Hornbeam Hedge Maintenance

Widely popular for their characteristic crimped leaves, hornbeam hedges make an attractive addition to gardens and public spaces. As with any other form of hedging or pleached tree, hornbeams will require maintenance to ensure that it continues to grow healthily over time.

Also known as Carpinus Betulus, the European hornbeam is a native hedge plant with very similar characteristics to beech hedges. Unlike some plant species that require more maintenance, hornbeams are relatively unfussy and tough, even thriving in a variety of soils such as clay, chalky and wetter environments.

If you are considering planting a hornbeam hedge or pleached tree, you will want to have a good knowledge of how to maintain the plant so that you can keep it growing beautifully all year long.

When To Prune Your Hornbeam Hedge

As with other types of hedging species, it is recommended that you undertake your first pruning until it reaches a height you prefer. Because the plant grows at an average rate of 20 to 40cm a year, it may take some time for your hedge to reach that stage, especially if you bought a much younger plant.

Hornbeam hedges can be easily maintained from under 1 metre to over 5 metres, with single trim during the year for shaping the growth. This process can begin during late summer, just after the plant has a growth spurt but before it leaves change colour and fall during the autumn months.

In September, you can thin out and perfectly trim the hedge with the use of secateurs, which is a type of pruning clipper. This tool is generally preferred because the larger leaves of a hornbeam plant can be damaged if cut through rough trimming. With secateurs, you are guaranteed a much more precise trim resulting in a far denser hedge.

If you are at a point where you are ready to trim your hornbeam hedge, the first thing you will want to do is examine your plant to determine the level of new growth for the year. Depending on the plant’s growing conditions, you may find that there is limited new growth or lots of it. Based on the state of your hornbeam, you will want to prune the hedge so there is more growth left at the bottom and a little less on the top and topmost sides of the plant as this is generally where it is most exposed to sunshine.

With your secateurs, you can then go ahead and prune your hornbeam hedge at each shoot at the very top of the plant, two or three leaves from its base. Be sure to trim dead, old and damaged wood, while avoiding any new shoots and cutting at an angle. Once the top has been completed and the full width of the plant has been pruned levelly, you can move on to taking care of the sides. If you are having trouble with leveling the top of your hedge, you can use a string attached to each side of the hedge to provide you with a visual guide to assist your pruning.

Remove the hornbeam prunings periodically to prevent any confusion with the attached and loose leaves. When trimming the sides of the hedge, you can begin the process at the top and work your way down, remembering to taper the sides and allowing for the base to be a little wider than the top for optimal light distribution.

How To Maintain A Pleached Hornbeam

Maintaining a pleached hornbeam is quite similar to maintaining a hedge, however you may be expected to trim the tree twice a year for growth and shape retention. When planting your tree, you should aim to offer it correct support, otherwise it may grow out of shape and slanted.

This support can be achieved by either making or purchasing a frame for your hornbeam, which can be staked at uniform intervals to encourage the tree to grow symmetrically. After your plants have grown past the frame, you can begin trimming in early spring and late autumn with the same technique as for hedging.

If you would like to purchase a hornbeam hedge or hornbeam pleached tree, why not take a look at our range? Hopes Grove Nurseries are hedging specialists, with hundreds of species available online, including thuja hedging, alder hedges, cherry hedges and more. To hear more about hornbeam maintenance, you can contact us or take a look at our knowledge base.