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Beech vs Hornbeam hedging for 'problem' front garden. Help!

(10 Posts)
LettuceLaughton Sat 27-Jun-15 00:37:04

Am trying to sort out my barren wreck of a front garden. Again. Just planting some stuff and being kind to it isn't cutting the mustard with this one. There has to be a hedge, I think. Would be about 12 meters in total, to a final height of about 120cm.

I think I'm looking at beech or hornbeam. I do very much prefer Beech and it certainly does well around here, as a general rule. The year round screening is a big plus. I gather hornbeam is maybe a bit more hardy in tough conditions though?

The conditions are tough, in a weirdly localised way. With the layout of the streets and adjoining park and the other gardens, my garden has become a sort of windy corner. It, and the next few gardens on the side of the prevailing wind are totally open, OTOH the garden (and the next few) on the other side is pretty much full of trees and high planting. We seem to get plenty of wind here.

So, yeah, it's open on two sides and they're almost exactly east and south facing. It gets baked 'cause there's nothing at all to obscure the sun until the houses themselves (east facing) start to give shade.

Also, from what I hear, it seems that the soil has been generally mistreated for at least the last 30 years, it's round here is poor and sandy to start with in any case what I've ended up with is not up to much.

Does it have to be Hornbeam, do you think? Maybe even that wouldn't hack it confused I've planted so much and had so much die in this garden in the last 3 years that I'm starting to lose perspective!

(I'm on the continent so it usually gets a wee bit hotter in summer and a wee bit colder in winter here than of the south of the UK it's really more the same than different.)

Kintsugi Sat 27-Jun-15 07:07:09

You've chosen two deciduous hedges there, is that on purpose ? Do you want more exposure or light through in the winter ?
Yes hornbeam would work. Hawthorn if your not too far south would also work and has more interest and is more wildlife friendly. Not so formalised though if you want the flowers and berries.
Laurel would be quick and evergreen and dosnt mind abuse.
Forsythia is a sparse but attractively flowering hedgeable plant.

PlainHunting Sat 27-Jun-15 07:20:06

Beech looks nicer, I think, but Hornbeam would be better for your growing conditions. It is much more tolerant of poor soil and growing conditions. But if other gardens nearby have Beech then perhaps it could actually thrive?

Even so, I would dig lots of organic matter into the soil before planting it, and would delay planting until winter (bare root plants) if you can. And keep it well watered until it is established.

TheyreMadITellYouMaaaad Sat 27-Jun-15 07:26:34

If the soil is poor, can you prepare it first by digging in a lot (and I mean A LOT!) of composted manure? That would improve the condition of the soil, and help plants establish themselves. Once established and growing strongly, they would be far more tolerant of generally challenging conditions.

We did this with our garden, which was basically a thin layer of topsoil over a builders' rubble and clay, unloved for at least 30y, as no gardening types had ever lived there. There were no earthworms, just loads of ants. Nothing I planted thrived.

So we dug in masses of composted manure, covered it all with anti-weed membrane, and covered that with bark chippings. The following year, when I started cutting through/folding back the membrane to plant things, the soil was soft, easy to dig, and full of earthworms. And most of the shrubby things I planted thrived.

There's also a product that you sprinkle in the hole when you plant woody plants that helps them establish quicker. I can't remember the name - micorhyzza, or something like that. It provides the right fungus that woody plants need.

mistlethrush Sat 27-Jun-15 07:38:14

Also put up shade netting which will also give some help with the wind - not much but a little - but the real benefit will be to stop the worst of the sun.

LettuceLaughton Sat 27-Jun-15 09:48:55

Thanks for all the advice!

(TheyreMad - not a single worm to be found here either. Ants, ants, ants! It's great to hear you managed to sort your soil reasonably effortlessly.)

So, I'll certainly be digging in plenty of manure and am indeed wanting to wait and plant bare rooted in autumn / winter, whatever hedging we go with. I'd heard adding charcoal as well as manure could be beneficial - I do need to keep the cost as low as possible mind.

It's a suburban garden so the hedge does need to be reasonably formal, actually hedge shaped and closed. Sparse plants or a something with a flolopy habit would look odd, I think. That said, the garden to the left is totally informal, wooded, more or less. The ones on the right are all hard landscaping and (dying) box. Is a tricky balance, aesthetically.

I would rather like an evergreen hedge, in theory, but when it comes down to it, I don't really like any of the options I can think of much at all. Privet always looks mean to me when it's kept smallish and I don't like the idea of trying to keep Laurel small. To my mind the leaves look way too big unless it's over 2 meters or so in height. I do really like Yew but probably it's too pricey and I can't imagine it'd thrive here. It's a rather thuggish isn't it? I've not looked into it TBH.

With Beech holding it's dead leaves through winter there really are only a few weeks that it's totally bare so it's almost ideal in terms of giving year round screening. If that's not going to work and I have to go properly deciduous then Hawthorne would be lovely, if it'd grow. I'd prefer it to hormbeam for sure. Ive not seen it round here at all, mind and have no idea if it's available for a reasonable price. Will have to do some research.

Blackthorne is surely too aggressive in it's growth for a thoroughly suburban garden?

LettuceLaughton Sat 27-Jun-15 09:50:12

Shade netting isn't an option, both the neighbours would have a fit!

mistlethrush Sun 28-Jun-15 09:05:18

Hornbeam holds on to its leaves much better than beech if that helps?

Box and Yew are nice evergreen for a smallish hedge - but you might have problems with establishing both.

If you explained to the neighbours the shade netting was only temporary whilst the hedge got going would they be a bit more understanding?

shovetheholly Mon 29-Jun-15 08:58:05

Hornbeam is much nicer than beech in small spaces! I could wax lyrical about it, but Monty Don has already written this, so there really is no need:

You get the benefit of the furled, brown leaves almost all winter to shield your garden from those winds at their coldest. And the big advantage is that you can train it to be a fairly narrow hedge if you want to - which can be just jaw-droppingly lovely in a suburban garden. You can even pleach it if you're up for a challenge.

I'm going to replace my front hedge of privet with it in the near future. I really, really dislike privet with a fiery passion. It needs constant cutting, it doesn't support much wildlife, and frankly there is a really good reason why JK Rowling named the road on which the Dursley's live Privet Drive.

shovetheholly Mon 29-Jun-15 09:05:17

*Dursleys, sorry rogue apostrophe!

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