Finished my last clipping job of 2019 – a large, very long and awkward beech hedge. I started out doing a lot of hedge work. It’s a great way to train the eye and practice cutting straight lines. Most of my work now is with topiary. The only hedge work would be a low box hedge as part of a parterre or knot garden. But I do keep in touch with this long awkward beech hedge because it is in a garden that has the six topiary beech (Fagus Sylvatica) trees that I have become very fond of.
I like to clip beech hedges when the plants are dormant. This means they enjoy the longest period possible with leaves, converting sunlight into chemical energy by photosynthesis and creating stronger plants. The main downside of clipping late is most of the leaves are lost. So I trim these topiary standards in late summer/ early autumn and the beech retains more leaves through winter. The full spectrum of colours can then be appreciated as the leaves change from green in summer to yellow and orange in autumn, and bronze in winter.
Here’s a collage of the changing colours I posted on my Instagram, from summer on top through to winter on the bottom.
There are actually four seasons of colour with beech. I haven’t included a photo of when the new leaves first emerge in Spring and are a vivid lime green.
This range of colour change is why beech is one of my favourite plants and should be used more for topiary. Beech offers all year round interest. When clipped into a tiered or domed shapes, beech topiary can make a real statement in any garden and become a conversation piece from spring through to winter.