Frans Fontaine Hornbeam Trees - Fourth Growing Season Summer Update - August 2021

A few days ago, I received a new comment from a reader of my garden diary on this post all the way back in late May 2018 titled: "Frans Fontaine Hornbeam Planted - Hedgerow Spring 2018".  That post shows the eight columnar European Hornbeam trees that had been delivered and were being planted in our back and side yard to create (at that time, what I hoped to be) a privacy screen.  The comment - from JennyW - is here below:

I've talked this before, but I write this daily online diary because I get joy out of doing it. I don't run advertisements.  I don't run sponsored content.  I also write for a pretty narrow audience - mostly myself.  I also look at the analytics data and know that there are really three audiences - in declining size order:  

1.  The largest part of the audience: (mostly) one-time search readers (they search for something, click on the link and end up at my blog).  
2.  Second biggest audience:  Referral.  This means that people are reading something else on the Web and that piece/story/post/what-have-you has linked to something here on my blog.  That reader clicks the link, ends up here.  I put social and email referrals in this bucket.
3.  Direct.  These are people - that as best I can tell - either show up via a bookmark or type the url directly into their browser.  

The people who are in the first category come for a variety of reasons - to a wide variety of posts.  Everything posts about the best sweet corn money can buy to how to replace a broken Peloton shoe buckle to learning about the Milorganite competitor called e-Corganite for your lawn to trying to figure out when the seasonal Halloween decorations will be up at Menards.   

But, one of the category of posts that are read by people searching for answers and information always seem to produce the most engagement.  That engagement is through post comments, emails and people filling out my contact form asking me a question.  And that question usually looks a lot like the comment you see above:  "Any updates on the Frans Fontaine Hornbeams trees?"  Or... "How far apart did you plant your columnar Hornbeam trees?  And, are you happy with that spacing?"  

I've posted updates on the trees throughout our journey together and this post will serve as a late-Summer 2021 update.  This is the fourth growing season.  Planted in late May 2018, they've been in for all of 2018, 2019, 2020 and now all Summer in 2021.

The facts of our eight Frans Fontaine Hornbeam Trees:
  • Eight trees planted in May 2018
  • 2" caliper trees, started around 12' tall including the ball.  The branches spread ~30" side-to-side upon arrival near the bottom.  Around half-way up (6' from ground) they spread 10-12" wide.
  • Planted 6 foot spread trunk-to-trunk apart
  • Trunk was 28" from fence and 36" from property line
Full history of the eight trees in our yard:

May 2018:  The next day, they are planted - in our backyard and sideyard down in a gully
August 2018:  They survived their first Summer.  But not much growth.
May 2019:  I fed the trees for the first time - using spikes
June 2019:  One-year in and they green'd up and were happy.  Not a lot of screening, though.
August 2019:  The year-over-year growth in height:  From 2018 to Aug 2019, they put on 49"!
June 2020:  750 days post-planting comparison.  Lots of growth.
May 2021:  Spring leaf-out was a welcome sign. This is just about the four-year mark.
May 2021:  I swapped in a new set of soaker hoses.  I've been using them to water since planting.

Which brings us to today:  late August 2021.

Here's what the trees look like today - after their fourth Summer and growing season in Northern Illinois - USDA growing Zone 5b.  

Here's a view showing the four to the back.  A flowering pear is at the end of the row.

Below is a look the other way - at the four remaining Hornbeams looking towards our screened porch and the front of our house.  There's a flowering pear at the end this way, too.

Below is a closer look at how these have shaped-up.  They have skinny legs, an almost egg-shape with a big belly and then taper narrow near the tip-top.

Below is a head-on photo of three of the trees (#2, #3, #4 from the back).  You can see that they're doing their job.  And doing it really well.  Screening above the fence.  I figure from the top of the fence (6' tall) to the part where they start to separate is about five feet.  So, planting them six-feet apart, it took four years to get ten-plus feet tall for screening.  But it was worth it. 

We have a new(ish) neighbor that built a house in the past year.  We planted these trees knowing this house was coming.  Below, you can get a view of all eight trees and how much they screen this new house next door:

A growth note:   These next two photos below were taken from one of my kid's room and they shows off how these Hornbeams grow up first and get some wire-y shoots near the top.  The trees then fatten up there, and eventually the tree catches up.  I'm taking these shoots near the top as a sign of health:

And finally, a look out of our screened porch windows.  Compare it with April 2020 - so 15 months ago - and the difference is striking.  We're getting basically FULL screening from the trees now.  See below:

Comparison from pre-leaving out to today:


  1. Great stuff and positive results. Hope mine look like that after 4 years.


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