About Hornbeam – Carpinus betulus (Betulaceae)
At Hedgeworx, clear stem pleached hornbeam (Carpinus Betulus) is the most popular form tree species we sell. Available in the widest range of pretrained shapes and sizes particularly as freshly pleached and also more mature pleached hornbeam trees. Hornbeam (like Beech), maintained in a formal fashion with tightly clipped crowns, hold onto their leaves into the winter. It is widely cultivated as an ornamental tree for planting in gardens and parks throughout North West Europe.
A Native Species
Carpinus Betulus, can be found across the United Kingdom in formal gardens and urban settings. Trees of 200 years old or more are quite common, reaching a height of 15-20m. Of all the deciduous species which lend themselves to being managed, Hornbeam is perhaps the one which enjoys it most.
A relatively small tree which quite happily grows beneath the canopies of much larger trees, it is a real survivor. In reduced light conditions it copes surprising well with the damage caused by bows of larger trees falling into it. Perhaps its ability to heal so easily from severe damage and continue to produce new growth so vigorously is testament to why this tree is ideal for even the most demanding training. In fact, this tree is so strong year round that it will drop all of its leaves during the summer months if it is not watered correctly or during severe drought conditions (when other trees do not and instead fail).
This simple defense mechanism reduces the need for the uptake of moisture from the ground. Once rain falls, the tree produces a whole new set of leaves within a 6-8-week period, often denser than the first set and in some instances, you would never know the tree had been through a period of stress. A real survivor and one of our favourite trees for training. Please note, trees will fail if not watered correctly. Our tests were carried out in nursery conditions. While we have recorded this behaviour in the wild, not all trees survive. Failure to irrigates trees correctly can lead to parts of or all of the tree dying. Do not allow a tree to lose its leaves due to a lack of moisture.
Care and Maintenance
Clipping the crown of pleached Hornbeam on a regular basis produces a dense almost impenetrable canopy where the bamboo frames used for initial training are soon hidden. The young intricate branches and twigs are grey-brown in colour while the bark of the older branches and bows, including the trunk is dark grey. The bark is smooth to touch. The leaves are deeply corrugated with veins, avoid in shape and bright green, measuring 6-10cm long. From mid-April onwards the Hornbeam produces its new leaves making it earlier than the Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica). The vivid green leaves (4-9cm long) quickly produce a dense covering and gradually turn a dark colour green as the season progresses.
Small catkins are produced in April/May producing small ovoid ribbed nuts months later – in garden or grounds maintenance terms the spoils are of little consequence apart from the annual autumn leaf clear up. In autumn the leaves turn golden yellow and then brown.
If pleached Hornbeam trees are pruned annually, the dry brown leaves tend to remain on the tree well into the winter and in some cases only to fall off when new leaves push through in the spring. The root system is relatively close to the surface so careful consideration must be given to hard landscaping in this area. The trees are usually considered non-toxic and they suffer from very few diseases.
What Soil and Environment does it need?
Hornbeam or Carpinus Betulus can be found all over the United Kingdom, the exception being exposed coastal sites and elevations above 600m. It will grow in most soil conditions and it is surprisingly adaptable and quite happily grows in areas of London with moderate clay, while doing equally well in sandy loamy soils on the South coast of England and the like. It copes surprisingly well in dry and wet soil conditions and can cope with short periods of flooding.
Considered winter hardy it can easily deal with the most extreme weather conditions the United Kingdom can throw its way. It does surprisingly well on windy sites. Suitable for planting in low light and shadow conditions. This really is a versatile tree ideally suited to tall hedges, topiary and form trees, cylinders, block on stem, columns, blocks, cones, arches, roof trained trees, low screens (low pleached trees), high screen (high pleached trees) sometimes called stilt hedging, multistem umbrella, multistem roof, cylinder on stem, hi and low espalier.
Pleached hornbeam are available as rootball plants in the winter months, potted stock available while stocks last and cocoa root ball plants can be arranged for delivery throughout summer period by prior arrangement, contact us to check availability. More about Hornbeam from the Woodland Trust.
Planting advice for Pleached trees, Freshly Pleached trees, Espalier trees and Freshly Espaliered trees.
An important consideration when planting pleached Hornbeam trees or espalier trees in a straight line is the slope of the ground level. Pleached or Espalier trees look their best when they are planted on flat or gently sloping ground. Doing so will line up the frames and clear stems, creating the effect of one continuous line of hedge screen when viewed at all angles. Even on a gradual slope this effect can be achieved. However, with a slope of more than 10-12 degrees, it may be necessary to step the trees/frames when planting (the frames on freshly pleached trees can be manipulated to account for a sharper slope of perhaps 15 degree if necessary)…
Read our full planting guide here or call customer service for advice.
How are Pleached Hornbeam Trees made?
Pleached trees or screen trees start life as a seedling or cutting, much like any other tree, being repotted or replanted a number of times in their formative years. They grow happily on the nursery with hundreds or even thousands of other trees. When the time is right, highly skilled nurserymen and woman go out into the field amongst the trees with tags in hand and pick the very best trees for pleaching. The criteria for choosing the best trees for training includes, selecting those with the straightest stems, healthy root stock and appropriately spreading and uninform crowns.
Pleached Hornbeam delivery costs vary depending on several factors:
- The order quantity
- If you want us to plant them
- Accessibility of the site
- If any need sourcing
- The seasonal ability to lift or plant specific species.
We offer a personal shopping experience, so please contact us to discuss your individual requirements and delivery timescales with our expert customer services.