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Disappointed with Hornbeam hedge

In early 2018 I planted approx 100m of double staged row (around 5 to the m) of Hornbeam whips along our field boundary. Despite this being my first attempt at growing anything, a hot dry spring and having to water them all by hand (no mains water) they survived and were doing well until this spring when my neighbours horses reached over the fence and ate 2/3rds of the height off of most of them! The horses owner thought this was okay but the landowner has agreed to replace them, although I don’t think they realise how expensive they will be or the labour required to remove the existing and reestablish several hundred new ones. 

The plants that the horses haven’t eaten are bushy and 6-7’ tall the rest around 2’ 😢

I’m disappointed with the Hornbeams leaf retention in winter and i’m considering either planting something evergreen (and less palatable) or adding another 4’ to the wire fence behind it and growing an ivy “fedge”behind it. 

Any ideas or suggestions? We are on heavy clay, all the other hedges are mixed native with lots of veteran trees so evergreen might look out of place but I really want some privacy 


  • PosyPosy Isle of Wight.Posts: 2,866
    I think the first thing you need to do is negotiate with the landowner about placing a barrier between the horses and the hedge until it is well established because they will nibble almost everything you plant. The hornbeam should eventually become dense enough to provide a screen, once it recovers, beech holds its leaves better and native mixed hedge is great for wildlife but livestock are great eaters and your hedge will need protection until it is very well established.
  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 17,207
    I put an electric fence between my horses and my hornbeam hedge but it didn't stop deer eating it!
    Don't plant yew, very poisonous to horses. 
    Dordogne and Norfolk
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 73,780
    Hornbeam and beech only retain their leaves well when clipped at the right time of year ie. late summer. They then put on a late flush of leaves which is retained over winter. Without this clipping the leaf retention will be disappointing. 

    However I agree that hornbeam isn’t really suitable for a hedge alongside stock. I would go for native hawthorn  … once established it can be trimmed annually which will encourage close growth providing very good screening. Not a total screen, but how much privacy do you need from horses? 😉  Its thorny nature will discourage anything more than light browsing from horses or cattle.  In addition you fave glorious blossom in May, good autumn colour and wonderful berries for the migrating thrushes in the winter. What’s not to love 😊 
    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • Allotment BoyAllotment Boy North London Posts: 4,373
    Friends of ours suffered this recently.  Eventually they persuaded the land owner to put an electric fence line in.  It was only 1 horse and a donkey but they still did a lot of damage. 
    AB Still learning

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 73,780
    Yes @Allotment Boy  … they’ll always eat something new and tasty … just like us 😂 …. any newly planted hedge will be vulnerable to browsing, but once a hawthorn is well established it should be fine. 
    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • AlbionAlbion Posts: 10
    Thank you. 

    The horses started to reach over and remove the plants as soon as they were planted, the horse owner apologised but didn’t offer to do reimburse us or install an electric fence. Between their post and rail fence and our hedge, I installed a 4’ chicken mesh fence with an electric fence above, as soon as this failed they have eaten the lot. 

    Recently they have placed two caravans on this boundary, new stables and a riding arena, so I am now very overlooked. We also have permission to build a house which overlooks these, so would like privacy asap. 

    I also have horses so will avoid yew but anything else is fine as I don’t allow mine to eat it! 
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 73,780
    Ah, I see the need for a good hedge ...  beech and hornbeam are more ornamental really ... you need a proper 'boundary hedge'... I think hawthorn would be great in that position ... it'll only need annual trimming and when mature it can be rejuvenated by being laid .... better than any fence ... a truly stockproof hedge

    This may be of interest

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • AlbionAlbion Posts: 10
    edited 18 November
    Thank you but I’m ruling out any deciduous species

    i think my options are  

    Ivy fedge grown up 8’ wire fence behind the Hornbeam 

    Close board fence behind the Hornbeam 

    Remove existing and plant instant evergreen hedge. 
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 73,780
    edited 18 November
    OK ...  have you considered English holly?  Dense evergreen and relatively fast growing once established. (not specifically recommending them as a supplier, although I have heard good reports).  

    One other bonus is that should your horses somehow get to the hedge it is not poisonous, but the prickles will deter them from munching it anyway.  :)
    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • AlbionAlbion Posts: 10
    Holly would be lovely but its described as slow growing (0-10cm per year) I’m concerned that even if I bought 8’ plants it would take a long time to fill in. 
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