I count myself lucky to be the new owner of a stately 19th century New England home, complete with butler’s pantry and winding stair. The only blight on its historic character? A nasty chain link fence which surrounds the entire yard. And so I’ve been investigating hedges.
With so many varieties available, choosing a hedge is no small undertaking. Privet is nice, but I want something more…I don’t know…exotic. Hawthorne? I happen to have one bush out front. Beautiful, but one hair-raising trimming session was all I needed to dissuade me from a border of thorns.
And then my aunt told me about hornbeam. (Which she learned about from designer John Derian’s landscaper, Tim Callis, who happens to be a friend of hers.) Upon further investigation, I was sold.
Very similar to beech, hornbeam sports leaves of vibrant green during the spring and summer. Later these turn to golden yellow, before finally donning a winter coat of deep russet.
Above: Although the dense foliage of hornbeam lends itself to all kinds of fancy shapes or even a close shave, I prefer a scruffier, less formal, trim. To me it’s more romantic: more Pemberley; less Versailles. Photograph by Marie Viljoen.
Above: Both European hornbeam trees and their American cousins (with larger leaves) would rather be trees than hedges, all things being equal. Photograph by Britt Willoughby Dyer.
Above: Designer John Derian’s garden in Provincetown, Massachusetts, has a privacy hedge of hornbeam on the perimeter of an edible garden. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.
See more Hedges in our Photo Gallery.
Finally, get more ideas on how to successfully plant, grow, and care for hornbeam tree with our Hornbeam Tree: A Field Guide.
Interested in other types of trees? Get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various trees (specimen, deciduous, evergreen) with our Trees: A Field Guide.
Finally, get more ideas on how to plant, grow, and care for various shrubs and hedges with our Shrubs: A Field Guide.
N.B.: This is an update of post originally published Nov. 12, 2012.