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Planting A Yew Hedge

Nov 29, 2007
Of all the plants used in hedges the most quintessentially British is yew hedging. It is the oldest living tree in the British Isles with yews in England and Wales that is over 3,000 years of age - the Fortingall yew in Perthshire is between 4-5,000 years old. The yew is inextricably linked with death and rebirth - every old churchyard has a yew tree to ward off evil spirits.

The tool of an English long bowman's trade was made of yew, which was once feared upon through Europe and was the cornerstone of some of our most famous medieval victories (Agincourt, Crecy etc). To have a yew hedging that is part of English history, also as an integral part of an English garden is a wonderful thing and not difficult to do.

Preparation

Plan its location with care - yew hedge plants will grow in bright sunshine and deep shade, but it is capable of staying where you put it for hundreds of years. It likes any soil that drains and that has some nourishment (so stay away from clay and sand).

Before you start you will need a sprayer or watering can if you are going to use weed killer, a spade, a sharp knife, a few canes ,string, a bucket, a 1 metre long piece of wood and (on planting day) your plants.

Ground preparation is simple. Play around with bamboo canes and string until you are sure you have marked out exactly where the yew hedging will look best. It is not necessary but preferable to apply a non-residual weed killer (any one containing Glyphosate is fine) following the manufacturer's instructions a minimum of 4 weeks before you intend to plant. Do this on a still, dry day when the temperature is above freezing.

Leave for 4-6 weeks to allow the weeds and grass to die and then remove the top 1-inch (2.5cm) of soil and dead weed, which can go straight into your compost heap. If you do not use a weed killer, remove the turf that you can put upside down on your compost heap. Take out a trench the depth of a garden spade and (if you are planting in a single row) 60 cms wide. Put the earth from the trench on a sheet nearby. Remove roots and stones and break up any large clods of soil. If the ground is poor, incorporate a little well rotted manure or compost.

The planting process

Take a bundle of plants out of their wrapping, cut the string and soak the roots in a bucket of water. Mark the planting line with 2 canes and a piece of string. Even spacing of plants in a formal hedge is important, so use a measuring stick with 33 cms markings to help you space out your plants accurately.

Make sure the yew hedge plants end up no deeper in the soil than the level they grew at before they were lifted - you can use the string as an indicator of soil level. If in doubt, it is better to plant too high than too deep. Hold each plant at the correct height and return the soil under and around the roots firming it as you go. Two people, one holding and one shoveling best do this.

Before you finally firm the ground double check the spacing of the plants and make sure they are upright. It is important with all bare-rooted plants that a good contact is established between the roots and soil as soon as they are planted. Without stamping, firm the ground around each plant using your full body weight. It is a good idea to hold the plant vertical whilst doing this. Do not forget to water your hedge after planting and during dry spells in the spring until it is well established.

Clip the side branches of the yew whenever you feel like it; the more clipping the better as this helps the plants become bushier. However, do not cut the growing tip until the hedge has reached the height you want. Once cut off, it will never grow upwards as fast as before.
About the Author
Expert gardener Shaun Parker looks into the history of yew hedging and how to plant one. To find out more please visit http://store.ashridgetrees.co.uk/
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