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Yew – The King of Hedges

The famous Yew (Taxus) has held the RHS Award of Garden Merit for 20 years and has long been known as the King of Hedges. A fitting name for a hedging species that was recently planted to offer an effective privacy screen to none other than the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who are known for being concerned about their privacy and eager to shield their young children from the public eye. You may have seen in recent publications that gardeners and construction workers have begun planting an 820ft-long wall of Yew hedging along the western side of the royal residence, Kensington Palace. The move, thought to be costing more than £20,000, will block the view of anyone hoping to get a glimpse of the royal family.

A native conifer, Taxus Baccata has a dense, bushy habit that makes it ideal for formal hedging that can be clipped into a neat, traditional form or, using the cloud pruning technique can be shaped into a more unusual, organic curve.

We find both styles particularly striking so it comes down to personal preference which pruning technique you choose.

A traditional Yew hedge

A traditional Yew hedge

The traditional straight edge hedge is slightly easier to maintain, and it takes a lot of care to create a cloud pruned hedge, however as the saying goes, ‘if it’s worth while, it’s worth waiting for’!

A cloud pruned, curved Yew Hedge

A cloud pruned, curved Yew Hedge

Yew is often thought of as slow growing when in fact it achieves 30-40cm of growth a year and makes a great privacy screen hedge of up to 4m. Plant Yew hedges in any normal soil (or dry if watered), sunny to fully shaded positions and exposed, inland conditions in order to allow your Yew plants to grow to the best of their ability.

Not only will you benefit from the attractive texture and visual interest Yew hedging plants bring to your green space. You will notice an array of wildlife visiting your garden as Yew hedges make an idyllic sanctuary as the red berries that appear in autumn are favoured with birds, whilst the dense structure and thick foliage provide a safe, sheltered habitat. Do be careful! – Yew hedges are poisonous to humans and animals so its best to leave the berries for the hungry birds.

Not only is Yew one of the most popular native hedging plants, it is also steeped in history. Best known as a symbol of life and death, and thought to be one of the oldest living things in Europe. Unlike other trees, Yew is able to split under the heavy weight of growth without the fracture yielding to disease. It is this ability that is thought to contribute to the Yew Tree’s longevity.

The Fortingall Yew in Perthshire, Scotland

The Fortingall Yew in Perthshire, Scotland

The Fortingall Yew Tree in Perthshire, Scotland has the largest trunk girth in Britain and is estimated to be nearly 3,000 years old. It is no wonder that Yew Hedges are so respected in the gardening world!

The Fortingall Yew in Perthshire has always been recorded as male but has started sprouting berries – something only female yew trees do! Experts at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh spotted three berries on a high branch of the tree, and have now taken them for analysis as part of a conservation project. Dr Max Coleman, of the Royal Botanic Garden, said yew trees have been known to change sex before but discovering the process on “such a special tree is what makes this a special story”.

You can discover more about Yew hedging plants in one of our previous blogs: 10 reasons why you should chose Yew. This will give you more insight as to why this species is best suited to achieving your hedging goals. You can also watch our instructional video: A focus on Yew hedging – all you need to know about Taxus Baccata.

You can vie our full range of conifer hedging plants here.

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