A lot of beautiful trees can become very large as they mature, reaching over 50 feet tall, and for modern, smaller gardens this is just too big. So the American Hornbeam is a great choice because it rarely grows over 30 feet tall and often smaller, making a bushy tree with a short trunk that will thrill you with its wonderful fall color. The attractive leaves turn gorgeous shades of yellow, orange and red, lighting up your garden and adding to the glory of fall. Even better, this is one of the rare trees that will grow in shade, from a tall building, or from other mature forest trees. Making a garden under large trees can be a problem, but the American Hornbeam is the perfect choice. Perhaps you need a boundary screen in a shady area, or a single specimen. Whatever your exact needs, this tree can satisfy them in any shady spot, which is a great feature hardly ever found in specimen trees.
Growing American Hornbeam Trees
The American Hornbeam will grow well in most types of soil, even in clay, a soil that can be hard to find plants for. It has no insects, pests or diseases and the strong wood will not break in storms. It is also very winter hardy (down to minus 40 degrees), but will grow well in warm areas too. It does need a supply of water as it is not very drought-resistant, and it will also thrive in wetter spots as long as they are not regularly flooded. Your American Hornbeam will grow steadily to 20 feet or so, eventually reaching over 30 feet in ideal conditions. It is naturally as wide as it is tall, with a short trunk, usually divided low-down, but with pruning when young it is easy to develop a clear, taller trunk with plenty of clearance to pass beneath it, if needed.
Many people today want to grow native trees, to avoid the risk of non-native species spreading into the wild. So if you want to garden with native species, the American Hornbeam is an ideal choice. Throughout the east you can be sure that you will be adding to the population of this graceful native tree and elsewhere there is no danger of it spreading where it does not already grow. If you have a natural garden under large trees, the American Hornbeam is a great addition to your property and one day you may be able to work with the beautiful smooth wood, which is never available commercially.
Planting and Initial Care
If you are planting your tree as a specimen, allow 10 feet clearance from buildings or the boundary of your property. To plant a screen of this lovely tree, allow 10 to 15 feet between the trees. To get the best results dig a wide, shallow hole about three times the diameter of the pot. Add some organic material like compost, manure or peat-moss and some bone-meal or superphosphate. Place the tree in the centre of the hole, put back most of the soil and firm it down well. Add lots of water and when it has drained away finish filling the hole with the rest of the soil. Water well every week for the first season and after that when the soil becomes dry.
Unless you want to develop a tall trunk, your American Hornbeam will require little or no pruning. Just remove any weak branches while they are still thin and trim taller shoots if necessary. Left to grow naturally your tree will develop a beautiful form, with attractive bark and a dense, rounded crown.
History and Origins of the American Hornbeam
The American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) is native to America, occurring naturally from Minnesota to Maine and south to Florida and east Texas. It is found growing beneath larger trees, often near streams and rivers. It is also called Blue Beech, Ironwood and Musclewood. The wood is very hard, it does not split when dry and was once used for making bows, tool handles, walking sticks and golf clubs because it naturally makes a smooth surface when cut. The trunk is short and fluted, with smooth, gray bark, sometimes looking a little like a flexed muscle.
It has egg-shaped leaves three to five inches long, with distinctive serrated edges. These are an attractive green all season, and then turn shades of yellow, orange and red in the fall. Older trees produce clusters of flowers that look like the catkins on Birch trees. The seeds are inconspicuous and the tree doesn’t make a lot of litter, so it is low maintenance.
Our American Hornbeam are grown from seed collected from the healthiest and most attractive trees. These are carefully grown to produce sturdy trees with healthy root systems and vigorous growth. Avoid cheaper trees that may be from poor-quality parents.
We sell only trees that are true to the original form and we give you the best plant for your purpose. However we are constantly renewing our stock so our customers get fresh, healthy plants, which can mean that supplies of this tree may be limited. To avoid disappointment, order your American Hornbeam now for immediate shipment.