Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Yewtopia: How to plant a yew hedge

This weekend I did something I have wanted to do for a long time: I planted a yew hedge. Yew is known as the king of hedges, but in the past I have been put off planting it because of its slow growth and great price. As an altenative, I have gone for beech, berberis thunbergii, pittosporum or even box.  However, encouraged by the small space at the front of our new house I finally went for yew.

Yew has a great many mystical associations often being linked in folklore to life and death and reputed to be the oldest living thing in the world, namely the Yew at Fortingall in Perthshire, which is said to be at least 5,000 years old. A yew hedge is a hedge forever, which seems a fitting tribute to a new house. Yew is so dense that you can cut it into any shape you like and train it to form a narrow yet packed hedge, which is a plus for a small shared boundary. Whatever it does, it will do it slowly but as I explained to Katie who was helping me, gardeners think about the future and they are by their nature patient. Instant gardening isn't really gardening at all and as we all know if its worthwhile, it is worth waiting for.
The ancient remains of the yew at Fortingall
Yew will put up with shade and some neglect, but it does demand good drainage, which worried me as the front falls away from the house creating a trench or gully of the front bed and, in keeping with the rest of London, our house has feet of clay. With this in mind I dug a trench 60cm deep to break up the clay and removed all the large stones and, as it turned out, lumps of concrete and brick. I then mixed up some sieved top soil, John Innes No 3 and good old manure. Gardening is all about the soil and getting that right is all important.

Having dug my trench I lined it with 15cms of my root inducing top soil, filled each spot that was to receive a tree with a good handful of fish, blood and bone and dropped in my young trees. I measured the spaces in between which was to be exactly 20 inches, which was a little close but I think they will manage and filled the spaces in between the trees with the top soil mixture, making sure the level of the soil was no higher or lower than the level of the pot they had come from. With each plant I got down and checked with my hands that the rootball was tight in the soil with no big gaps before I heeled in the soil around them.

Katie and I then watered each plant in and stood back to admire our handy work. Lovely.

While I was doing this, many of my new neighbours came to introduce themselves which was fun. One said my hedges looked very Christmassy and another suggested we rename the house Yewtopia. It was nice to meet so many of my neighbours and it occured to me that working in a front garden is a good way to suss out a new manor, even if it is a little hard on the old back.


  1. Good day. I like your blog post. It all looks fantastic

  2. I was looking at using copper beech in my front garden, however having read your blog post I'm now considering using yew as an alternative. Thank you.

  3. Thank you for your comment. I have planted a beech hedge in the past, it has the advantage of giving you a stunning burst of colour in late spring and even when the leaves die back in winter many of them hang on so you continue to get good screening. However this time given the limited space and the flexibility of yew to grow tall and narrow, as well as sustaining an evergreen showing, it seemed the obvious choice.

  4. Hi, just desired to let you know, I enjoyed this blog post. It had been funny. Carry on posting! garden hedges

  5. Hello I'm putting a yew hedge in tomorrow! Are you still at yewtopia?! How's it looking do you think you got the spacings right?

  6. Hello I'm putting a yew hedge in tomorrow! Are you still at yewtopia?! How's it looking do you think you got the spacings right?