There's something quite magical about Yew, the hedging of choice for stately homes and country cottages across the land. The tree that stands tall 300 years old in Churchyards and Parks that just gets more beautiful as time goes by.
Yew has been a part of our landscape for hundreds of years and there is good reason for it. Tolerating a wide range of soils and positions including heavy shade its a tough plant once established. It also has a very good resistance to Honey Fungus meaning that when you plant a yew hedge or tree you can be pretty sure it will be there for future generations to admire.
In our quick fix society yew has been losing out to faster growing more agressive plants such as Leylandai which is a shame as it's a far superior plant in almost every respect. One common misconception is that Yew grows at a snails pace, it certainly isn't going to be giving you 3ft plus a year but once settled in you can expect growth of around 30cm plus per growing season.
One of the many benefits of Yew is that it can regrow from old wood, meaning it can be cut right back and in time will grow again into the deisred shape and size, it's a rare quality in hedging as the millions of unsightly hard pruned Leylandai hedges across the country will attest to.
It's also fantastic for topiary and with patience can be trimmed into any shape you wish.
The one thing Yew doesn't like is poor drainage and grows best on well drained soils. However, if your soil isn't particulary free draining hope is not lost and there are things that can be done to improve things if you want to plant Yew. Digging lots of well rotted organic matter and horticultural grit into the planting area and planting slightly higher than ground level on a raised mound to allow the water to drain and avoid the roots sitting in damp soil will help.
One way to save on costs is to buy freshly dug rootballed plants between November - March, or if you're on a really tight budget you can buy small bare root plants during this period which with a little patience will give you the hedge you want for next to nothing. Container grown plants will be the most expensive but can be planted at any time of year and can be bought bigger if you're looking for instant impact.
Whether its topiary, hedging or just a large specimin tree, you really can't beat Yew. It's arguably the most elegant hedge, the most versitile of topiary subjects and the most magical of trees. You can't regret planting Yew and for that reason it's one of our favourites.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!