The Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica) has evidently been a popular hedging plant for centuries and Miller gives it due consideration and planting advice.
Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica)
In terms of planting, Miller propounds a double row – a preference he does not restrict to the Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica) and this does appear to be common practice at the time. Definitely worth considering if you have the space.
If they are designed for Hedges (to which the Tree is very well adapted), the distance need not be so great; two Feet Row from Row, and one Foot in the Rows, will be sufficient. In this Nursery they may remain two or three Years, observing to clear them from Weeds, as also to dig up the Ground between the Roots, at least once a Year, that their tender Roots may the better extend themselves each Way: but be careful not to cut or bruise their Roots, which is injurious to all young Trees; and never dig the Ground in Summer, when the Earth is hot and dry; which, by letting in the Rays of the Sun to the Roots, is often the destruction of young Trees.
This Tree will grow to a considerable Stature, though the Soil be stony and barren, as also upon the Declivities [slopes] of Hills, and chalky Mountains, where they will resist the Winds better than most other Trees.
Once again, Miller offers a contray opinion. On the one hand the possibility of leaf-drop is of concern:
The Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica) has the same good qualities as the Hornbeam; but the leaves of this continue late in winter upon the branches, when they will have a bad appearance; besides, the litter which is occasioned by their leaves gradually falling most part of the winter, prevents the garden from being made clean a great while longer than if there are none of these trees planted.
But on the other:
The Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is very propper to form large Hedges to surround Plantations, or large Wilderness-quarters and may be kept in a regular Figure, if sheared twice a Year, especially if they shoot strong; in which Case, if they are neglected but a Season or two it will be difficult to reduce them again. The Shade of this Tree is very injurious to most Sorts of Plants which grow near it; but is generally believed to be very salubrious to human Bodies.
This Tree delights in a chalky or stony Ground, where it generally grows very fast; and the Bark of the Trees, in such Land, is clear and smooth; and although the Timber is not so valuable, as that of many other Trees, yet as it will thrive on such Soils, and in such Situations, where few better Trees will grow, the Planting of them should be encouraged; especially as the Trees afford an agreeable Shade; and the Leaves make a fine Appearance in Summer, and continue green as long in Autumn as any of the deciduous Trees: therefore in Parks, and other Plantations for Pleasure, this Tree deserves to be cultivated among those of the first class; especially where the Soil is adapted to it.
One last thing – although the Purple Copper Beech had been around for centuries, Mr Miller chose to ignore it. If I can find out why, we’ll let you know:
There is but one Species of this Tree, at present known (except the two Varieties with striped Leaves, which are accidental)…