Frans Fontaine Hornbeam Caliper Measurements - January 2020

A couple of days ago, I shared a photo of the new caliper measurement tool that Nat picked up for me on Amazon so I can get some better measurement of our young trees in the yard.  I have been tracking the heights of my newly added trees to the yard for the past couple of years (here's this Summer's measurements and here's last Summer measurements), but some of the trees are getting more than ten feet tall and using a conventional tape measure to accurate reflect their growth is difficult.  Between not being able to reach (and be at eye level) with the very top of the tree and the reality to some of the tree's 'growth' isn't always in height, but in branching out and what-have-you.

Like I've done with the heights (which...for many of the trees, I'll still do during the late Summer), I'm going to document caliper measurements on a regular basis.  I'm thinking that I'll do a semi-annual measurement this year (now + Summer) to see if they show any meaningful growth) and then go back to annual.

First up is the set of Frans Fontaine European Columnar Hornbeams.

The first time I posted about these trees - and the hope that they'd one day create a hedge along the northside of our house - was back in November of 2017, about four months after we had moved in.

We spec'd eight of them to be evenly spread across a big space. 

They arrived in May of 2018 and were planted the next day.   We had them spaced out to allow for their mature widths and that means that for the first years, we have gaps in between them.  That's part of the deal with buying younger trees that you want to live a long life:  give them room to grow to maturity and not crowd each other out and fight each other for nutrients.  Go look at the photo at the bottom of this post to see how much of a gap there really was when we planted them almost two years ago.

I baby'd them for their first season.  By mid-Summer, it appeared that they'd survived the transplant shock and looked good heading into their first Fall.  One of the trees - which I'm now calling "#4" dropped all of its leaves and had me concerned that it was suffering.

But, by Spring of 2019 - after their first Winter in the ground at our place - all eight of the Hornbeams were full of buds about to burst.  Later that Spring, I fed them (with spikes) for the first time1.  And in Summertime, they were putting on a beautiful green show.   In my annual tree height inventory posting, I showed that these trees put on 4' of height in the year since they were planted.  That's...A LOT, isn't it?  The accuracy of that measurement is a big part of why I'm now writing this post.  But, I also documented them as they headed into Fall - and were thicker and fuller than before.  As they went to dormancy for the year, one change:  all eight demonstrated marscencese - or held all of their leaves into Winter to provide a little bit of screening.

Which brings us to today.  Here's what they look like - and how I'm numbering them for measuring purposes:

I went out and measured each one for a baseline.  Using the instructions from the post here, I first measured each tree from the ground six inches - and using a turquoise Sharpie - created a line.  You can see that in the photo below.

Before I go into talking about the measuring, as you go through these photos, look at the bark at the base of the tree.  On some of the trees, the bark is pretty smooth.  On others, it is split wide open and looks like the tree is trying to 'bust out' of the bark.  Interesting to monitor going forward.

Now...back to the measurements.  After marking them, I went and measured each one like this one (#1) below.  To make it easy, I put a little piece of paper with the tree number on it and took a photograph.  At 6" from the ground this one is 2.48" in caliper.

I entered all the data into a spreadsheet, but a few of them seemed 'off'.  Trees #2, #3 and #4 were all bigger than the rest.  By almost inch.  See below for the photo of my initial measurement of Tree #2:  3.21"

So, I went out and remeasured those.  Hence the little "V2" at the bottom of each of the pieces of paper in the photos you see below.

Now we have a baseline for these trees.

Hornbeam Calipers (Facing L-R)West to East #'s
Tree 12.48
Tree 22.60
Tree 32.82
Tree 42.70
Tree 52.59
Tree 62.49
Tree 72.40
Tree 82.54

Trees number 1 through 5 are all 'clear' of our house in terms of exposure.  Meaning, that those five will all get more sun than six, seven, eight.  

In looking at the trees, the 'biggest' one is tree #3 followed by tree #4 (the one that lost all of it's leaves last Fall).  Then tree #2.  All of those are in the Sun more.  But, tree #8 is the fourth largest.  

What I'm not accounting for is whether all of these were 'in this ranking order' when they went in or not.  I recognize that they all couldn't be EXACTLY the same caliper when we got them.  But, was #8 bigger than #7 from the start?

Or, could something else have factored in:  like....I use a soaker hose on these trees.  where it "starts" is right at the base of tree #8.  Anyone who has used soaker hoses will tell you that the water comes out MUCH BETTER at the start of a soaker hose than at the end.  Could #8 have benefited from more water?  Perhaps.  But, we don't know. 

What I do know is that since we've established this baseline, I can understand - going forward - what is happening with these trees growth-wise.  What I'm primarily concerned with is their continued widening and thickening up to create that true 'hedge' or 'screen'.  Our neighbors to the north - just past these trees - are going to tear down their house and start building imminently.  They'll likely *miss* the Summer and Fall in terms of being finished in 2020.  So, that gives me one full growing season (2020).  And they'll be better off come Spring of 2021, when the  new house is done, to provide us with some privacy on our porch and backyard.  

These trees are just the first of the caliper posts.  I'll get around to doing the rest of our trees in the next few days. 

1. [Note to self: include feeding these trees (and others) in my 2020 To-do list. Hence the tag on this post.]


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