American Hornbeam Guidance?

I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the Hidden Gardens in Willowbrook, IL yesterday. Jeff has a ton of great material. I totally recommend visiting his nursery if you are able to get there.

Anyway. I picked up this American Hornbeam. I barely know what I am doing with some conifers, let alone deciduous trees. This tree needs a bit of cleaning. Some dead branches and weaker growth.

Besides not knowing what to do with this tree, I am looking for some basic starting points with this tree or species.

Any tips guidance or comments are welcome. If you know of a video that is the most useful I will watch it.

Thanks in advance.


By American Hornbeam, do you mean Carpinus caroliniana or Ostrya virginiana (sorry, don’t know North Ameican English common names well. Either way, if you don’t know the trees care history and it’s not in refinement (which it doesn’t look to be), I would probably let it extend all its growth by 10 nodes then cut back to a 3 or 4 leaves on all but the weakest areas. If it’s growing poorly, just leave it be for a year and work on it early spring next year.


Gorgeous. Unfortunately, I can’t see most of the branch structure because of the foliage, but based on the powerful base, with strong nebari gripping the right, and the thick lower trunk on the left effectively constituting the defining branch, I would style the tree leftwards, and take in the right to give it in a harmonious design (in Ryan’s terminology). Of course, doing so would put the tree into developmental, so you would have to fertilize heavily, and let the growth on the left extend and thicken before transitioning to secondary branch development and finally refinement after a year or more. However, unless there is something contradictory lurking under that full canopy, I think a harmonious design would look magnificent on this tree.

Good luck.


Thank you for your advice. Its a carpinus.

1 Like

Yeah I saw a leftward thing as well. Could do a lot. I can’t see much in there at the moment either. Development for sure.

1 Like

Looks like you were able to find some deciduous material lol. What were the prices like? I wish I had some place like that around me. :weary:


Alternatively, unless you have an idea that there’s structure in there you don’t want to become course, you can just stop the strongest areas by pinching the terminal shoot and merely let everything else run free for the year, that way you’ll have loads of energy for your first major styling.


Hi @Jeramiah
That’s a nice tree.
It’s not the kind of tree you want to make mistakes on.
If you are finding your feet, I would suggest also getting a smaller and cheaper tree to play with and learn on.
For the time being, you can clean the tree, taking out the dead and dying, as well as any faults. You will probably be looking at a repot next Spring.


It is what it is. Next steps anyone?

Watch that wire like a hawk, better to take wire off too early and rewire than to be looking at wire scars for the rest of the trees life / your life.
If you are 100% confident in he trees health you could partially defoliate.

What’s your vision for the tree?

I think you need to elevate the apex of the higher side and work in some different levels in the foliage. Right now it seems a bit like a green, diagonal band, particularly the pictures where the trunk flows from right to left.

I made the cut Ryan suggested. Previously I had just removed the top branches. It does open u the middle more.

I am hoping with more ramification and smaller leaves that the separation becomes more apparent.
@MartyWeiser I did take your suggestion and brought the branches up a bit to make the height more noticeable.

1 Like

1 Like

Here it is on October 10, 2020.

Any pot suggestions?