Best Hornbeam for Backyard Edging



I have done some research and even talked to a nursery and have received conflicting advice so hoping you could offer a perspective. We are looking to put some trees along the side of our backyard for privacy. Our landscaper suggested European hornbeams. I researched them a bit and found that there are many different types! I want to keep to a smaller columnar variety as this will be around the edge of our small city lot and I read about the Frans Fontaine which seems like a good choice. Our landscaper suggested it isn’t actually smaller than the standard though so I was confused? I then read about the Lucas variety that seems to be even smaller and maintains the columnar shape that the Frans Fontaine has. The landscaper had not heard of this variety so I called a nursery and they said it was even bigger than the standard Hornbeam and not a good choice. I am confused so hoping a Master Gardener might have some insight.

Thank you in advance,


European hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) are beautiful deciduous trees in the same genus as the North American native Carpinus carolinianus, commonly called ironwood or musclewood.  They share the same striking smooth grey bark with prominent vertical ridges.

Carpinus betulus ‘Frans Fontaine’ and Carpinus betulus ‘Fastigiata’ appear to have a pretty similar growth habit reaching 40ft in height and 20ft in width at maturity.  Keep in mind that “maturity” in both cases is approximately 150 years as they are very slow growing trees.  Both of these varieties grow well in zone 5a, full sun to part shade, are not fussy about soil type or pH and are very urban pollution tolerant.  I have checked with several growers & nurseries in Ontario and both should be fairly readily available.  Also, please keep in mind that you will need to have both of these varieties regularly pruned into the privacy screen you desire.

Carpinus betulus ‘Lucas’ on the other hand is a slightly smaller tree with a height of 30ft and width of 12ft at maturity.  Again, think about the slow growth to 150 year maturity and the regular pruning.  This variety has the same growth requirements as above but in my research to locate available trees, they were only available in nurseries south of the border at present.  For more information on this plant, click here.

Hope this helps.

Mar. 28/21