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Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus

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General post from margaret


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We have a clay soil garden, prone to waterlogging. We want to plant a row of pleached hornbeams to form a screen from our neighbours. We are told they tolerate clay, but how do they tolerate water, and can anyone suggest anything better suited that will provide instant cover ? Thanks

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  • Replies: 3
  • Posted: Wed. 24th February 2010 21:30

Screen hedging

Reply from Katy Elton

Hi Margaret,

Hornbeam is very happy in damp, clay conditions and is ideal for pleaching, so sounds like the perfect solution for you.

Alternatively you could try Ligustrum japonicum (Japanese privet), or Magnolia grandiflora, both of which are also happy in damp clay, and are suitable for creating stilted hedging. However you'll find these are slower to establish than hornbeam. I'd be inclined to stick with your original (and best!) idea if I were you.

Good luck! Let us know how you get on.


  • Posted: Sat. 27th February 2010 18:21

Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)

Reply from Valerie Munro

Hi Margaret,

I realize that as gardeners we must heed the advice of those who know more than we do, but we must at the same time apply some common sense in what we plant and where.

You talk of your intended site for the hornbeam hedge as being prone to water-logging. Here the problem for plants is that in a boggy soil, the roots are starved of the oxygen that they need. Some plants will be able to handle this better than others - alder, birch, some hawthorn cultivars, etc and all willows. Hornbeam is not a classis bog-buster in this context.

There is another thought that we nanny our plants too much in our gardens. In the wild, plants have a choice, survive or not and some will put up with the most amazing hardships that our gardening books would never prescribe! If you can do something to help with the drainage of your soil then I would say go ahead. You could mix sharp sand into the planting hole/s. But, the boggier the soil, the more you will have to do and in an extreme case you may have to think about putting down some form of soak-a-way drain.

A pleached hedge is definitely a joy to behold, but it will take some years to achieve. If you are looking for a more instant screen have you considered exploiting some of our speedier climbing plants? As a suggestion, Clematis armandii will give you fragrant blossom early in the year, and yet keep its leaves all year round. You could mix this in with some other honeysuckle and/or another later flowering clematis.

You could of course do both, and use the trellis screen as a temporary measure with the line of hornbeams planted in front of them. When your pleached hedge has reached its desired height, you can then remove the screen behind it.

Good luck!
Auntie Planty

  • Posted: Sun. 28th February 2010 13:02

Re: Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus

Reply from Gremlin

You could consider creating a raised bed, which will drain quicker than the surrounding soil. If water logging is serious, how about growing some willows and just keep them to the height you want.

  • Posted: Mon. 8th September 2014 14:37