Elm trees, back from the dead and soon to appear at the Manse

Disease-resistant elm trees at the Tregunna Tree Farm outside Tweed, Ont. We are now the proud owners of the tree on the left, and before long it will grace the front lawn of the Manse.

Have you ever heard of Dutch elm disease? It was a pestilence that arrived in North America in the middle of the 20th century and pretty much wiped out this continent’s elm trees. I remember a long time ago – probably sometime in the very early 1970s – my father valiantly trying to save a beautiful tall old elm at the family farm in Haliburton County, one of the last elms left on the place. He had read about a treatment that was thought might save the trees: cutting into some roots and immersing them in a mixture of water and, if I recall correctly, copper sulfate. It was quite the project – and, sadly, it didn’t work. Dad was a great lover of the woods, and he was heartsick at the death of the elm trees.

Last weekend in Queensborough, Raymond and I took a drive to Tweed and thence out the scenic French Settlement Road to the Tregunna Tree Farm. We went with the intention of buying – or arranging to buy – a maple tree to replace the late lamented giant that used to grace the front yard of the Manse, the remains of which have recently, finally, been removed.

Tregunna is a good operation. They have all manner of trees and shrubs, including some nice big maples (25 feet and more) at an extremely reasonable price (let’s just say many hundreds of dollars cheaper than you would pay in the city), and we are going to have one of those transplanted to the Manse in the late fall, which is the season for it. As we were walking back from the maple-tree plantation, though, I noticed a lovely old tree off in a corner of their property and asked about it. The answer was a surprise: it’s an elm, one of the very few still left. (Though, as co-owner Gillian Tregunna told us, it’s starting to go.) But then she delivered some great news: elms that are resistant to Dutch elm disease are now available, and they had some for sale! (Here is an article from the Ottawa Citizen about the return of the elm in that city, thanks to disease-resistant strains.)

This photo from way, way back (1970), taken by me, shows (in the background, behind the lilac bush and those cutup kids, notably my sister Melanie [the one with the dark hair making a face, something she was quite good at as a child] and my cousin Megan, not to mention Finnigan the dog; the others in the photo are, left to right, my Aunt Marion, my cousin Bruce, my brother John, and my cousin Nancy) where a small maple tree used to be at the northeast corner of the Manse property. And that’s where the new elm will go.

So we are now the owners of an elm tree, though it has not yet been planted; we are hoping that will happen in mid-July. We would like to put it more or less where a smallish maple used to be at the northeast corner of the front yard. That will give us an elm and a maple in front of the Manse. And won’t that be lovely?

I think my father would be very pleased.

12 thoughts on “Elm trees, back from the dead and soon to appear at the Manse

  1. There are many, many native elms still around…I have numerous youngsters at my place. However, due to the Dutch Elm Disease, they no longer live to 100-150 years of age but rather die off at around 10-20 years. Hopefully your disease-resistant variety from Tregunna will live long enough to develop the iconic umbrella of maturity.

  2. I’ll have to look into the nursery around here, we had 3 elms when we bought this house in 1985 and they all got Dutch Elm Disease, they were beautiful and it would be nice to replace them … just don’t see very many Elms around town any longer.

  3. I’ve never seen this photo! Megan’s infectious smile is still the same, but what the heck does Bruce have in his mouth? And so nice to see Finnigan again…

    • That’s super fantastic about the elm trees but get a load of that pic!
      There is a whole lot going on there, not the least of which is that despite just turning 50 Melanie is the only one that is not faded by time.
      I have never seen this photo either keep em coming!

      • Anyone else think that’s me and not Nancy? And yes, Melanie and Bruce are definitely the life of this particular party. Aunt Marion is as un-fazed by the shenanigans as ever.

        Oh, and nice elms.

      • I have to admit I found it strange to see Nancy as the “baby,” Valerie – to me, that role in the Payne family will always be played by you!

    • Finnigan was both the best and the dumbest dog ever. He was with us a long, long time, most of it in Queensborough. Poor old thing, he put up with a lot. But I think he had a lot of fun, too. I can’t recall where he came from; does anyone? But I suspect that his life with the Sedgwicks was better than the life he came from. Good old Finnigan.

  4. Lilac bush? Is it still there? There is nothing I love more than the smell of lilacs…we had a bush when we moved into this house in 1996, but OJ had allergies and cut it down…the smell bothered him too much. *Weep*….perhaps I need to plant another…and maybe one up north in Bristol, too…

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