Carpinus betulus (Hornbeam)

These are trained onto a frame to be planted at intervals of approximately 5-6ft to create a pleached hedge. Also known as a stilted hedge or a hedge on legs. These trees are deciduous and native and this practice is an ancient tradition in European gardens – mostly for creating avenues in grand gardens but nowadays often used as a neat and formal approach to giving privacy in urban gardens. Pleaching refers to the horizontal training of the branches. This accomplishes the hedge-on-legs effect more quickly but also produces the handsome look in the winter of long parallel horizontal lines. The lowest branches are at about 6ft from the ground. For maximum impressiveness, the ideal is to clip them to the proportion of the ones in the picture attached of a garden in Wiltshire; the foliage is taller than the trunk so the overall height of these is some 15ft overall but less than 2ft thick. It rather depends on the size of your stepladder and your head for heights. A well husbanded hedge of pleached Hornbeam is a very fine site – at any time of the year.

We also have them as normal full standard trees or columns on the nursery if you don’t want to go pleached.

The name Hornbeam is derived from the fact the timber is exceptionally hard and hard wearing. Traditionally, it was used for the replaceable teeth on timber cog wheels used in wind and water mills. Many years ago, I was a cabinet maker and used to buy timber from Agates in Horsham.

I once asked Wally (the mill foreman) what this little known timber called Hornbeam was like. He gave the immortal but accurate reply : “It’s like f***in’ ‘ard beech mate“.

N.B. When clipping several plants with the same tool, have a bucket containing a 5% bleach solution and swish your blades around for 30 seconds between plants to sterilise them. This will help avoid the chance of cross contamination of disease.

As with all woody plants, plant high, exposing as much of the taper at the base of the trunk as possible. Allowing soil to accumulate round the base of a tree can be fatal. Keep very well watered when first planted.

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Hardy anywhere in Britain below approximately 1000ft (300m)

This is only meant as a guide. Please remember we're always on hand to give advice about plants and their frost hardiness.

Please remember that these coloured labels are only a rough guide.

General Point about Plant Hardiness: The commonly held belief that it's better to 'plant small' is perfectly true with herbaceous plants, but not necessarily true with woody plants. They need some 'wood' on them to survive severe cold - so plants of marginal hardiness in very cold areas should really be planted LARGER, rather than smaller, wherever possible.

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