Growing a yew hedge

Posted: Friday 25 January 2013
by Kate Bradbury

I’m very fond of yew; I love seeing gnarled old trees in graveyards, exploring the patterns and fissures of their bark.

Yew hedge

Two years, I felt the need to grow a local, native plant in my garden. I gathered rosehips from a field rose at the edge of a nearby canal, soaked them in water and sowed the seed in coarse compost.

The pots sat in a corner of my patio, doing nothing. I’d almost given up when two little seedlings appeared last spring. Sadly, they never flourished. The weather was very dry at the time (remember the drought?) and I took my eye off the ball. I failed my field roses through lack of watering.

Undeterred, I thought I’d try something else for 2013: yew, Taxus baccata. I’m very fond of yew; I love seeing gnarled old trees in graveyards, exploring the patterns and fissures of their bark. Left alone, yews can grow for centuries. One specimen, in the churchyard at Fortinghall, Perthshire, is estimated to be around 2000 years old, making it one of the oldest trees in Europe.

Yew makes a fine hedge, which is how I plan to use my plants. It grows well on old wood, so you can keep your hedge in shape relatively easily, without worrying about sections going brown (unlike the Leyland cypress). A dense yew hedge is perfect for nesting birds, and the red arils are eaten by thrushes in winter.

It’s not the fastest growing tree, but yew isn’t as slow growing as some people believe. I don’t mind waiting. I’ve sown the seed into a pot of gritty compost, which is sitting in the corner of my patio, doing nothing. The seed can take two years to germinate, so I’ll take better care of my seedlings, and not neglect the watering. I’m determined not to fail these seedlings, and to raise my very own yew hedge.

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oldchippy 25/01/2013 at 14:41

Hi Kate when we moved here in 2002 we had a yew hedge one side of our back garden 16 feet tall 7 feet thick,not quite a hedge more like a wood,The person we bought the house from said it was only 25 years old and only had the top cut out or it may have been taller,On the other side was a Leyland ii hedge the same size,We gained 14 feet more garden when they were cut down and replaced with shrubs ,Now out of control,I have found a grove of Oaks trees thanks to the Jay. Old chippy

flowering rose 25/01/2013 at 17:01

someone at the top of the hill has a lovely clipped yew and it looks lovely all year round and it produces berries as well.obviously keeping the evil sprites away from the front door!

Newcastle 01/02/2013 at 01:08

I started some yew cuttings off last year and am pleased to see some of them have survived the Winter. I would like to experiment with doing some topiary with these as they grow and I have raised some Holly cuttings too with the same idea. It's going to take me a while to do this but like many people these days I am gardening on a budget.
I wrote in some years ago to Christopher Llloyd about his topiary article in The Guardian asking how this was done and he suggested his Father's book (Nathaniel Lloyd)"Garden Craftsmanship in Yew and Box" which is an inspiring read. I can certainly recommend it. David.

gogrow 11/02/2013 at 16:23

hello we have an old yew tree in front of house,it lets enough light to the ground but wondered what to grow underneath, obviously its dry but is the ground acidic from the needles?