Beech Hedge | Pruning an established Beech Hedge | Advice from Ashridge Nurseries

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Let it grow? Don’t be frozen out by neighbours over hedge maintenance, with these top trimming tips

With a great hedge comes great responsibility. You might not need permission to plant or indeed grow your hedge as tall as you like, but its upkeep is in your hands.

Hedge maintenance is more than just a quick trim. Prune at the wrong time and your hedge will be looking forlorn instead of flourishing. Cut back too far and your hedge will find it hard-going to recover.

When trimming, it’s important to remember that this means the top and all sides of your hedge: those you can access from your own property and those that may mean you need your neighbour’s permission.

If any part of your hedge hangs over neighbouring property, also remember that your neighbours do have the right to cut back any branches that breach their boundary, as long as it doesn’t damage your hedge.

But to help avoid the need for this, it’s best to make trimming your task so you can prune to perfection.

So what’s the best way to keep your hedging contained to avoid any misshapen mishaps and neighbourly nuisances?

When you first plant your hedge, it’s not as simple as leaving it to grow. Did you know that most new hedges benefit from early pruning? Formative pruning – usually done in the first years after planting, help your hedge to thrive. Keep the bottom of the hedge wider than the top so the plant can get much-needed sunlight for healthy growth. Once established, you can then begin routine annual trimming to keep it neat. But how often you need to prune depends on your desired result, and the type of hedge you have.

Growing season for many types of hedges is between May and September, so formal hedging will need trimming regularly during this time. Our team will be able to advise you on your chosen hedge’s growth season, the best time of year to trim and how often – that way, if you’re unsure you can commit to its maintenance, we can offer you suitable alternatives.

Here’s what you can expect from our most popular types of tall hedging:

Beech

Beech hedging is a fast growing hedge reaching heights of five metres when mature, but you can easily trim this down to a low height of around one metre as grow-back is fast, at around 30-60cm a year. Prune your Beech hedge in late Summer or early Autumn, to ensure brown leaves remain on your hedge providing Winter coverage. If the hedge has become unruly, hard pruning can be carried out in February whilst the plant is dormant, unless the weather is very cold.

Privet

One of the most popular hedges in the garden, Privet grows between 40 and 60cm a year and is easily maintained at a height of anywhere between one and four metres. To keep it neat, trim twice a year in May and August, or more often if you want a very formal hedge. Left untrimmed, you’ll see flowers on your Privet hedge that are followed by berries that are highly attractive to wildlife.

Cherry Laurel

Low maintenance and easy to grow, Laurel can be trimmed for a formal hedge or unpruned for a natural appearance between Spring and Summer. Spreading to fill gaps around its planting site, Cherry Laurel can be trimmed into smaller forms if you wish. Achieving a growth of around 30-60cm a year, Cherry Laurel reaches an impressive height of up to five metres when mature.

Yew

English Yew is an ideal hedge for a formal garden as it’s easily trimmed into all kinds of curving shapes. With a growth rate of 20-40cm a year, it can reach up to four metres. A popular choice for those who want a hedge that’s low maintenance, Yew doesn’t need regular pruning but won’t suffer from a trim from time to time.

Hornbeam

Hornbeam grows to up to five metres but you can choose to have a lower hedge of around 1.5 metres if you wish to trim it down. A low maintenance choice, Hornbeam requires only one annual trim in mid to late Summer to encourage Winter foliage cover.

Leylandii

Popular for quick privacy cover, Leylandii is still a good choice despite it’s reputation. Compact and very fast growing at around 75-90cm a year, Leylandii is a great formal evergreen hedge if it’s kept tidy reaching heights of up to six metres. Careful cutting is essential however, to keep Leylandii healthy – you can’t cut it back into old wood and so pruning should be kept to between April and August, with a maximum of three trims to keep it healthy and neat. Don’t trim after August, as you may end up with bald patches in your hedge.

No matter which type of hedge you choose, always remember to check for nesting birds before you trim, as their nests need to be left undisturbed. Need advice? Speak to us for help if you’re not sure which type of hedge is best for the maintenance you can manage.

For the month of February we’re promoting neighbourly love with our #lovethyneighbour campaign. You could be in with the chance of winning a £100 plant bundle for you and a neighbour, so head over to our Facebook page to enter.

Birch Hedging

All varieties of Birch (Betula) hedging are stunning in their own right with their various bark colourings and peelings. Birch (Betula) hedges are deciduous, hardy and will tolerate all conditions. Planted in groups they make a stunning architectural feature in a reasonable sized garden, also very effective at the waters edge.

There are several varieties of Birch tree two of the most common being Silver Birch or Betula Pendula and Birch Downy or Betula Pubescens also sometimes known as the Common White Birch. Both these varieties are deciduous native species especially the Silver Birch which is the very recognisable large conical shaped tree with peeling bark. The deep roots of Silver Birch can bring nutrients normally not accessible to other plants to the surface which are then transferred to the soil through the shedding of the leaves. It can grow to 30 metres in height so makes an attractive specimen tree with its arching branches and yellow catkins in early spring.

The Downy Birch is a wonderful variety for attracting wildlife as the leaves attract aphids which in turn attract their predators, some species of woodpecker also nest in these trees. Birch Downy will tolerate more moist soils, even waterlogged areas than the Silver Birch and can grow at higher levels but still to a height of 30 metres. The two varieties are sometimes mistaken for each other although the Downy Birch is more upright in growth and the bark slightly darker as a grey-white colour.

The leaves of Birch Downy as with the Silver birch are triangular shaped but more rounded at the base and the stems are downy, hence the name, whereas the leaf stalks of the Silver Birch are smooth. On both varieties catkins appearing in spring and the seeds from the catkins being dispersed by the wind in autumn. For a more ornamental variety of Birch the Jacquemontii or Himalayan Birch is without doubt one of best especially planted in groups as with age the bark becomes a bright white giving a stunning effect especially when planted with coloured stemmed dogwoods.

Beech Hedging

Description

Planting a bare root beech hedge is an economic way to plant a beech hedge without costing a fortune. These plants are all 120-140cm (4-5ft) tall and come bare rooted, that is to say that they are dug straight from the field and are sold without any soil around their roots. These plants should be planted as soon as possible after purchasing to avoid the roots drying out and damage occurring to the hedge plants.

Beech hedging 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. Beech, 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 beech hedge to give an added level of visual privacy all year round.

These bare root beech hedge plants will put on around 1-1.5ft (30-45cm) of growth a year after planting and should be trimmed at their desired height when it is reached.

Beech should be planted 45cm apart in a single row or 60cm apart in a double row.

As these plants are bare root beech hedge plants, we recommend using Rootgrow which helps the plants produce a secondary system of roots. It is also important if deer and rabbits are prolific in your planting area to use spiral tree guards to protect them.

More information on beech hedges in general can be found on the beech hedging category page.

For more information about Beech Hedging 120-140cm Bare-Root or to discuss alternative products, call us on 01252 714552 or email at

Beech hedging / Fagus sylvatica (bare root)

Buy beech plants for hedging here: various sizes, excellent prices. Nationwide delivery.

Beech makes an excellent specimen tree or a fine clipped hedge. It is a hardy plant that can cope well with wind and high exposure, include to seaside conditions. Our plants are bare root with well developed root systems, making them extremely economical and easy to plant.

A beech hedge in Mt Merrion, Co Dublin, photographed in May. Note the small patch of copper beech.

The same hedge in the winter months. Beech hold their leaves over the winter, and these leaves are pushed off by the emerging new leaves in late April and May.

A wonderful beech hedge in Mount Usher Gardens in Ashford, Co Wicklow.

A mature beech in Fitzwilliam Square, Dublin 2. The bark, like an elephant’s hide, is grey, muscular and contorted, as if containing a syrupy liquid.

A magnificent mature beech off Cross Avenue in Blackrock, Co Dublin.

An avenue of beech – clipped lower down and allowed to grow over above, in Glenealy, Co Wicklow.

Beech hedges can also be kept quite low, such as this one off Dublin’s South Circular Road.

A great bit of clipping. Two well-loved beech topiaries. Beech is one of the few trees which can be clipped without destroying the tree, even if it does alter it totally. Very ‘architectural’ and striking in an otherwise almost empty garden.

Beech (Fagus)

Beech Hedging Plants (Fagus sylvatica)

Beech forms a beautiful, native, formal hedge with dark green leaves that turn bronze/gold in autumn. Although it is deciduous (loses it leaves in winter), many leaves of Beech actually stay on the plants during the winter.

Why plant a Beech hedge?

Attractive, formal-looking hedge
Hardy
Good for nesting birds
Native to the UK

How far apart should I plant Beech?

We recommend planting our 10 litre pot-grown Beech 50cm apart (2 per metre)

What type of soil and growing conditions does a Beech hedge need?

Beech will grow in any well-drained soil including chalky soils but it will not tolerate heavy or wet soils especially over the winter. If you have a heavy clay or wet soil then Hornbeam would be a better option. If you are not sure whether your soil is well-drained, dig a hole and fill it with water – if it still has water in it the next day, then we would recommend growing Hornbeam instead of Beech.

How tall will Beech grow?

It can be trimmed to any height but if left unchecked, it will grow into a large majestic tree more than 15 metres (45ft) tall.

How fast will it grow?

Beech will grow approximately 30-60cm (1-2ft) per year if it is given good conditions for growth.

How often would I need to trim a Beech hedge?

Trim back to the height and width you want once a year.

When can I plant?

You can plant our container-grown Beech plants at any time of year. Bare-root plants can only be planted between November and March (over the winter).

Additional Information about Beech

Beech is native to the UK and most of the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere.

Other names include European Beech. Its botanical name is Fagus sylvatica.

Alternatives to Beech

Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) is very similar to Beech and most people find them difficult to tell apart. Hornbeam will tolerate wetter soils and it is also deciduous (not evergreen).

Portugal Laurel (Prunus lusitanica) is a good alternative if you want an evergreen hedge with small, dark green leaves. It grows quicker than Beech and has bright red stems.

10 reasons to choose Beech hedging

Beech hedging is most popular for its display of warm, copper coloured autumn foliage, however, Fagus sylvatica has plenty more to offer than just attractive leaves. The fast growth rate and ability to tolerate a range of planting positions makes Beech a favourite in British gardens, but that’s still not all – read on to find out more about the benefits of planting a Beech hedge…

Our top 10 reasons to plant a Beech hedge –

  1. Beech hedging plants have a huge range of benefits including privacy and screening properties, wind and noise reduction, and the ability to be grown as either a formal hedge or left with a more natural aesthetic.
  2. Whilst you’re waiting for flowers to appear in spring, the new, bright green foliage of Fagus sylvatica will bring your garden to life as the delicate leaves flutter in the wind.
  3. Beech hedging is commonly known for its stunning autumn colour, with the green leaves transforming into a glowing copper colour, crisping as the seasons change.
  4. Fagus sylvatica is a native species so it will thrive in many different planting positions and can handle the varying, sometimes harsh, British weather.
  5. Although Beech is a deciduous species, if pruned at the right time (in late summer), new growth will appear before the hedging plant becomes dormant. It is this new growth that is retained throughout winter, displaying the warm copper hue.
  6. Beech hedge plants can tolerate both sunny and partially shades sites, making it ideal for smaller gardens that may not get much sun exposure.
  7. Purple Beech provides a striking alternative to Green Beech, with glossy shades of purple decorating the leaves in spring and summer, and the familiar copper colour embracing the foliage in autumn.
  8. Beech hedge plants are available in every root type, including instant troughs for immediate impact and pleached trees for an unusual, decorative screening feature.
  9. This popular hedging species can be ordered and planted at any time of the year; there’s no need to wait for the bare root season to start in November.
  10. Fagus sylvatica hedging offers huge wildlife value with the dense canopy of foliage making a fantastic shelter for nesting birds and small mammals such as hedgehogs.

Facts you probably didn’t know about Fagus Sylvatica hedging –

  • Beech trees produce seeds known as Beechmast and in the past, the oil from these was extracted and used for cooking and lamps.
  • The timber from Beech trees is often used as firewood when smoking food.
  • The highest Beech hedge, The Meikleour Beech Hedge, is located in Scotland and stands at 30m high, the tallest in the world. It is also the longest hedge in Britain, reaching 530m long.
  • It is thought that about 80,000 hectares of Britain are covered by Beech woodland.
  • In certain countries, Beech leaves are used as an alternative to feathers when stuffing pillows.
  • In France, Beechmast are sometimes roasted and used as a substitute to coffee beans.


Explore our Best4hedging YouTube channel to find more species specific videos as well as helpful how-to guides and planting advice.

How to Plant a Bare Root Beech

Beech hedging is a very popular choice of hegding and for good reasons. One down side that I hear from time to time is that beech hedging, which is semi evergreen, looks ‘dead’ in the winter months! unfortunately there is little I can say to convince people of otherwise and so for those who don’t like beech, I suggest Laurel (or a brick wall).

Trench for Beech Hedging Beech Hedging – spring Bare Root Hedging

Bare Root Beech hedging is a winner of a hedge for many reasons:

  • Beech is moderately fast growing
  • Beech is extremely hardy, and will not be moved by the coldest of frosts and winters. The leaves of the Laurels however will often turn black, even in a light frost.
  • Beech is a good screening plant. As I stated, Beech is semi evergreen which means that even though their leaves wither and die in autumn, they retain their leaves over the winter months. The result is a plant with good screening both in summer and winter.
  • Beech changes with the seasons. One of the best qualities of our temperate climate is our changing seasons. The variety and regularity of our seasons is quite unique and something that we all set our biological clocks to. With Beech you can see the 4 fours come and go and the varities of colours are reflected in it. In Spring the new shoots glow in a furry white, while summer brings lime green leaves with slowly fade over the months until autumn when faint hints of red appear before winter and the leaves turn to brown.
  • Bare root beech hedging can be planted between the months of late September and Mid / Late April. Beech is a relatively late bloomer and so it’s bare root planting season is a bit longer than other bare root plants like wild rose or privet.

When planting bare root beech you should first measire the length of hedging required. Generally bare root beech is spaced 1ft apart, or 3 per metre. You can, however, space them a lot closer – if you want an instant hedge. The plants should be planted in a staggered pattern – rather than one straight line. This give a thicker and more robust hedge.

If you intend on planting a beech hedge I would recommend preparing the trench first. The trench size would depend on the size of your plants roots. Generaly, if you are buying beech hedging in a 2 – 3ft size your trench should be 1.5 ft wide and deep. If you are buying 4ft+ your trench should be 2ft wide and deep. If you prepare the trench before planting you can plant the hedging the moment it arrives. This is best practice as bare root plants should not be left out of the ground too long.

Add farm yard manure before planting and mix it through some top soil. This is the one chance you have to add and feed your soil so you should do it and it will really boost your plant and hedges performance. The manure should be atleast 6 months old and should not smell bad. You can use horse, chicken or cow manure.

Before planting, soak about 10 plants at a time in a bucket of water. I would generally soak 10, then position and plant 10 while another 10 are soaking. That way you can have a constant stream of freshly soaked plants.

To position the plants place each 1 in the trench, kicking a small amount of soil around it’s roots to hold in place. continue along until the 10 are positioned. Then I would go back and back fill the trench around these 10. As you press the soil in around each plant you should lift them slightly until the base of the root ball is just below the soil level. This helps spread the beech plant’s roots out and ensure they are planted at the right depth

After planting water the hedge in well. In the case of a drought, or 3 days without rain you should water the hedge again. Given about 20 Litres per 1 M of hedging

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