Hornbeam, otherwise known as Carpinus betulus is an incredibly versatile, hardy, semi-evergreen native hedge, capable of supplying privacy and reducing noise pollution. It is perfect for supplying cover for wildlife and due to its natural look, with its 5-8cm ribbed green leaves, with catkins in spring, it can easily create a soft backdrop into a field or grassland, being both animal and horse friendly with little to no toxicity reported. If left unchecked it will grow into a large deciduous tree with a grey trunk, though as a hedge it is often classed as semi-evergreen due to its ability to keep its old leaves into the winter and that it grows new leaves very early in spring.
Here, at Hedge Xpress, located near Bampton on the Oxfordshire-Gloucestershire border, we admire Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) for its versatility and resilience. This comes from a variety of factors. Being capable of surviving in waterlogged conditions, providing it is not for extensive periods of time. It is also exceptionally hardy, having an RHS hardiness rating of H7 meaning it can survive down to <-20c. It can survive exposed conditions making for a resilient hedging plant. The majority of RHS Wisely’s hedging for this very reason was hornbeam.
Due to Hornbeam’s (Carpinus betulus) ability to survive anywhere, it has become a cornerstone for wildlife in British gardens, providing shelter for birds, hedgehogs, rodents and all kinds of creatures. It can be used for a number things, such as hedging, pleached or full standard screening, its architectural features or topiary such as bonsai, columns, pyramids, panels and is great in a woodland setting.
Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) likes to be positioned in full sun to dappled shade and can be spaced 3 every 2 metres in a hedge. You should not double hedge hornbeam. Architecturally, it will need little to no pruning, however as a hedge it should be cut back once a year before the leaves change colour and fall, generally, September is a the best time to do this.
Historically, hornbeam has been pollarded and coppiced for firewood and its wood has been used for pianos for its boney qualities. The largest recorded Hornbeam in recent history was at Studley Royal, Yorkshire, 90 x 8.5ft in 1958. Once established, it grows at 20-40cm a year reaching over 12m with a spread of over 8m after 50 years.
Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) is often compared to Beech (Fagus sylvatica) due to their similarities and often it is hard to tell the difference. The main difference is the leaf. Hornbeam leafs up in early spring and has an rough, ribbed leaf whilst Beech’s (Fagus sylvatica) is much smoother leaf, holding old leaves until May when they are pushed off by the new growth. We have
Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)
Rough, ribbed leaf
Holds leaf well, but will loose it during the winter
Holds leaf until May when it is pushed off by new growth
Leaves start to appear in early spring/March
New leaves in May
Slow to establish, takes at least one year to start growing above ground
Can tolerate water logged conditions
Not as good in waterlogged conditions
It goes well with mixed in with grasses, salvias and other tactile and plants which supply movement.
- Trim hedge annually in September
- As an architectural tree, little to no pruning is required
Dimensions in Favourable conditions
- Over 12m high
- Over 8m across
- 20-40cm annually
- Likes free draining soil but can tolerate waterlogged soil for periods of time
- Full sun to dappled shade
- RHS hardiness H7 hardy in the severest European continental climates (< -20)
Suitability for animals and wildlife
- No reported toxicity to horses and animals
There are many benefits to buying a hedge, which many people forget. For more information on why to buy a hedge, visit our page on why buy a hedge?
When buying a hedge it is important to know the different forms of hedging. For more information visit our page on Bare root, root ball, potted plants.
When purchasing a hedge it is important that you give it every chance it can to thrive. For more information on planting visit our Planting page.