Installing a Hornbeam Hedge

How To Create a Garden Room

In 2000, I purchased the book Flower Garden Designs by Penelope Hobhouse. It contains two books: Penelope Hobhouse On Gardening and Flower Gardens. When I read Hobhouse’s description of tending the garden at Tintinhull, it struck a chord. She describes how she came to appreciate the idea of “gardens within a garden”.

“Fortunately, gardening is a continuous learning process. Every day spent gardening, every visit to a garden, every book read, and every plant planted, for oneself or as part of a scheme for others, add to experience. These different bits of knowledge shape the way one plans, plants and dreams.                   

                                                                        — Penelope Hobhouse

Creating a Garden Room

I kept reading about this notion of garden “rooms”, and after visiting Hidcote Manor and Sissinghurst Castle garden in the UK, I became smitten with the idea. I wanted to figure out how to do something similar in my garden.

The Yew Border at Hidcote Manor Garden
Long view looking through the stone walls at Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Kent, U.K.

I wanted to plant a hornbeam hedge. Surprisingly, hornbeam is hard to find in my area. Then, one day I saw that my favorite Garden Blogger turned Garden Designer, Julie Witmer, planted a row of hornbeam in her new garden called Havenwood. And what I saw on Julie’s Instagram, was exactly what I imagined for my garden.

The mockup below shows how a hornbeam hedge can create a garden room.

Mockup showing where I imagined the hornbeam hedge would be placed in the garden.

I had one problem. I didn’t want to move my tree hydrangea.  It was my favorite tree and I worried it would die if I moved it.  I felt so strongly about that tree that I decided not to plant the hornbeam and decided to plant a row of tree hydrangeas instead.

I was working on installing that design when I decided to get a fresh perspective.  I contacted Julie Witmer and asked her to come up with a design proposal.  We talked about how I wanted to create a separate garden room and how I loved the hornbeam trees in her garden, Havenswood. 

The Garden Plan

Julie provided a great design that featured a hornbeam hedge to separate that section of the garden. When I told Julie about my dilemma with the tree hydrangea, she said that sometimes you need to move trees to get the design you want.

I don’t know what it was about hearing Julie say that, but I decided she was right. I needed to bite the bullet, move the tree hydrangea and install the hornbeam hedge I’ve wanted for years.

A happy camper the day I found the hornbeam trees at Milarch Nursery.

Where Did I Find the Hornbeam Trees?

I looked long and hard for the hornbeam trees and found a local nursery that carried them called Milarch Nursery. To save money, Tom and I dug the planting holes ourselves.

The trees were too large to manage without proper equipment, so we hired the nursery to deliver and install the trees once the planting holes were dug.

The Variety Hornbean We Planted

My hornbeam hedge has 6 total trees (Carpinus betulus ‘Frans Fontaine’).

  • Keeps its columnar shape
  • Grows roughly 35 ft tall and 9-15 ft wide
  • Zones 4a-8b
  • Full sun to partial shade

Planting holes for the hornbeam needed to be 2 feet deep and 2 feet in diameter.
The crew from Milarch nursery installing our hornbeam hedge.
Cleaning up the grass border after the hornbeam trees were installed.
View from the patio looking toward the hornbeam hedge.

The trees make the garden feel more secluded and peaceful. Once they get bigger, they will screen the White and Grey Garden from view, creating a separate garden space. They’ve already filled in nicely.

View of the hornbeam hedge a year after installation.
View from the far side of the garden looking towards the hornbeam hedge.
Close up view of patio pavers laid between the hornbeam trees.

Thankful I Decided to Change

Without Julie Witmer’s encouragement, I wouldn’t have the courage to move my tree hydrangea and that beautiful hornbeam hedge would still be a daydream.

I’m happy to report that Tom and I transplanted the tree hydrangea to my Mother-in-Law’s new garden and it survived.

So thank you Julie and happy gardening! 

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