Pyramidal European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) is a deciduous tree with an attractive, upright, conical form in the shape of a pyramid that left unpruned can grow to 30 to 40 feet high and 15 to 20 feet wide. Properly pruned, a pyramidal European hornbeam can be grown as a bonsai, container plant, a tree in a lawn or parking medium or a windscreen or hedge.
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Plant one of the cultivars, C. betulus Fastigiata, Columaris or Globosa, for your hedge. These will do well in USDA growing zones 5 through 8. They are dense and grow both narrow and upright, making them ideal for hedges, but they are also deciduous so your hedge will require more attention than an evergreen hedge. Hornbeams have thick foliage with fine textured leaves. They grow white flowers, and their leaves turn a showy yellow in the fall. Twigs that grow in the current year are thin and brown.
If your hornbeam is not pruned, it will grow into a large tree, so horticulturalists at Purdue recommend that if you want a small, formal hedge, space your plants 18 to 30 inches apart in a planting trench instead of separate holes. If you want a informal or natural hedge that requires little maintenance, plant your hornbeam 4 to 6 feet apart.
Pruning and Shaping
When you plant your hornbeam, prune it to within 6 to 8 inches of the ground to achieve a full, dense foliage. Your hedge should have branches that extend to the ground. Do not let your hedge to grow too tall before you prune again. Prune stems 6 inches for every foot they grow. When your hedge is established, cut it back almost to old wood with each pruning. Your plants should always be wider at the bottom than at the top. This is rarely a problem with hornbeams that naturally grow in the form of a pyramid.
Double Row Hedge
To grow a thick hedge, plant your hornbeams in two rows that are 12 inches apart. Stagger the plants so that the spaces in one row face trees in the second row.
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