Sculpting My Hornbeams in Traditional European Style
The big task of pruning the hornbeam hedges continues at the farm.
After the outdoor grounds crew trimmed the long hornbeam hedge that runs in front of my Summer House and along the road behind my Winter House, it was time to tackle the other large hornbeam in front of my main greenhouse.
From a distance, English hornbeam, Carpinus betulus, appears solid, but light streams in through the leaves providing a pleasing and dappled space. I like to maintain these hornbeams using a traditional European style of pruning, so it has a nice, sculpted appearance. This means they need regular pruning and close clipping. Enjoy these photos.
Another tall hornbeam hedge grows in the parking lot directly in front of my main greenhouse. It is quite pretty here, but serves primarily as a privacy and noise barrier from the road.
Carpinus betulus is native to Western Asia and central, eastern and southern Europe, including southern England. Because of its dense foliage and tolerance to being cut back, this hornbeam is popularly used for hedges and topiaries.
Hornbeams grow pretty quickly – about four to five feet per year, so it is important to trim and sculpt it regularly. Hornbeam is also very hardy and frost resistant, which is good in this area.
Chhewang trims the tops of the shorter sections, while Chhiring prunes the fronts.
We use a traditional English style of pruning, which includes a lot of straight, clean edges. A well-manicured hedge can be stunning in any garden, but left unchecked, it could look unruly.
Most formal hedges should be trimmed a few times a year, especially while they are actively growing. Here, the new growth can be seen growing wildly.
Using Japanese Okatsune shears specially made for trimming hedges, Chhewang is able to prune the hornbeams so they are nice and flat. These shears are user friendly, and come in a range of sizes.
It is more time consuming this way, but it is also more exact, and that’s important when sculpting formal hedges.
Chhewang used a ladder to get whatever he could reach. Most of the trimming was done by eye.
Looking up, it is easy to see where Chhiring left off, and where he was going next.
Here was one side showing what it looked like after it was trimmed, and look at all the cut leaves – and this is just from the front of the sections.
Hornbeams are often confused with the common beech because of their similar leaves; however, the hornbeam leaves are actually smaller and more deeply furrowed than beech leaves.
Once the front face was done, the Hi-Lo was moved in, so Chhewang could trim the road side of the hedge, which is not sculpted, but pruned flat.
Here, one can see the difference between a trimmed hedge and a non-trimmed hedge.
When the roadside of the hornbeam hedge was finished, it was time for the the tops of the tall hedges to be done. The Hi-Lo is very useful, and because the hedge is accessible from the parking lot, it always comes in handy for this task.
Chhewang is lifted above the hedge, so he could safely trim the top from the cage of the Hi-Lo.
The top of this hedge section was trimmed perfectly level – the bottom of the Hi-Lo cage is also used as a guide.
Chhewang is carried from section to section very carefully. This is also a good time for him to assess the pruning from another angle, and to decide where adjustments are needed.
The cage palette of the Hi-Lo provides much more stability when reaching than a ladder does – safety is very important.
Fortunately, the day was very clear with no winds.
It is now beginning to look very straight and square, with the taller sections protruding just a bit.
Chhiring carefully moves the Hi-Lo down the line into the final pruning position – almost done.