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Yew (Taxus baccata) is a handsome native tree or shrub whether planted in a contemporary or traditional setting. It is a classic choice for planting as a free-standing specimen, as topiary, in containers and makes an excellent, long-lived hedge. Careful selection, soil preparation and planting will ensure successful establishment of these timelessly fashionable plants.
Yew tolerates most soils including those containing chalk. It is, however, sensitive to soil compaction and waterlogged growing conditions. Once established yew will even grow in dry soil and shade and can grow more quickly than anticipated.
To give yew the best start in life, prepare the soil, incorporating well-rotted manure or garden compost and plant as you would when planting trees and shrubs.
Yew will not tolerate waterlogging and in such conditions may be more susceptible to Phytophthora root rot.
If you need to plant a yew hedge on heavier soils, throw the soil into a ridge at least 15m (6in) higher and about 1m (3ft) wide and allow the soil to settle before planting along the top. Just cover the roots with no more than 3cm (1in) of soil. This keeps the base of the plant and some of the roots out of saturated soil.
Yew is perfect for creating topiary. Plants can be bought ready-trained or you can use metal frameworks to guide you when trimming.
English yew, Taxus baccata, is ideal for screening or topiary and makes an excellent hedge. Prostrate forms make good ground cover, even in dense, dry shade. There are a great number of cultivars available, including fastigiate (upright) forms that are ideal for formal planting.
Taxus baccata ‘Dovastoniana’ AGM: (female) forms a small tree with tiers of wide, spreading branches and weeping branchlets with very dark green leaves. A useful plant for providing a horizontal element in a border. It can reach 3-5m (10-15ft) by 2m (6ft).
T. baccata ‘Standishii’ AGM: (female) is a slow-growing selection of ‘Fastigiata’. It is ideal for a sunny site, has a columnar habit with golden yellow leaves. It will eventually reach a height of 1.5m (5ft) by 60cm (2ft) wide. A useful cultivar for creating an ‘exclamation mark’ in the garden.
T. baccata ‘Elegantissima’: (female) is a popular golden yew, dense-growing, large bush with ascending branches, young foliage gold turning pale green, 3m (10ft) height and spread. A good choice for a golden hedge
If foliage turns a bronze or bronze-red colour, this usually indicates environmental stress. This may be a failure to establish, drought or waterlogging. However, sometimes individual plants brown for no apparent reason and generally spontaneously recover.
Beech hedgingHedges: selectionNational Collections of YewReducing the size of large trees safelyTopiary
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