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Fiery new hornbeam for hedges and small gardens

This French variety of our native hornbeam comes with new features and new uses

Many gardeners are on the lookout for neat trees suitable for small gardens, but hornbeams are not usually near the top of the list. This new introduction from a classic French nursery could change all that.

Carpinus betulus ‘Orange Retz’Our native hornbeam makes a large tree which can eventually reach thirty metres tall with its branches tending sweep upwards and droop at the tips.

In spite of its mature height, it also makes a fine hedge, usually retaining at least some of its foliage through the winter. ‘Orange Retz’ is a departure with a number of distinct useful features.

It makes a smaller tree, with tighter and more compact growth, reaching 5m in ten years, and so is especially good for hedging and for small spaces.

The emerging spring foliage features bronze tints as it unfurls, creating a slightly smoky look. It then matures to lime green with a neat double-toothed edge to each leaf.

In autumn, however, things change dramatically as the whole tree turns into a pillar of fire as the foliage turns vivid flame orange.

I asked Andrew Beale of The Beale Arboretum, holder of the Plant Heritage National Collection of Carpinus cultivars, for his thoughts on this new introduction.

“‘Orange Retz’ is an exciting new cultivar of Carpinus betulus, slightly more compact than a classic hornbeam, and slightly wider than C. betulus ‘Fastigiata’,” he told me. “Its vivid orange colour is unique to the species, and lasts for several weeks in the autumn.”

‘Orange Retz’ was selected some time before 2000 by Jean Blondeau at the French nursery Minier, who have been breeding woody plants for more than forty years. In particular their work has focused on Abelia, Buddleja, Forsythia, Hibiscus, Syringa, and Physocarpus, as well as Cotinus, Potentilla, and Wisteria. They report that ‘Orange Retz’ is hardy, tolerant, and easy to grow.

You can order plants of Carpinus betulus ‘Orange Retz’ from these RHS Plant Finder nurseries.
*Please note, the contents of this blog reflect the views of its author and do not constitute an official RHS endorsement. 

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