Green Beech for Formal Hedging
As a tree, if the Oak is King, then surely Beech is Queen. And it is pretty good as hedging as well. In spring its graceful branches are clothed with bright, green leaves with a wisp of furriness to them which disappears as the foliage matures to a more intense green finally becoming golden and russet coloured in the autumn. The bark is smooth and grey, the colour of elephant hide - very Farrow and Ball! - and rarely succumbs to any disease. All this makes beech one of the most popular hedging plants we sell.
As a hedge you get all the benefit of these changing colours and the advantage that, when trimmed in high summer, a beech hedge will hold onto its desiccated leaves over the winter to give you the privacy of an evergreen hedge but the lightness of colour and tone that a deciduous hedge bring. Beech is fairly unfussy about where it is planted but does not like very heavy, wet soils or deep a shade. A well-drained, rich soil in a sunny position would be perfect, not least because one of the joys of a beech hedge is to see the sun shining through its translucent green leaves in spring. The summer brings tiny flowers that turn into beech nuts in the autumn.
Structure and formality in your garden
Beech hedging is probably the most popular deciduous hedge in the UK today. A space enclosed by beech has a weightlessness to it that cannot be achieved by the more sombre dark colours of evergreen hedging. A beech hedge will provide 'bones' for your garden year round so that you can divide your garden into rooms or just create an elegant boundary with your neighbour. It is easily clipped to shape and only requires yearly pruning making it low maintenance once established.
A clipped beech hedge is a tremendous backdrop to an herbaceous border providing a contrast to the colour of the flowers and a flat background to set off the architectural shapes of plants like Acanthus or any dark, evergreen topiary. One planting idea is to grow the a pretty Ivy such as Glacier or Gold Heart under the hedge which smothers the weeds and complements the hedge above it. On a slightly grander scale, statuary looks wonderful against a beech hedge: stand a stone or lead urn, planter or figure against it and immediately your garden will look more sophisticated and complete. Once a hedge is well-established you can experiment with cutting niches into it to contain statues or sculptures. Alternatives to beech would be to use hornbeam where the site has especially claggy, clay soil or if it ever becomes waterlogged. To add drama to a beech hedge, intersperse some copper beech amongst the green, or go the whole hog and just plant a copper beech hedge.
- Size sold: 40-175 cm
- Hedge: 1m to very tall
- Soil: all soils, but not badly drained
- Use: Formal/Native
- Single Row: 3/m (no need for a double row unless you want a stock-proof hedge
- Colour: green in spring, golden-brown in autumn
- Great to add structure
Bits and bobs about beech
The tallest hedge in the world, as recognised by the Guinness book of records is in North East Scotland at Meikleour. At 30 m tall and 530 m long it was planted by men before they disappeared to fight in the Jacobite rebellion. They never returned and so the trees have been allowed to grow to commemorate them. Beech have long been part of our landscape coming over here about 5,500 years ago and perhaps best employed by Capability Brown who used their vast and elegant form to punctuate parkland and to form great silver columns when grown in more confined woods. More prosaically pig farmers used to fatten their livestock on beechnuts over winter - a practice reflected in Spain where pigs are fed on acorns and the resulting jamon iberico is some of the most expensive in the world. Beech wood is hard and good for firewood but not so resilient that it can be used for outdoor structures. It does make great furniture and worktops though.