Similar in appearance to beech, hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) makes a superb specimen tree or hedging plant. Grown as a tree, it has a pyramidal shape that later becomes more rounded. As a formal hornbeam hedge it requires clipping once a year in mid- to late summer to keep it looking tidy. You can also grow pleached hornbeam trees, which are excellent for creating screening above head height, while retaining space at ground level. However they do require a lot of pruning to keep them in shape, which isn't suitable for everyone's needs.
Hornbeam is particularly useful for hedging as it looks formal while growing up to 50cm per year, so it doesn't take long to develop into a hedge. Although not evergreen, Carpinus betulus retains its coppery dead leaves throughout the winter so it remains an effective screen. Green catkins appear in spring and winged nuts develop in autumn.
For best results grow Carpinus betulus in moist but well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. If growing carpinus betulus hedging, plant young whips 30cm apart and keep well watered. Standard hornbeam trees and pleasched hornbeam trees should be planted at the same depth they were in the field or pot. For best results plant in autumn and keep well watered for the first two years after planting.
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Advice on buying Carpunus betulus
- Make sure you know which type of hornbeam you want to buy. Buy whips to plant a hedge and a two-year ol standard tree if you want a tree. Pleached trees require a lot of care and pruning so make sure you have the time and patience to grow these
- Make sure your tree was grown in the UK or has a suitable 'plant passport' to prevent the spread of disease
- Always check plants for sigs of damage or disease before planting
Where to buy hornbeam