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Hornbeam hedge - one section just won't grow. Why?!

About three years ago I planted many metres of Hornbeam hedge whips.

Most of it is doing really well, but one length has patches of plants that just are not growing.  They have only a few leaves, the ones they have are small and are beginning to go brown/die.  

I keep them watered regularly and feed them every couple of weeks with a weak seaweed feed to the roots.  I've also mulched them several times since being planted.  I look after them more than the rest of the hedge but it's all doing so badly.

My husband just says to "give them a chance" but I think they've had their chance!  What should I do?  Could it be the soil?  Should I dig it all up and start again?
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  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 35,520
    Might be the soil. Hornbeam is very straightforward.
    You shouldn't still be watering and feeding them though. Once established, they need nothing, so it suggests they haven't got enough sustenance and moisture to thrive. Hornbeam is happier with moister conditions anyway, so there may be a problem with moisture retention in that area. 

    Have you got a photo - or more info about where they're growing?
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • Just posted a photo.  The hedge is planted either side of our driveway.  Grass etc. grows fine and the soil seems ok to look at (seems to hold moisture as much as anywhere else).  Everywhere else it's doing fine, but just along this part it's really struggling.

    Is there a chance I'm looking after it too much?  
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 35,520
    There doesn't seem to be much of a border for it to grow in. All that grass close by is competition for moisture that it really needs to thrive, and there looks like a very dry area of grass just beyond it in that photo. The key is to prep the site really well before planting, so that they need minimal care. In drier parts of the country, it's especially important. 
    If they were big whips when you put them in - they're harder to get established anyway. What size were they? Anything bigger than about 3 feet is more difficult. A hedge that's been in that length of time should be bushy by now. It could have done with cutting back too, to help it thicken out. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • TopbirdTopbird Posts: 5,983
    Is it possible there is something under the soil in that area which could be making it drier and less hospitable? I'm thinking something like old foundations of a wall / outhouse or similar.

    Our property is on one third of the curtilage of a long since demolished 1920's bungalow. During dry weather I can see exactly where the corner of the bungalow extended into our garden on the lawn. This despite never coming across any actual foundations. Think aerial archaeology...
    Heaven is ... sitting in the garden with a G&T and a cat while watching the sun go down
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 35,520
    The watering is also important. Many people dribble water for a few minutes every day, which does more harm than good as it keeps all the roots near the surface, instead of them getting further down.
    Whips need about a canful each, every few days, and that's even if done as bare roots, until there's proper autumn/winter rain. Done later in winter, it's easier. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • They were knee-high whips.  They went in when we had that really, really dry summer (2018) but the rest has done fine.

    I do try and keep on top of the grass.  And I keep them watered.  I'm at a loss.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 35,520
    edited August 2020
    They've never established. They'd have needed a lot of water if that's when they were planted. By last autumn, they should have been doing well. 
    I'd make that border much wider, and maybe dig one up and have a look at it. In good conditions, they should have grown well in that time  :)

    Just had a thought - did you buy them as bare root whips during summer? They shouldn't be sold at that time of year as bare root - only potted. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


  • finannestcamfinannestcam Posts: 7
    edited August 2020
    Fairygirl said:
    They've never established. They'd have needed a lot of water if that's when they were planted. By last autumn, they should have been doing well. 
    I'd make that border much wider, and maybe dig one up and have a look at it. In good conditions, they should have grown well in that time  :)

    Just had a thought - did you buy them as bare root whips during summer? They shouldn't be sold at that time of year as bare root - only potted. 
    They were bare root and I think they were planted in April/May (we actually paid a gardener to do them to ensure they were planted correctly.  One guy dug a trench while the gardener planted.  I was aware he was taking handfuls of whips and leaving them laying in the sun whilst he planted them, so it could be that he damaged the roots?).

    I'll dig one up and see what it's like.  What am I looking for?  Crappy roots?  
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 35,520
    Just look at the condition of the soil and the general health of the root system.

    They shouldn't really have been selling bare root plants that late though. May is certainly too late. They would have needed a thorough soaking overnight to ensure they were moist before planting.
    Ideally - they should have done some prep to the soil to check that it was in good health - some compost or rotted manure added. Just digging a narrow trench and putting them in is rarely good enough, unless the existing soil is nice and rich. 
    On the plus side- if they're not thriving at all, you could remove them, beef up the border, and order some whips for the start of the new season - November.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....


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