Anti-cancer milestone for Penshurst gardens
18 October 2012
Penshurst Place in Kent is marking 20 years of helping medical science to produce important anti-cancer drugs.
Since 1993, the garden has been supplying clippings from its mile-long yew hedges to laboratories that extract Taxane - a chemical central to the treatment of some cancers.
Each year four tonnes of yew clippings are collected, ready to be chopped, dried and shipped to cancer treatment laboratories overseas. Only the growing tips are harvested and this must be done during a brief 10 week period when the compound is active.
The anti-cancer drugs produced from the yew clippings are then used to help patients with lung, ovarian, breast, neck and head cancer.
Taxane was discovered in 1967 in a US National Cancer Institute programme in which more than 200 plants were screened to identify their benefits.
Head Gardener at Penshurst Place, Cory Furness, says, 'The yew hedges form the structural boundaries within the 11 acre walled gardens; dividing the area into garden ‘rooms’ and are part of the historical landscape.
'Every year we have two gardeners working full time on clipping the hedges, which takes five to six weeks in the late summer and early autumn. The yew hedging is a mile long, but because our gardeners have to trim the plants from all sides, they actually cut three miles of hedging. As a result, we normally generate around four tonnes of yew clippings in a season.'
Penshurst Place is an RHS Partner Garden.