- Pleached Trees for Screening
- Screening and Privacy Trees
- Hornbeam Hedging
- Carpinus betulus (Pleached)
- Product Details
- Pleached Hornbeam (Carpinus Betulus)
- Like a nice tall border for your garden? Pleached hornbeam is the way to go
- Pleached Trees
- Pleached Trees Information
- How to Train Pleached Trees and Espaliers
- Pruning and Maintenance of Pleached Trees and Espaliers
- Which Trees are Best for Pleaching and Espaliering?
- Planting Pleached Trees
- Distance From a Building
Pleached Trees for Screening
Pleached Trees for Screening are not quite the same as full standard clear stem trees. All clear stem trees, whether pleached or full standard, can be used as an alternative hedging or screening option. Clear stem or clear trunked trees have been trained so that the foliage appears at the top of a clear straight trunk, giving a hedge effect on top of the tree rather than at ground level – almost like a hedge on stilts.
Pleached Trees for Screening – Hornbeam
Pleached trees however go a step further. They are more structured and architectural. The art of pleaching is essentially growing clear stemmed trees in a row with the foliage trained to grow almost like an inverted elevated hedge. Foliage levels generally starting at a height of around 2 metres. The tree branches are woven together around a horizontal frame creating a sophisticated flat symmetrical shape above the clear trunk. Pruning is not as difficult as it may look – the foliage needs clipping once or twice per year simply to keep the shape.
Originating from the grand European gardens of the 17th century, pleached trees are the ultimate elevated hedging. As well as lending elegant, geometric accents, pleached trees for screening are incredibly pragmatic as hedging above wall or fence level or defining or separating an outdoor room without blocking out light or the view beneath the foliage level.
Our pleached trees for screening include both evergreens and deciduous trees. The Holm Oak or Quercus Ilex pleached trees are among the most popular of the evergreen pleached trees. These are mature full standard specimens standing almost 3 metres tall with a trunk height (or clear stem) of 1.9 metres.
Ever popular Pleached Hornbeam trees
Hornbeam (Carpinus Betulus), a British native, is one of the most popular deciduous trees for pleaching, thanks not least to the vibrant green of the new foliage and the fact that it does not shed its old leaves until spring. We have a vast range of sizes of pleached hornbeams from between 2.4 and 5 metres tall – so we’re sure to have a size that suits your location.
Photinia Red Robin is also a popular choice as a pleached tree. Our specimens are 3.2 metres tall with a trunk height of 2.1 metres. Evergreen Pleached Photinia Red Robin trees look quite stunning as the new foliage emerges red, changing slowly to green as the summer advances.
For something more unusual, we have Ilex X Koehneana, more commonly known as Chestnut Leaf Holly. An evergreen female Holly with beautifully glossy, sweet chestnut type leaves and a plethora of gorgeous red berries in the Autumn. Chestnut Leaf Holly is an excellent candidate for pleaching.
Also rare and more unusual are our pleached Magnolia Grandiflora trees. Magnolia Grandiflora is an evergreen magnolia that flowers in the summer time. These trees are 3 metres tall with a trunk height of circa 2 metres.
Photinia Red Robin pleached trees
How To Plant Pleached Trees
Remember when planting Pleached trees make sure that adequate staking or framework is factored in and also recommended that each frame is tied together to maintain a good line and one that is not likely to move in winter storms. Stakes can normally be removed in around 3-5 years. Our Tree Stakes and Ties pack is perfectly designed for planting pleached trees – one pack for one tree – it couldn’t be easier!
Screening and Privacy Trees
Trees are not only needed for aesthetic purposes but more often as there is a window to screen from next door or privacy is needed to combat a new housing development or extension. Most often the screening or privacy is required above fence height and for an all year round evergreen solution our stilted hedging trees, such as tree privet, is a cost effective and immediate way to stop being overlooked.
Quite often screening and privacy trees are needed within close proximity to buildings and we can recommend the following varieties that are listed within building regulations that produce non expansive root systems and so don’t impact on your house foundations in future years:
- Ligustrum Japonicum
- Ligustrum lucidum Variegata
- Photinia Red Robin
- Prunus laurocerasus Novita
These evergreen screening options are easily maintained by pruning to shape, routinely every March / April, to retain bushy crowns that can’t be seen through. A top dressing of general fertilizer or Barcham slow release fertilizer after pruning fills the trees up with nutrient to produce a new canopy of lush foliage for the summer.
Pleached trees can be a great alternative to stilted evergreen screening. We have produced pleached trees with a large array of clear stem heights to match the wall or fence height they are needed to rise above. In effect you end up with a panel of foliage 1.2m wide by 1 metre across that can be pruned back to the original frame each winter. As the trees are contained to a shape their root systems will not undermine walls or structures in the years to come. This style of privacy and screening tree is great for small gardens as you get the height you need for screening without taking up any precious width.
For those of you wanting foliage cover from ground level upward you have the option of feathered trees (branches starting low down the trunk) such as Carpinus betulus Fastigiata (Upright Hornbeam) or hedging plants such as the evergreen Prunus laurocerasus Rotundifolia (Laurel) or the deciduous Corylus avellana (Hazel) which also rewards you with a host of cobnuts ready for Christmas!
So whatever your need for privacy, trees can provide a solution that is not only pleasing to the eye but more cost effective and long lasting than fencing.
Pleached hornbeam trees create a striking addition to a garden and can be a highly effective way to create a raised screen.
These pleached hornbeam are planted in container bags with handles which makes for easier handling whilst planting. Their stems are 6ft (180cm) tall and have no branches below their heads which are 4x4ft (120x120cm).
Due to the size of these plants, we will need to quote for delivery on an individual basis. Please telephone us to discuss delivery of your plants. Plants can, of course, be collected from our nursery free of charge.
Hornbeam is a very traditional form of hedging and is native to the UK. The first green leaves of the year are synonymous with the arrival of spring and the leaves will remain green until the autumn when they will turn a golden-copper brown colour. Hornbeam, unlike many of its deciduous competitors, will retain its dead leaves on the hedge for most of the winter and they will only be pushed off by new growth the following spring. This helps a hornbeam hedge to give an added level of visual privacy all year round.
These pleached trees should be trimmed annually to retain their shape and to encourage them to thicken out.
Pleached trees can be planted singularly or in avenues according to your planting plan.
Hornbeam are much more tolerant of wet and heavy soils than beech but if you are planting during the drier months of the year, it is important to water them properly during their first year after planting. This is best done using leaky hose which is cheap, easy to install and highly effective. See our Accessories page for more details.
More information on hornbeam can be found on the hornbeam hedging category page.
For more information about Pleached Hornbeam 6ft (180cm) stems with 4x4ft (120x120cm) head or to discuss alternative products, call us on 01252 714552 or email us on
Carpinus betulus (Pleached)
Carpinus betulus, also known as the European or Common Hornbeam are a wonderful native specimen that is very popular for pleaching in the UK owing to its propensity to hold onto its leaf during the winter months.
The common Hornbeam has characteristic grey fluted trunk with ovate, ribbed and serrated leaves (catkins appear in late spring) that turn a lovely clear yellow in autumn. When pleached, or turned into a hedging plant, this tree will often retain its brown leaves into the winter, subject to climate and site conditions.
Medium pleached trees have a 1.8m clear stem and are trained onto a flat frame which measures approximately 1m high x 1.2m wide instant have a 1.8m clear stem with frames approximately 2m x 2m Trees trained in this way will require regular maintenance to prune back and tie any loose branches back onto the frames. Pleached panels can be extremely effective for improving privacy in small urban gardens, and like any pleached tree, have the benefit of doing this without reducing the living space in the garden.
To from an instant screen you can plant these trees 1.2m apart so each panel will meet the next.
Carpinus betulus is a British native tree producing hard, finely grained timber with many uses. The timber of the Hornbeam has traditionally been used to produce mallets, skittles and even the moving parts of pianos.
Hornbeam grows well on most soils, including heavy clay and chalk. A most useful tree for poor planting conditions.
Why do some trees hold onto dead leaves?
Mature height: 3m (if maintained)
Pleached Hornbeam (Carpinus Betulus)
The Hornbeam tree is native to Britain and is most suited to being pleached. Pleaching is the ancient art of training the young hornbeam trees to be grown on stilted stems or tall clear trunks with the foliage kept in a squared shape on top above head height. Once shaped into form, hornbeams are not difficult to maintain. Today pleached hornbeams are used to great effect in contemporary gardens to provide height and elegance while taking up minimal ground space. Pleached Hornbeams are ideal for creating garden rooms, providing a green screen above head height, delineating pathways or guiding the eye towards a particular focal point or view.
The Hornbeam is a dense, hardy hedging plant. Although deciduous, Hornbeam leaves will generally keep their form over the harshest winter months turning a lovely copper colour. They will then go on to produce dark/mid-green dense bushy foliage in the summer months. With a slow to medium growth rate, Hornbeams prefer full sun or partial shade in a garden design. They cope well with windy positions and can be grown in heavy clay soils.
Hornbeams were the perfect choice for the entertaining courtyard at our North Fitzroy garden design project. We can’t wait to see how the canopy forms over the years to come.
Like a nice tall border for your garden? Pleached hornbeam is the way to go
Hornbeam “is extremely patient of the knife”, as the great garden writer, John Claudius Loudon, put it, which is why it is so extensively used for hedges. At the Chelsea Flower Show this year, Tom Stuart-Smith stretched that patience to the limit by using 30-year-old hornbeams, cloud pruned so that only puffs of foliage were left, balancing at the ends of the branches in a way that I had never seen before.
Like beech, hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) hangs on to its leaves through winter, so that though it’s deciduous, a screen of it provides almost the year-round cover that an evergreen hedge of yew does. In leaf, it hasn’t got quite the shine of beech, the leaves more deeply veined, but for gardeners it is a more forgiving plant. It will put up with the heavy clay spoils that beech loathes and it is tough enough to stand up to wind.
I like it best when it’s pleached to make a kind of hedge on stilts, such as you see beyond the red borders at Hidcote, Lawrence Johnston’s garden in Gloucestershire. He’d spent a great deal of his early life in France and certainly it’s a feature you see more often in French gardens than you do English ones. Getting that particular effect is more complicated (and costly) than just planting an ordinary hornbeam hedge, but there are places where it can be a useful architectural device.
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Say, for instance, you have a boundary wall or fence that is not quite high enough to screen off something you do not want to see. The financial implications of building higher in brick or stone will be even more expensive than pleached hornbeam – and solid walls that are too high can sometimes make the space inside feel like a prison.
So instead of building, you plant, but first you need to get a secure support system in place. At the two ends you need uprights, say 3.7m (12ft) high (or however high you want the finished screen to be). These end posts need to be properly braced, so they do not start to sag towards each other. If you’re planning a long run of hedging, you may need another post in between, so that there is not much more than 5m between each upright.
Then you need to strain horizontal wires between the posts, the lowest about 2m (or at whatever height you want the foliage screen to start, the top one at about 3m and the other two spaced evenly in between – so roughly 33cm apart). Really ambitious stilt hedges will be trained out on as many as seven parallel wires. It all depends where you want to start and where to stop. On a seven-wire frame you would be able to grow a stilt hedge with bare trunks up to 2m and another 2m of foliage on top of that. The structure doesn’t have to look like scaffolding. Use stainless steel cable for the wires if you want a crisp, modern finish.
In late autumn (and certainly if you can before Christmas) plant the hornbeams, setting them 2.5m apart and orientating them so that any likely looking side branches are set parallel to the wires, not pointing fore and aft. Stick a tall bamboo cane behind each tree, then tie the cane to the wires above and the tree to the cane. If there are already some likely-looking side branches growing in the right place and in the right direction, tie them to the parallel wires.
The following summer, tie in the leader as it develops and any side branches that appear in the right places. Rub out any young growth that is obviously not going to be useful (that will include all the growth pointing straight out from the hedge). In winter, check the trees again (and the ties – they mustn’t be too tight) and cut out any unhelpful growth you missed in summer.
Continue to prune and tie in like this until the whole screen is covered with parallel lines of branches. When the leader reaches above the top, bend it over and make it one arm of the last wire (and hope you get a sprout to cover the other side before too long). In subsequent years the main pruning and training will be easier to carry out in winter when you can see what you are doing, but the hedge will also need clipping to shape in summer. Rub out any shoots that appear on the clean, plain trunk below the leafy top. Within four years you should have a decent looking stilt hedge but if all this sounds too much of a fuss, buy ready-trained trees. Majestic Trees have them at £700-£1,000 each. That’s a lot of money, yes, but the higher price buys you a superbly grown pleached hornbeam with a 2m trunk and a head of foliage already 2m high and wide. As you may gather from the DIY description above, you are paying for a lot of the nurseryman’s time. Another advantage of buying the big, ready-trained trees is that you can do without the support structure. You still need to tie the branches of neighbouring trees to horizontal bamboo canes so that they stay straightish and mingle, and you still need, of course, to prune and clip them every year. They don’t stand still – such a problem for the glitzy brigade who treat gardening as a slightly damper form of interior design.
The designer David Hicks used a variation on the stilt theme to great effect. First, he planted an ordinary hornbeam hedge. Then the stilts were planted in front of it. The hedge behind was clipped to the height at which the foliage of the stilt hedge started. When the whole thing filled out, you got a handsome impression of the stilt trunks rising like Roman columns against the foliage of the hedge tickling them from behind. The whole structure worked in two different vertical planes, one closer to you than the other. Very classy.
Hornbeam is undoubtedly the easiest tree to use for pleaching but others can be used too. Lime is sometimes recommended and was Harold Nicholson’s choice at Sissinghurst. In his diary (20 March 1932) he recorded that “the Hayters have dug the places for the limes” but he got the wrong kind, Tilia x europaea, which suckers. This eventually became such a problem that by 1976, the National Trust, which now owns Sissinghurst, had to replace them with T. platyphyllos. At Erddig in Clwyd, another National Trust property, T. x euchlora was used to make the two double rows of pleached lime that face each other across the central walk. They are used effectively, too, at Lytes Cary in Somerset, where they make a short avenue at the approach to the house, and at Arley Hall in Cheshire.
If your garden needs effective screening or simply to improve privacy without reducing the living space then a pleached tree may well be the answer.
Please see our top five suggestions below, which make attractive Pleached Trees.
- Prunus laurocerasus (Cherry Laurel)
- Photinia fraseri Red Robin
- Carpinus betulus (Hornbeam)
- Fagus sylvatica (Beech)
- Tilia platyphyllos (Broad-leaved Lime)
Trees have been trained into formal architectural shapes for many centuries, and the use of pleached trees to in the garden is one of the defining aspects of 17th and 18th-century design; particularly in France and Italy where they were traditionally used to demarcate grand allées or to create privacy.
Sometimes known as “hedges on stilts” pleached trees are shaped by using a square frame; tying-in and interlacing flexible young shoots along a supporting framework, creating a narrow, slim canopy. Espalier trees is the term used for pleached fruit trees, designed so that sun can shine on the fruit, making it easier to harvest.
We can supply these trees across many species, both as evergreen and deciduous. They are available with clear stems between 1.5m to 2m high and on square frames of 1.5m x 1.5m or 1.8m x 1.8m.
Prunus laurocerasus (Cherry Laurel)
This is a popular tree, with an upright and bushy habit which is perfect year-round screening in its pleached form. Its large leaves are elliptical, shiny and bright green and have small, sweet-smelling, white flowers, which grow in vertical racemes, followed by small, cherry-like fruit.
Photinia fraseri Red Robin
Photinia fraseri Red Robin is a versatile evergreen, and it’s stand out feature is the vibrant red new shoots in spring, which contrast with the white blossom – unusual in an evergreen. The bright new leaves change to a deep, glossy green as they mature. The RHS has given this tree an Award of Merit.
Carpinus betulus (Hornbeam)
Carpinus betulus is a British native deciduous tree which is popular for as a pleached tree, due to it’s ability to regenerate after pruning and its seasonal variation. The leaves are a fresh green colour in spring and turn golden yellow in the autumn. Hornbeam is hardy and can be planted in sun or shade and in all soil types.
Fagus sylvatica (Beech)
Fagus sylvatica is a popular native deciduous tree which is ideal for pleaching due to retaining its leaves throughout the winter months. The leaves emerge fresh green, turning a splendid yellow-orange in the autumn. Beech prefers nutritious, well drained soils, and can be planted in sun or shade.
Tilia platyphyllos (Broad-leaved Lime)
Tilia platyphyllos is a fast growing lime tree which has luscious heart-shaped foliage which gives the tree a healthy appearance all year round; the leaves turn a lime yellow autumn. This tough tree responds well to regular pruning. It will tolerate most soil types, including clay soils
Contact to us about your requirements for screening or privacy in your garden; we can supply and plant many types of attractive trees in both evergreen and deciduous species.
Lime leaves are among the first – and last – to fall, slipping gently off the edge of the year. I drove through Kidderminster at the beginning of last month and there was a patch of grass ankle-deep in the fallen leaves from the limes that fringed it. This time last year, the leaves from my own pleached limes had hardly begun to drop, and by the end of this month they were – like me – noticeably thinning but still largely thatched. When they come in spring they make great dinner plates of leaf, as luscious and exotic as anything in the garden.
Yet lime trees are not, by any stretch of the imagination, exotic. They are an English cliché which we put into gardens because they work elsewhere. My own garden is riddled with a ragbag of ideas and constructs filched from dozens of visited gardens and thousands of pored-over pages, but it is hard to feel bad about this because the garden has so many roles to play. It would be like feeling downcast at one’s lack of originality in serving a meal that included dishes first conceived by someone else.
And so I have pleached limes. Not that they were always so. I bought them as a job lot of trees, labelled Tilia cordata, in a tree sale nearly 10 years ago, 20 10ft ones for £60 and another bundle of 5ft ones for 50p each. As it turned out, none of them, big or small, were T cordata , the small-leafed lime, but some were T platyphyllos ‘Rubra’ and others T platyphyllos ‘Aurea’. At first I felt ripped off – although I had never grown limes before I had done my homework and learnt that the small-leafed variety was the ideal garden lime. It is fairly restrained in growth, does not produce the mass of bristly side shoots that the common lime, T x vulgaris (aka T x europaea) is prone to do and unlike T x vulgaris and T platyphyllos does not attract aphids that drip black goo on everything beneath the canopy of the leaves. Although, to be fair to the unwanted T platyphyllos lot, as far as I have noticed, mine don’t.
I planted them, put up a crude framework of three tiers of hazel sticks between each tree and, as they grew, inexpertly pruned them into shape. The word pleaching comes from the French plessier, meaning to intertwine or plait, and that is all there is to it really. There are no exact rules. All one wants is to constrain the growth to make a ‘hedge on stilts’ above the bare trunks of the trees. Limes are ideal for pleaching because they grow fast, respond enthusiastically to pruning and have very long whippy new stems that are easy to bend and tie into position.
The fresh young growth of limes cuts in a particularly satisfying manner, soft yet resistant, as Grinling Gibbons found and exploited with such sublime skill. I wait until after Christmas to cut them because the stems of T platyphyllos ‘Rubra’ are brilliantly scarlet against a frosty sky and ‘Aurea’ are olive green, so I enjoy their performance against a clear blue sky before I start cutting, sometimes as late as March.
I have spread the pleaching so that now it goes right round the vegetable and Jewel gardens, with hornbeam hedging underneath it. There is another long, pleached avenue between the two pleached ‘boxes’. You hardly notice it as such on the ground, but it looks good if you crane your head sideways from the attic loo window, which is the only place that you can see the whole garden from. It also acts as another piece of protection from the wind and creates a micro-climate within each boxed area.
I have a theory that this kind of intensive tweaking and training in a small(ish) back garden is a kind of mad aspirationalism. Most grand country houses all have vast avenues of limes marching out – sometimes for miles – across the fields that lead to the house. This use of the lime as the archetypal avenue tree took hold in the late 16th and early 17th centuries – the period when man started to express his domination over nature.
The common lime, T x europaea, the one with the vast bird’s nest of suckers growing from the trunk, is the offspring of T cordata and T platyphyllos and has a huge hybrid vigour, reaching 150ft feet, making it the tallest broadleaf in the country. Its parents are the only two limes native to this country, growing as part of the original wildwood, although the large-leafed lime, T platyphyllos is now very rare, growing only on chalk or limestone. However, T cordata, the small-leafed lime or pry, is one of our most interesting native trees. Widespread and vigorous, it has been managed for coppicing since prehistoric times, but has not spread at all since the last ice age. It is also a woodland-only (rather than parkland or hedgerow) tree. This means that it is the most certain marker for semi-natural ancient woodland.
There are a couple of small trees just round the corner from us in a scruffy piece of hedge by the road. This means that the hedge must be the remnant of a wood a thousand years or more old. There is a lime stool – the cut base of coppice lime – at Silk Wood next to Westonbirt Arboretum in Gloucestershire that is believed to be at least 2,000 years old and probably nearer 6,000 – the oldest living thing in Britain.
One of the odd things about this time-traveller is that it grows very well in cities and makes an excellent street or small-garden tree on all but acidic soils. It suckers a lot from the base but these are easy enough to trim off.
The silver lime, T tomentosa, comes from southern Europe and was introduced to this country in 1767. It makes a handsome tree whose leaves are felted on the underside with tiny silver hairs so they glisten in a breeze. However, it has a major drawback in that its flowers – which in all unpruned limes are produced in abundance in midsummer – are toxic to bees. Bees love lime flowers and head irresistibly for them before being reduced to a narcotic fuzzing on the ground beneath the tree. I think this is reason enough not to plant it or its weeping version, T ‘Petiolaris’. The only lime that seems to be truly free from aphids (other than all mine) is T oliveri, which was sent back from China in 1900 by Ernest Wilson. It grows well in any damp soil and has large leaves that get larger as the tree ages.
I have a set routine for pleaching my limes. The first thing I do is to reduce all shoots growing at right angles to the line of the pleaching, cutting them right back to the base.
I then cut back all vertical growth, leaving just the spurs with a few healthy buds. On the top row, which receives the most sunshine, this can be as much as six feet.
When this is done, all that should be left are the horizontal shoots between each tree, although some people like to create a diamond interlacing of diagonal branches as well.
I have learnt over the years to be absolutely ruthless and to cut away everything other than the three chosen lateral branches. The only exception is if I wish to train in a new lateral to replace an existing one that is broken or unsuitable.
What is left is just the skeleton of the trees and it looks shockingly reduced. But this harsh pruning stimulates new growth and by April it is sprouting new leaves from each knobbly cut, followed in May by the new stems, which we give a light trim in midsummer.
If you are starting out on establishing pleached limes:
Choose young trees that have a strong leader and are dead straight.
Stake each tree with an abnormally long and strong stake to help support the framework of wires or sticks. I have found that hazel works well but needs constant replacing.
Get the shape right from the outset. There is a temptation to bend and cajole shoots to the framework but it never pays. Be ruthless, even if that means reducing the tree to a stick with buds. The harder you prune the faster they will grow.
Tie them with tarred twine and never with wire or plastic ties.