Wednesday, March 23, 2016

No, a pleached hornbeam is not a medical condition

The leaves of the American Hornbeam

Not only is mother nature dictating the terms of our planting schedule but she is also dictating my blogging. The first post following the 'before' pictures really should be to show you the overall plan for the garden so you can get the lay of the land. But we have seven American Hornbeams (Carpinus caroliniana) with our name on them at the nursery and they need to get in our ground by the end of March. Any later and the transplant will be less than successful. I could just wait and blog about them after the fact, but my hope is to blog about the garden project in real time as much as possible.

So, what's the deal with all the hornbeams? The plan is to have them along the fence at the back of our property to provide a backdrop for the rest of the garden and to provide additional screening. The American hornbeam, also known as blue-beech and musclewood, is a shade loving hardwood tree that can grow to about 30 feet.

Ours will be pleached which will keep them from getting that tall. Pleaching is the process of training tree branches horizontally, usually in a line, so that the branches of different trees meet up and sometimes grow together by forming natural grafts. Interestingly, pleaching has been used over the centuries to strengthen and knit together hedgerows as a natural fence for containing livestock.

These aren't our hornbeams but it does give you a good idea of the effect.

The result will be a thin hedge on stilts. At least that is the plan.

I believe these lovely pleached hornbeams are in Ireland.

Although I have great faith in John's gardening abilities, this seems like something that should be left to experts. So we are. Back in early December our landscape architect chose seven 12-foot specimens that the nursery then began to train in preparation for our spring planting. Once installed, the nursery will provide additional training assistance. Of course it will take some time for the branches to fill in, but I think that will be part of the fun.

This is one of our hornbeams. The tape measure the nursery worker is holding shows the six-foot mark.

Another great thing about the hornbeam is that they keep their leaves on until new growth in the spring pushes them off. This will help maintain the visual screening through the winter months.

If fences make the best neighbors what does a lovely, green, growing screen make?

Some other type of pleached tree.


  1. This is the most exciting post I've ever read! Seriously. We are beginning to investigate landscape architects in our area. We've never dealt with one before--our teeny-tiny stamp-sized property in Illinois was small enough for us to handle, but we're dealing with a completely different situation now in Connecticut. These trees would be perfect for what we need in one area. Do you have any advice on how to choose a landscape architect?

  2. Sorry for my delay in commenting. There are landscapers, landscape designers, and landscape architects. Each type could something great for you and each has the potential to do something awful. I wouldn't have any good advice other than find someone who has done projects locally that you like and who fits your budget.