Nothing outshines a beech tree in autumn, although it is an imposing tree in all seasons. The leaves glow orange and russet, like the dying embers of a bonfire, before drying to a warm, burnished tan. They hang on throughout winter, rustling in the wind, a good foil for the steely blues and muted greens of conifers.
In spring, the long, tightly furled new foliage pushes off what leaves remain, slowly unrolling from the top down. Shiny, dark green oval leaves remain pristine throughout summer, unbothered by blight or insect. It’s a glorious show.
European beech (Fagus sylvatica) and American beech (F. grandifolia) are similar in habit and hardiness, although European beech and its many cultivars are easier to find and more amenable to transplanting than their American relation.
Refrain from pruning low-growing branches—they add a mature grace to the garden and means there’s no need to find plants that grow under its broad canopy.
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