Beech hedging is a popular native hedging choice, perfect for providing food and shelter for wildlife and although a deciduous variety, it is often considered ideal for year-round interest due to its crisp winter foliage. To achieve brown crunchy foliage on bare branches throughout the winter, be sure to prune your Beech hedging twice a year, once in July and again in later summer. This will ensure the brown foliage hangs on until spring, providing a year-round screen.
Beech hedging in nature
The nuts of Fagus or Beech hedging are called beechmast and are devoured by hungry birds, whilst the dense foliage creates a wonderful wildlife shelter. However it’s not only birds who benefit from Beech hedging; Beech make an important habitat for butterflies and moths such as the White Admiral, Duke of Burgundy and Grizzled Skipper (prettier than it sounds!), Clay Triple-Lines, Olive Crescent and Barred Hook-Tip.
Beech hedging seeds are often eaten by voles, mice and squirrels. A sheer myriad of wildlife just waiting to take advantage of a new Fagus hedge.
The beechmast can be used in hedgerow cookery, especially in oil or simply toasted, making Beech hedging an edible hedge! Though large crops of beechmast are usually only found on established trees and you will probably find that any nuts your Beech hedging does eventually produce, are already snaffled up by the smaller and furrier of your local residents!
Bare root Beech hedging
This is by far the most popular way to plant Fagus or Beech hedging, as bare root plants offer a cost effective option with great results. Bare root Beech hedging plants will usually range from 10cm to 2.5m+ in height and can be planted from November to April/May, whilst the plants are dormant.
Planting a Beech hedge
Beech hedging is easy to establish as a new hedge; pot and cell grown plants can be planted year round by digging a hole of the same depth as the root mass, applying Rootgrow to the planting hole, removing the pot, popping the plant into the hole and backfilling. Bare root Beech hedging, planted between November and April/May needs to be planted in a similar way, using Rootgrow as a gel and dipping the roots into the gloopy paste before planting. Root balls are heavier and require a strong person to locate them in their final positions. For further details about planting a Beech hedge, see the Planting Advice section of our website.
Beech hedging in history
In Celtic mythology the God of Beech was Fagus and the leaves were used for medicinal purposes to relieve swellings by boiling and creating a poultice.
The longest and tallest hedge on earth is a Beech hedge, planted in 1745 in Scotland. The Meikleour Beech Hedge is said to grow towards the heavens as the men who planted it died in the battle of Culloden.
Beech hedge problems
We keep all of our Beech plants fresh and healthy, however as a natural, living thing, your hedge may become suseptible to some beasties or diseases affecting beech hedges
Woolly Beech Aphid
– (Phyllaphis fagi) Woolly beech aphid is a sap-sucking insect that can make the foliage of beech hedges sticky with the honeydew it excretes. It protects itself by secreting a woolly and sticky coat.
Symptoms – Fluffy white clusters on the underside of the leaves during summer, often sticky with honey dew. A black sooty mould may develop on the leaves.
Natural Control – There are few effective none chemical controls, small numbers of aphids can be wiped away with a damp cloth.
Chemical Control – As infestations do not harm the plants control with pesticides is usually unnecessary. If problem is severe spray in May and June with a product containing deltamethrin or cypermethrin. Always read the label and follow manufacturers’ instructions.
Powdery Mildew on Beech
Powdery mildews are fungal diseases of the foliage and green stems and are often specific to individual species. They are usually superficial as they cover the surface of the leaf. Powdery mildews have a relatively high water content and can survive in dry conditions and so are often associated with water stress in the host plant.
Symptoms – A white, powdery spreading fungus that can cover leaves and green stems in late summer and autumn. Leaves and young tissues can become distorted and stunted.
Natural Control – Water plants in dry weather to reduce stress, particularly those that are newly planted. Rake up leaves in autumn and burn or remove, do not compost them as the spores overwinter in the dead leaf matter.
Chemical Control – Mildews are easily controlled with chemical as they only affect the surface of the leaf. There are a wide range of products available for the treatment of powdery mildew, those containing tebuconazole are very effective. Always read the label and follow the manufacturers’ instructions.
Beech and Honey Fungus
There are several species of honey fungus, all in the genus Armillaria. This problematic fungus spreads underground attacking and killing the roots of trees, shrubs and herbaceous perennials. Beech, Photinia, Privet, Holly, Yew and Prunus species are all particularly susceptible.
Symptoms – Above ground the leaves of affected plants will become pale and poorly developed, there may be premature autumn colouring. Twigs and small branches may die back completely, particularly in dry weather.
In some instances there may be golden brown mushrooms around the base of trees and shrubs.
Below ground the roots of infected plants will die and rot, and a distinctive white fungal mat will be apparent under the bark low down on the trunk, this is the primary diagnostic feature of the presence of honey fungus, there will also be a strong smell of mushroom. Black rhizomorphs, like shoelaces may be found in the soil.
Control – There is no known effective control for honey fungus. Remove all dead and dying material from the soil and burn if possible. Replace topsoil if practical to do so.