HORNBEAM – AN C.18TH PERSPECTIVE

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Not for the first time, a gardening writer has contradicted himself as demonstrated by these two entries on the Hornbeam in Philip Miller’s C.18th book.

It is interesting to see that by the middle of the C.18th, established garden nurseries were already at the heart of horticulture. As Philip Miller wrote…

Hornbeam hath been often cultivated in the Nurseries, to make Hedges for wildernesses and Orangeries; but of late it hath not been too much used for that Purpose, the decayed Leaves of the Tree continuing on all the Winter, as do those of the Oak, rendering them very unsightly in a pleasure garden; which, together with the perpetual Litter their Leaves make, have brought them into disuse for this Work, unless in large wildernesses, where the Hedges are trained up to a great Height ; for which Purpose there is no Tree more useful, and may be kept thick from the Bottom to the Height of eighteen or twenty Feet; will resist the Violence of strong Winds and is of speedy Growth.

And on an even more positive note:

The Hornbeam is much esteemed, especially in such places where they are not required to be very high, or not wanted to grow very fast; for this plant, while young, doth not make so great progress as many others, but as it is of slower growth, the Hedges may be kept neat with less trouble than most other plants will require, and the branches naturally growing very close, they will make one of the closest Hedges of all the deciduous trees ; but as the leaves of this tree continue upon the branches all the winter, and until the buds in the spring force them off, they have a bad appearance during the winter season.

Next, we’ll see how Philip Miller feels about about the Hornbeam’s ‘sister’ plant, the Yew…