It's pruning time for all the hornbeams at my farm.
Last week, the outdoor grounds crew began trimming the long hornbeam hedge that runs in front of my Summer House, and along the road behind my Winter House. This week, they are tackling the hornbeam hedge that runs along the same road in front of my main greenhouse as well as other stand alone hornbeam specimens. Botanically known as Carpinus, the hornbeam is deciduous and fast growing - in fact, it can grow about four to five feet per year. I keep a close eye on all the hornbeams - it’s crucial that they be pruned regularly, so they never look too overgrown and unruly.
It is quite a task, but the end result is well worth the effort - take a look at our process.
Chhewang is pruning one of two large hornbeams in front of my Summer House. It is easy to see how much they’ve grown this year – it was definitely time for another thorough trim.
I prefer all the hornbeams be pruned by hand using pruners, secateurs and Japanese shears – it is a slower process, but provides a more detailed and prettier finish.
Chhewang trimmed as much as he could from the ground, and then pruned the upper branches from a ladder.
Here is a closer look at the growth that is being removed.
In the end, these hornbeams look well-shaped and full.
Hornbeams are pyramidal when young and become rounded with age.
Along the back of the Summer House and the Winter House is a European hornbeam hedge, Carpinus betulus.
Because it is planted on a gradual slope, it needs to be pruned using a step method.
It is quite pretty in this location, but it also serves as a good privacy barrier from the road.
Bamboo canes and twine are often used as guides to ensure pruning is level and properly manicured.
Hornbeams tend to have two flushes of growth per year – one main flush in spring and a second spurt in late summer. Ideally they should be cut back after each flush to keep them tidy.
Look at how beautiful the hedge is when finished. Hedges can be stunning in any garden, but left unchecked, it could look very messy, and cast unwanted shade.
Here is a view of the other side – because of its dense foliage and tolerance to being cut back, this hornbeam is popularly used for hedges and topiaries.
The English hornbeam is related to the beech tree, with a similar leaf shape. On the hornbeam, the leaves are actually smaller and more deeply furrowed than beech leaves. They become golden yellow to orange before falling in autumn.
Deer will certainly eat hornbeam, but since the property is fenced off to deer, it isn’t a problem here at the farm.
The hornbeams opposite the long hedge also needed pruning.
Using Japanese Okatsune shears, Chhewang started pruning the front, so the hedge was nice and flat. These are Okatsune 30-inch long Hedge Shears. Okatsune shears are light and precise, and come in a range of sizes. These came from A.M. Leonard. http://www.amleo.com
The outermost parts of a hedge are exposed to lots of light, so they grow more vigorously. Chhewang is a very talented pruner. He holds the shears’ arms at right angles to his body in order to maintain a level front.
Most of the trimming is done by eye, since my hedges are well-maintained and regularly pruned, but Chhewang also uses the old cuts as guides.
Here is a view looking up at all the growth that Chhewang is removing from the top.
Hornbeams do best in rich, moist, well-drained soils. All this growth shows how healthy the soil is in my gardens.
Chhewang also uses secateurs to prune back certain shoots. Pruning so many large hedges can quickly wear out blades, so tools are sharpened several times during the trimming process.
Look down at all the leaves that were pruned – and that’s just from one section!
Up in the large field next to my growing Christmas trees, I am also growing hornbeam seedlings. This area will be home for at least a year until they are more developed.
I have American hornbeam, Carpinus caroliniana, also known as blue-beech, ironwood, and musclewood.
And Carpinus betulus, commonly known as the European or common hornbeam, native to Western Asia and central, eastern, and southern Europe, including southern England.
Young hornbeams need regular watering to develop, but they tolerate longer periods between waterings as they age. There is no need to fertilize hornbeams growing in good soil – this field is filled with nutrient rich “black gold”.
Next, the crew will head over to the other large hornbeam hedge in front of my main greenhouse, which runs along the same road. I maintain this hedge using a classic European style of pruning, which has a very sculpted look. It will be beautiful once again after a good trim.