Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Thread-leaved Beech

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Beeches are the Heinz Pickles of trees:  Each year there's another new flavor to try.  The narrow leaves of the Thread-leaf Beech could hardly look less beechy.  Who knew?  The new stems are unusually long and flexible, too.  This is the beech to see at close-range, otherwise you'll mistake it for just another Japanese maple.

 

And so it's one of the beeches of my Belgian Fence, which has the gravel driveway on one side and a bluestone walk on the other. 

 

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You can walk every foot of the Fence—and from either side—to study this strange beech as closely as you want.

 

 

Here's how to grow this unique beech:

 

Latin Name

Fagus sylvatica 'Ansorgei'

Common Name

Thread-leaf Beech

Family

Fagaceae, the Beech family.

What kind of plant is it?

Deciduous tree.

Hardiness

Zones 5 - 9.

Habit

Mounding and spreading when young, eventually tree-like.

Rate of Growth

Slow to medium.

Size in ten years

If untrained, a mounding shrub four to six feet tall and six feet or more wide.

Texture

Lacy and mounding.  Thanks to the uniquely narrow leaf, which looks more like a stringbean wannabe than anything a respectable beech would grow, 'Ansorgei' could be mistaken for a Japanese maple. 

Grown for

its rarity: Thread-leaf Beech is unquestionably a beech to savor only after you've had some real history with the more usual beech flavors like purple leaves, weeping or upright habit, or ferny leaves.  And so the market for 'Ansorgei' is small and the suppliers few.

 

its foliage, which can be four to five inches long and less than a half-inch wide.  (Normal F. sylvatica leaves are about three inches long and an inch and a half wide.)  The leaves are a full-throated purple as Summer begins, but fade to purple-green by August.

Flowering season

Spring: Beech flowers, however, aren't showy, although the subsequent nuts—loved by squirrels and tasty enough to have given their name to the Beech Nut cereal line—have a modestly-showy prickly covering.

Culture

Full sun in any well-draining soil.

How to handle it

Beeches aren't picky about soil—decent is good enough—but they are fanatics about drainage.  The rule of thumb is Never Plant a Beech on Level Ground.  In other words, be sure that surface water can quickly drain away from the plant even if this means planting it on a slope of only inches, or on a broad but low mound.   

 

Beeches can have such a monumental and powerful-limbed maturity that it's pleasantly counter-intuitive how much they enjoy (or at least tolerate) any amount of pruning and training.  Nothing, but nothing, is better than a beech hedge.  Beeches also espalier beautifully, because the young growth is very flexible whereas the mature growth is so strong and durable that the older trained individual can hold its geometric shape almost without support. 

 

A Belgian fence is nothing more than a fancy kind of espaliering.  In espaliers, branches of trees are trained out along horizontal wires; in Belgian Fences those wires are on the diagonal, so the branches criss-cross in a diamond pattern as the trees grow higher and higher.  

 

By August, beech's new growth is long enough that it can be gently tied to the wires.  This is also the time to cut off any new growth that isn't needed or is hopelessly out-of-alignment.  Check out the entire Belgian Fence each August, not just the new growth, retying as well as pruning older growth as needed and ensuring that old ties haven't become too tight.  Eventually—but faster than you'd first think—the Fence's trained limbs acquire a satisfyingly muscular and beech-like look, but now in their striking diamond pattern.

 

'Ansorgei' is unusually flexible and thin-limbed even as the tree matures, so is particularly easy to train.

Downsides

As long as they get the sun and drainage they require, beeches are unusually self-reliant and disease-free.  'Ansorgei' is similarly tough, but its narrow leaves and comparatively slow growth makes it an awkward youngster.

Variants

Fagus sylvatica is available in an ever-widening circle of cultivars.  Leaves can be any number of shades of purple, or chartreuse or even yellow, or green, or variegated.  Leaf shapes can be round, lacy-tipped, pointed, or contorted.  Mature sizes range from shrubby mounds to monumental creatures as big as any mansion.  Habits can be wide and upright, narrow and tall, low and spreading, medium-sized and mounding, or massively weeping (either widely or narrowing).  And your choice can be across several characteristics:  A purple-leaved columnar beech?  A yellow-leaved weeper?  A purple-leaved dwarf?  The choices only increase. 

 

Fagus grandifolia, in pointed contrast, has never shown any interest in being anything other than green-leaved and broadly upright.  Its leaves are several times as big as those of F. sylvatica so it's worth growing even if your other beech is "just" the green-leaved F. sylvatica.  Like F. sylvatica, it is also happy to be clipped into an incredible hedge.

Availability

On-line and at "destination" specialty nurseries.

Propagation

By grafting.

Native habitat

Fagus sylvatica is native to Europe.  'Ansorgei' has been around for at least a hundred years and was first raised in Hamburg, Germany, at the Ansorge Nursery.

 
 
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