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Hornbeam hedge - thin spots and privacy questions

In 2012 I planted a hornbeam hedge to provide privacy from a footpath which runs adjacent to my property. I planted a staggered double row of whips. They have all grown well. I pruned using secateurs in the early years and now prune carefully with hand shears. I think I have followed all the advice carefully, but I have two problems.

1. In parts the hedge is thin, so when it is in full leaf it doesn't always provide the desired privacy. There are 'holes', gaps at different heights which I can't see how to fill.

2. Although beautiful in summer, in winter the brown leaves fall away quite quickly, so there is no privacy. Can I plant (say) privet or some other evergreen hedge within / alongside the hornbeam, so that the hornbeam is still visible yet the privacy is ensured ?

As usual all advice gratefully received !


  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,563
    Hi , and welcome to the forum. 
    Can you supply a couple of photos? Click the little icon above which looks like a postcard. 
    Always easier when we can see what we're dealing with.
  • I agree with @Hostafan1 photos will be helpful.

    An important point  with beech and hornbeam is the timing of trimming the hedge.  Unless you get the timing right you will not get the flush of new young leaves in the late summer which are the ones that the hedge will retain.

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,563
    The other point is, and I'm not saying you've gone down this route. There's a temptation to let it get too tall too quickly, which often results in hedges being " a bit thin"
  • Just posted a couple of pictures. From end of March the leaf coverage is pretty good - I'll see if I can find a picture. Hope these images help, thanks for all comments so far.
  • BorderlineBorderline Posts: 4,700
    edited December 2019
    Hard to tell with the scale on those photos, but generally, if you are keeping Hornbeam taller than 2 meters in height, they may look fine over the summer months, but in the winter, the leaves tend to drop off. The more mature and taller you allow them to grow, they will behave like a normal deciduous tree.

    Regular pruning of all the branches from top to the sides will help to keep the branches smaller and more packed. Most importantly, a late cut around September after the final summer growth will encourage new leaves to form and they tend to hold on over the winter months. But, it is not always guaranteed. Hornbeam are not reliably evergreen. It depends on the weather and conditions.

    I can't comment about other shrubs. Not a fan of mixing other shrubs with Hornbeam. But you could always try, but you may need to plant further away from the shrubs since they will have matured a fair bit, and the roots will be competing with an established shrub.
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,645
    I think those look a bit tall and gangly.   I suggest cutting them down by at least 30cm/1' or, better still, a third of their height now while they are dormant but not when forst is expected in the next few days.   That should encourage them to thicken up lower down and they should recover that height in the coming year.   

    Give them a good mulch of well-rotted compost and/or manure while the soil is moist but not frozen.   Do the same pruning each winter until they've thickened and mulch every year to keep them healthy.
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Thanks for the advice, I will give it go and see what happens ! Thanks again.
  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 8,195
    I agree 100% with Obelixx.😊

    It will not look great after the cut back but be brave. It will be a fine hedge in 2 or 3 years time.
    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,563
    I agree. I fear you've gone down the " too tall too quick" route. 

    You could easily cut it to just above the height of the post and rail fence . 
    Hard to see what's beyond the fence if there's any privacy issues.

    As it grows, just take the shears over the tips after it's grown about a foot, and let it grow about another foot and do the same.
    This will help it thicken out further down rather than constantly stretching upwards.
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