2016

 
 

Generally it is the blazing maples or the brazen cherries and crapemyrtles that garner all the attention and, accordingly, are so popular in the garden centers. But sometimes, more quietly refined trees are needed, trees that lend a contemplative quality to the landscape. One such tree is the Chinese beech, or Fagus engleriana, a rarely encountered species of beech that is, arguably, the most elegant of them all. And in addition to its superior poise and form, this native of Eastern and Central China is somewhat smaller than the common beeches making it viable in even more gardens.

Chinese beech is noted for longer, more tapering leaves, which by mid-summer, have a lovely sea-green cast with bluish undersides while hanging from slender, horizontal branches with graceful effect. The leaves have slightly wavy margins rather than toothed, and in autumn turn an attractive golden-yellow. The fruit, or beech-nuts, are typical of the genus and a benefit to wildlife. The bark is, like most beeches, smooth and grey.

Chinese beech only reaches 50 feet at maturity, which is considerably smaller than the American beech, Fagus grandifolia or the European beech, Fagus sylvatica. Its fine to medium texture would work well with maples and oaks and its full, rounded crown recommends it as a specimen tree though it would also do quite well along a woodland verge. It will thrive in cool, well-drained, acidic soils, sandy, or sandy loam but always moist. It casts a cooling, heavy shade that would be difficult to garden under, so site accordingly.

Chinese beech will never be available in the large, discount nurseries, but more likely in the connoisseur tree nurseries, but it is worth the extra effort.

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Chinese beech

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