Frans Fontaine Hornbeam Hedge - Second Full Season - September 2019

After close to a year of thinking and planning for the installation of a row of Frans Fontaine European Columnar Hornbeam trees along our north property line, we had eight of them installed in late May of 2018.   Now, seventeen months later, I wanted to document in the garden diary where the trees are in their growth and maturation.

A little bit more than a year ago, I posted some similar photos to document their growth.  Go check them out here.  They were vibrant and green.  But, very tapered and the gaps between the trees were large at between two and three feet in spacing.

I posted again as they were entering dormancy in November and began to turn yellow last Fall.   The trees and limbs were mostly the same, tapered, tight selves. 

Then again a few weeks later in late November when one of the trees dropped all of its leaves.  These photos give you a sense for the gaps in between these young trees last Fall.

By April of this year, the buds that had been set the previous Fall were ready to burst open.   And I helped them along with some fertilizer spikes on May 1st.

And most recently, I posted some photos in early June 2019 showing how the trees had ALL survived the tough Winter and were showing signs of healthy growth as Summer was set to arrive.

Today, I'm sharing a couple of photos showing the stand of trees on #HornbeamHill as they appears after the heat of Summer.  They've grown.  Are a bit more wild and while still columnar, a lot less tapered and formal-looking.

The top photo is looking West and depending on the angle you take, the trees are ALREADY in hedge form.   But if you look at them straight-on - to the north - despite the new growth this year, you'll still see gaps in the trees.

As I documented in the "tree inventory height" post yesterday, these things have grown.  Like really grown.  My measurements show a +49" growth.  They're topping out at 162".  That's four feet of growth over a season (and a half based on measurement timing!).

The height is just about what we would want/need to have for the hedge.  They'll keep getting taller - and that's great - but from here on out, that's just a bonus.  The width, however, still has some ways to go.  Have a look at another angle below:

Those are both #NoFilter photos, btw.  Thanks to the Pixel 3XL and umm...Milorganite for the bright green grass!

As for these trees and their growth;  let's assume that the normal, accepted growth cycle will hold true.

2018:  sleep.  They just put down roots and established themselves
2019:  creep.  They're creeping up and out.  Four feet of growth.  If that's 'creeping', then...look out!
2020:  leap.  Next year will be a year of big growth.  Four feet in a season (and a half) in year two. More in year three?  Would be incredible.  But, hopefully they'll spread more than grow tall.

And that key growth coming next year is important. Why?  Because by next Summer, we will have brand new neighbors.  The folks to the north of us have pulled up stakes and moved South.  A new family now owns the property and is going to be building their family dream house this Winter.  By next June, the view won't be of a detached garage and a small house.  It will be a big house - that will be right up against our screened porch.  Where the windows and living space will be for our new neighbors will determine what impact the new construction will have on us and our view(s).

For documenting sake, here below, is a photo outside of our screened porch window showing the gap between tree three and four:

And here's a comparison between May 1st, 2019 and September 1st, 2019.  My eye counts nine or so 'fence boards' between the trees in May and four or so in September.  Gap closed in half.

If the cycle holds up, hopefully we'll be well positioned to have a screen in place with these Frans Fontaine European Hornbeam Columnar Trees as they continue to grow into a true hedge.  Between the fence and these trees, I'm hopeful that we'll both be able to enjoy some degree of privacy for years to come.


  1. Hello,

    I live in Michigan and am interested in a similar look but have had difficulty sourcing European Hornbeams... it seems there are not very common in the US. Where did you source your trees from?


  2. Hi! What spacing did you end up installing the Hornbeams at? Initially you guessed 8 feet apart but wondering what you landed on.

    1. Planted them 6' apart trunk-to-trunk. And 36" from property line.

    2. Thanks! (P.S. You're a top Google result for Frans Fontaine hornbeams. Congrats!)

  3. Great information. And I appreciate that you don’t use lens filters.

  4. Hi Jake! So glad I found your garden blog. I actually grew up in Naperville and now live up in Barrington. I just wanted to see if you had any update on how Hornbeam Hill was doing? We're planting 4 in a gravel terrace in a few weeks, at 13' apart. Our intent is not to create a hedge but, if it happens, that's okay too!

    1. Hi there. Thanks for reading. Good luck with your trees. I've been really happy with ours and they have exceeded my expectations. Have not pruned them at all, but have fed them every Fall and kept them a little watered as they were established the first few years. I just posted a couple of photos showing an update on our Hornbeams - in Downers Grove. Five Years Later - Frans Fontaine Hornbeam Trees Update - September 2023


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