Landscape architects specifying hedges for properties most often select European Beech (Fagus sylvatica) or Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus). The two varieties are similar in many ways, but European Beech creates a far superior hedge for a number of reasons:

  • Leaf retention: Beech retentions its light brown foliage through early winter
  • Foliage: Visually striking, with deep, glossy green in the spring/summer to bright chartreuse or golden-yellow in the Autumn. Some Beech foliage color variants also exits—purple being most common.
  • Bark: The bark also has aesthetic value, being smooth and grey—even with leaf loss in late winter, a bare Beech is striking.
  • Value: Incredible longevity and subsequent value make them an asset to any property they’re planted in.
  • Longevity: Beech have lasted 200+ years in the same footprint in many parts of Europe. While specimen planting of beech can be massive, beech grown as a hedge are easy to maintain in the same narrow footprint they were planted in.
  • Soil and Stress Tolerance: Adapts much more quickly to mild environmental and urban stressors and better tolerates poorer soil conditions.
  • Pests and Disease: Significantly better natural pest- and disease-resistant qualities than the Hornbeam and one of the most resistant trees on the market.
  • Hardiness: European Beech is hardy in USDA zones 5-8.

The Hornbeam, while it makes an excellent choice for standalone topiary due to its general symmetry and architectural features, simply doesn’t have the longevity, pest- and disease resistance of the Beech. Hornbeam typically is a tree with less visually impactful foliage and is a slightly more particular plant with higher maintenance needs and more thoughtful care:

  • Less tolerant of poorer soils, environmental stressors and colder climates.
  • Overly sensitive to transplanting.
  • Poorer leaf retention compared to the Beech; while mature foliage is an attractive bright green, Autumnal leaf loss can be less attractive, typically yellow-brown or weak chartreuse.
  • Smooth grey bark is fairly similar to Beech, but a Hornbeam’s trunk is typically crooked and knottier, making is a less visually impactful bare tree in the winter.
Brent Markus