Yew hedges: a slow growing and easy to maintain traditional hedging plant

Yew Hedge Taxus Baccata

Yew Hedge at-a-glance

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Foliage Type: Evergreen

Hardiness: ✯✯✯✯

Ease of maintenance: ✯✯✯✯

Drought Resistance: ✯✯✯✯

Soil type: Acid or Alkaline

Wet/Dry: Dry

Preferred situation: Sun or Shade

Height: Up to 10m

Growth Rate: Slow

Yew Hedge – more information (Taxus Baccata)

In our popular culture, the yew may play second fiddle to the oak, but when it comes to hedging, the yew stands supreme. It is the hedging plant.

Perhaps the only truly native shrub, yew produces a handsome, longstanding screen, providing full privacy with a soft green backdrop. It is slower growing than other conifers, unless copiously watered. However, patience will be rewarded with an easily managed tight (and exceptionally robust) garden hedge – it can survive even the most severe pruning.

Yew, though, will not tolerate waterlogging – its roots are liable to rot if there is poor drainage – but, other than this, it will thrive in most soils (even shallow chalk) and in sun or shade. In really deep shade, the foliage may be less dense.

It is found in the wild all the way up to Molde in southern Norway and in gardens further north. A further clue to its hardiness is its longevity – Taxus baccata is Europe’s longest living plant with several specimens considered to be at least 2,000 years old. When ancient yews split under their own weight, the exposed wood remains immune to disease.

Soil and Situation: Any well-drained soil, sun or shade.

Maintenance: Clip in late summer. Once the desired height has been achieved, prune annually to maintain

Versatility: For the gardener, the yew has but one job (two if you include a specimen tree) – to provide the raw material for the finest possible hedge.

And Finally: Yew is the wood of choice for longbows. Once a stave has been fashioned, it is strung with the heartwood on the inside of the bow and the sapwood on the outside – this makes the bow phenomenally strong as heartwood resists compression while sapwood resists stretching. So, while we may owe our navy to the oak, for centuries the army relied on the yew.