Often hornbeams are used in landscaping to line the sides of driveways and in large landscape gardens they line walkways to produce tunnel like corridors. The uniform growth characteristics and symetry combined with small branch size makes hornbeam a popular choice for topiary. There is a word which currently illudes me that landscapers use for parallel rows of trees that frame a view. HELP
SOME POSITIVE CHARACTERISTICS AND USES
1. Street tree - Hornbeams send their branches up and out of the way. On the sidewalk, they don't branch out sideways to block the way. The small branches are easily pruned around wires and other obstacles. The very strong branches are rarely broken off in the wind and any branch that does fall, is not usually large enough to damage cars parked beneath. The roots go into the soil and don't crawl along the surface, heaving and splitting sidewalks and paving. Finally, these trees don't shed any awful gick. No gooey resin, no fluff, no big seed pods, no flaking bark etc. When the leaves do fall off, they are small enough that they make a nice even mulch. Overall, the best behaved street tree I can think of.
2. Tool Handles - Rather than forming a few large branches, most hornbeams grow many smaller ones. The hard wood makes excellent handles. A properly maintained coppice can produce handles of whatever size is desired. Google images has many examples of handles
3. Rocket fuel coppice - The hard, clean burning wood comes in diameters that can easily fit the RMH without splitting.
Photos. 1. These trees are easily pruned away from the windows and around wires. Although these are 40 ft trees, all of the branches hanging over the cars are 3 inches or less in diameter. It's one of the safest trees to park under.
2. All of the trees on this section of Government St. are in big planters. These trees with 8 inch trunks haven't split their pots apart as many trees would. They are easily shaped for a formal appearance.
3. Notice that even in this confined rooting area, these trees don't send out sidewalk splitting surface roots. This makes them suitable along driveways, sidewalks and patios where a maple or chestnut would do a lot of damage.
2. The roots of a maple planted on a boulevard. The lumpy roots make mowing difficult. Surface roots cause millions each year in sidewalk repair. The sidewalks pose a tripping hazard until fixed.
3. Chestnuts are one of the most costly street trees. In Cook St. Village where they dominate, there is constant sidewalk damage and drainage issues. Surface roots sometimes rise so high above the sidewalk that drainage is prevented. This is most prevalent when the leaves and nuts clog every storm drain. Chestnuts grow fewer but much larger branches which are often shed during wind storms. Cars and buildings are regularly hit.
2. Back to the mighty hornbeam. The largest of these branches is about as thick as a baseball bat. Even without being specifically managed for coppice, this tree has plenty of nice "handle" sticks. All would fit into a standard RMH.
3. When the leaves drop in the fall, the hidden windows get plenty of light.
Kota Dubois wrote:I'm not familiar with the european hornbeam, but the hop hornbeam (ironwood) is about 1% of the trees in my eastern cool temperate hardwood forest. It does have similar characteristics but growth is VERY SLOW. I don't think I've ever seen one with a trunk more than 4 inches in diameter. The wood is indeed excellent for tool handles, very strong, hence ironwood, very straight grained BUT it must be worked while green or else it is too HARD. By the way my grandfather used to make me whistles out of ironwood in the spring when the pithy core at the centre could be pushed out and the wood still whittled easily.
I think every region has some local hard wood which is dubbed iron wood. Shag bark hickory is North America's densest wood. In Southern Ontario it is called iron wood. Hornbeams are sometimes confused with hickory and hazel nut.
If you've been to a public garden with topiary that looks too tall to be boxwood, it was probably European or Asain hornbeam. There are many variants.
The growth habit of hornbeam is similar to that of Black Maple but with graeter symetry and more valuable wood. But the maple wins the tase test every time.