Fagus grandifolia, the American beech, as a young tree or whip can often hold it’s leaves throughout the winter when found in the understory of the forest. In the UK, F. sylvatica, American beech’s European cousin, is used often as a hedge responding well to structured pruning. Have you thought to use our native woodies as hedges and privacy screening? The photographs below were taken on Denning Road. The beech here have naturalized and create a natural screening effect which can be mimicked in a landscape setting. Can you start to imagine this on your property?
For a structured hedge, whip planting is recommended. Sourcing from a reliable native plant nursery, especially one specializing in ecological restoration, is also highly recommended. These nurseries are often able to produce the provenance of the plants you are purchasing, creating a more sustainable, regionally appropriate planting. Whips are a great choice for hedge planting, but you will not receive an immediate effect. Whips are more economic, and with proper care and planting, you often have a better rate of establishment. The overall health of the hedge structure will be higher and more adaptable to your annual or biannual pruning.
Ideally, when planting, one would mark out and create a trough to your desired length of well tilled, compost rich soils of a depth of close to 18-24 inches in which you will plant your hedge. A zig-zag or alternating two row planting will allow the proper room for each whip as well as increase the immediacy of your privacy screening. You may also choose to do one row planting, however, if there is any failure in the planting, those holes will be more readily seen until you are able to replace. Beech screening hedges in the UK have reached heights of over 40ft. The long lived tree and its gray bark is attractive in all seasons. If you have a sheltered position for your hedge, your leaves should persist through the winter season. If not, you will still have an attractive structure, showing off the brilliant grey blue bark.
For a more looser privacy screening, you may choose to purchase plants of various sizes and of various species. This is typically known as a hedgerow, and we will be discussing this topic as Spring becomes more abundant with appropriate flowering woody species for hedgerow planting. Hedgerows are age old, and are so amazing because they have a cultural heritage in foraging – for birds, animals, and YOU. Now, I’ve read that a noyau can be made with the newly unfurling beech leaves, but have yet to try. A noyau is an old French liquer from apricot stones leaving an subtle almond flavored brandy. I imagine the flavoring from the young beech leaves must be just as grounding. Traditionally, the beech leaves seep for many weeks in gin or any other clear spirit. If you miss the spring leafing, you could always try again after pruning your beech hedge, utilizing the fresh flush of new growth.
Of course, if you have any specific consultation or implementation questions with any of the information we provide – Molly, John, and I are here to help! Please leave comments or email us directly! Cheers! Emily