To many people, there is nothing finer than a neatly clipped Beech Hedge whether bright green with new growth in the spring or as a welcome splash of glorious russet brown over the winter.
Beech (Fagus sylvatica) is possibly one of our most beautiful trees, although it is far too big to grow in the average garden. It does, however, make a fantastic hedge. Beech works well in roadside planting as the brown winter foliage is not affected by pollution and salt spray.
Site and Soil
Beech prefers a light, chalky (alkaline) and well-drained soil. It should not be planted in situations where soil is heavy or very wet / waterlogged as it will not do at all well. Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) which is almost indestinguishable, but unrelated, should be planted in these situations.
Once established, Beech hedging should require little in the way of ongoing care, other than regular trimming, which should be carried out in late summer to ensure the best retention of leaves over the winter.
Varieties of Beech Hedging
There are a number of different varieties of Beech Hedging available.
Common or Green Beech (Carpinus betulus)
This is the example that you will see more often than not planted as a hedge. Leaves are green in summer changing to a russet brown over the winter.
Purple Beech (Carpinus betula atropurpurea)
Purple Beech is used less often as a hedging plant, which is a shame as it is certainly a beautiful sight. The leaves start as a pale purple and change over the summer to an intense deep purple. In winter leaves change to an intense copper brown.