Appletons Tree Nursery Ltd, 1748 Main Road South, Wakefield, Nelson, Phone 03 541 8309, Fax 03 541 8007
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Copper beech & hornbeam hedging

Deciduous hedge plant spacing

We recommend that deciduous hedges are placed at a spacing of 40-50cm apart. Early light trimming will encourage a tighter, denser branch habit. It is the regular trimming that encourages juvenile regrowth which hold on until bud burst in spring

COPPER BEECH Fagus sylvatica

A hedge to mark the seasons, deciduous in name, but maintaining an effective screen all year. Lush purple spring growth gradually changes to purplish green through summer, then to copper tan in autumn. Brown leaves hold on right through winter, falling as the new leaves burst forth.

Beech will grow in most soil conditions, preferring alkaline to acid soil. Many NZ soils are acid so a heavy dressing of lime will enhance growth. The site must be free draining, as beech will not tolerate waterlogged conditions. Irrigation is necessary where light free-draining soils or drought conditions prevail.

Beech hedges are easy to manage, as they do not make huge growth flushes; a clip in summer keeps a formal shaped hedge, with a light trim in late summer tidying up any late summer flush.

We have excellent 2-year-old plants at 50-75cm and 75-100cm.

HORNBEAM Carpinus betulus

This is also deciduous, retaining its leaves in winter when clipped. In summer, attractive green serrated leaves give the hedge a soft lush effect.

It is adaptable to a wide range of soil conditions, and is able to tolerate summer heat and wind.

Spring and summer growth is vigorous when grown under ideal conditions, which may require a spring and summer clip to maintain a formal shape, and before the season’s growth becomes too woody.

Younger plants are available for gardeners keen to start their hedge at an earlier stage  in grades of 25-50cm and 50-75cm



Order your plants well in advance, so that the species and preferred grade are available. Most hedging plants are supplied as bare-root specimens. These are best planted in winter, when the plants are dormant. Avoid planting in very cold frosty or wet weather. Select a hedging species that is known to perform well in your local climate and soil conditions.


Clear the ground of all existing vegetation with a herbicide or manually. Prepare the ground by deep ripping or cultivating to a depth of 30cm. On a light soil, adding organic material will assist moisture and nutritional retention. On poorly drained soils, deep rip in the summer and plant on a 15cm ridge. Soils that become waterlogged in winter may require a permanent drainage system.


Hedges are planted at high density and plants compete with each other from an early age, so careful preparation at planting is essential. The ultimate shape and height will determine the spacing of plants. Planting distances vary between 300-750mm depending on the plant’s vigour. Severe root competition and possible mortality can occur if too close, and it will take a longer period to join up and form a hedge if too widely spaced.

Mark the planting row with a string line, dig the hole deep enough to spread the roots out thoroughly, ensuring the planting depth is to the previous soil mark on the stem. Firm plants in and then water and mulch well.


Ensure plants are well watered for the next two summers, especially during hot, dry and windy conditions. Top dress annually with a slow release general-purpose fertiliser. Keep the site weed free and re-apply mulch as required, to reduce moisture loss.


Successful trimming of a new hedge starts with light trimming during the first growing season, to allow a uniform stem and branch habit to develop. The hedge then grows to its final proportions as a dense network of branches, especially important for deciduous species. Never allow growth of more than 45cm, as the clipped branch stems become woody and unsightly.

Beech hedge in winter