The British need their own space – somewhere away from the madding crowd. Which is the reason they plant hedges.
And if you have a hedge, you have to maintain that hedge. It may bring a multitude of benefits to the garden – from providing a home for numerous types of birds, insects and small mammals or an efficient air-quality enhancer, through to delivering a structured frame to mark out your boundaries – but it needs keeping in shape.
And late August/early September is the ideal time to trim the majority of hedges (the exceptions tend to be late-flowering forms and ‘wild’ hedges where shape isn’t as important as content).
From biodiversity to water management, hedges are boundaries that help to deliver ‘added value’ to enhance our lives and provide the privacy that is so important in our crowded island.
Evergreen hedges are perhaps the most beneficial from a year-round perspective, and while many people would probably consider conifers, perhaps even holly, more are now looking to yew as the perfect answer.
Traditionally, yew has been seen as a slow-growing, dark, moody and poisonous plant, best kept well away from a family garden. But Taxus or yew, has had a bit of a reputation makeover. Traditionally called ‘the tree of death’ – often being found in graveyards and churchyards – it’s now better known for the successful anti-cancer drug, Taxol, which was originally manufactured from a product of the yew tree.
Taxus baccata is more or less perfect for hedging and topiary. Given the right conditions – well-dug, moist but free-draining, fertile soil – it will grow quite quickly and is easy to trim to height and shape. Just remember not to prune the top of the hedge until it’s reached the height you want.
Plant a yew hedge using bare root plants – yew hedging establishes easily and bare-root yew are very much cheaper and tend to be bigger and stronger than their pot-grown equivalents.
The bare-root planting season runs from October to March so there is plenty of time to do all the preparation work, buy the plants and make a world of difference to your garden.
And to make it extra special, remember that yew is perfect for creating topiary. Plants can be bought ready-trained or you can use metal frameworks to guide you when pruning.