Life’s a Beech
About ten years ago I divided my long and relatively narrow town garden into three ‘rooms’ in order to break up the space and to allow for different styles of planting in each area.
The first ‘room’ is outside the kitchen door and is a large paved area with a table and chairs and pots for bulbs and herbs. In summer it’s a good space for dining and in spring it makes a useful sowing and potting area for the allotment. The second ‘room’ contains a large parterre in full sun which is mostly planted with aromatic Mediterranean plants. The third ‘room’ is in the shadiest part of the garden and also contains a central parterre and gives me a chance to indulge in shade-loving and woodland plants. These two ‘rooms’ are divided by a beech hedge -Fagus sylvatica -with a gap in the middle to walk through. It spans the width of the garden and about half way up its length.
I planted the hedge from a bundle of twenty bare root stems, purchased for under £15, about five years ago. It was the cheapest way to divide up the space and involved no hard landscaping material. I simply made the beds, dug in some organic compost and planted. Soon the stems were putting out small branches so in year two, and every year since, I pruned off the lower branches with the aim of growing a hedge on stilts. It is finally beginning to fatten up and with a hard prune this spring I hope to provoke a really sturdy amount of new leaves to fill any gaps. Keeping it on stilts allows a view through the length of the garden both ways and leaves space for planting perennials and bulbs around the trunks.
I love beech hedges: their crisp orange leaves glowing in the depth of winter cheer me up on cloudy days.
Which is just as well since it’s Week 13 of cut flowers from the garden and I am suffering withdrawal symptoms from not being able to indulge my tulip habit. I hurry past the local florist eyes down and avoid going near the flower section in the supermarket. I can see there are buckets of brilliant tulips for sale absolutely everywhere. I long for April when I can pick from the pots here but in the meantime have had to make do with more Euphorbia wulfennii this time in a favourite Chinese ginger jar to ring the changes.