous upright vase-shaped arching limbs, the thick leaves are proving insect and disease resistant and wind resistant, too. Recent elm trials rank Emerald Sunshine as the best elm for resistance to elm leaf beetle.”

Bigger option

The other tree-type Marconi mentioned as under consideration is bigger.

The Accolade elm grows 50 to 60 feet tall, with a “mature width” of 30 to 40 feet.

It is offered by the Chicago Grows program, a partnership among the Chicago Botanic Garden, The Morton Arboretum and the Ornamental Growers Association of Northern Illinois.

Chicagoland Grows literature touts the Accolade as a replacement for trees lost to the Dutch elm disease.

“Once thought of as the ideal large tree for cities, the American elm had long arching branches that formed allées offering shade for hot city streets. When Dutch elm disease destroyed most of the elms lining American streets, it was feared that the American elm would never be replaced. With its graceful vase-shaped habit, vigorous growth rate and dark green glossy foliage, Accolade may just be the answer … Accolade has excellent disease and pest resistance, as well as excellent drought tolerance.”

According to the Morton Arboretum: “The Accolade elm is a Chicagoland Grows selection that demonstrates very good resistance to Dutch elm disease (DED), and elm leaf beetle. It is useful as a street, parkway, or shade tree. This elm has glossy green leaves and yellow fall color,”

Whatever trees are chosen, it will be tough to replace the big old elms that are there.

“Those trees have got to 60, 65 feet tall — they were, a lot was cut back due to age,” Marconi said.