TAXUS or YEW

T. Though slow-growing, yews will flourish on most soils (including chalky ones) except badly-drained ground. The leaves, shoots and seeds are poisonous. Increase by cuttings in August, leaving in a cold frame until spring. Yew is among the longest-lived of all trees, though by no means the tallest. Fully grown specimens rarely exceed 25 ft. in this country, but may have a girth of 30 ft. or more. The wood is exceptionally lasting, hence the saying ‘A post of yew will outlast a post of iron’. Branching starts only a few feet above soil level. Yews also produce new shoots from near the base. These eventually coalesce with the main trunk.

Yew is best moved in September or May, though on light dry soils the former is preferable as the risk of spring drought is eliminated. Prepare the ground very thoroughly whether growing as a hedge or as a specimen plant. Work in generous quantities of well-rotted farmyard manure, hop manure, compost, damp peat etc. Water freely if the soil is in the least degree dry. Syringe the trees daily with clear water if the weather is at all dry. If the leaves turn brown or shrivel, cut back the branches a little and continue watering until new growths are produced. Should the leavesfall do not worry as this is simply part of the normal process of re-establishment.

Yews for hedges should be 1 ½ — 3 ½ ft. high and planted 2 ft. apart. Top the shoots annually in July for several years after planting to encourage a bushy habit. (Yew responds well to trimming and can be trained to almost any shape required.) Any severe cutting back should be undertaken in late April. Yews grown as specimen trees need very little pruning except the occasional shortening of an extra long branch. Any branches which brush the surface soil should be removed.

Taxus baccata is the English or common yew. The Irish yew (T. b. fasti-giata) differs in having all erect-growing branches like a Lombardy poplar.

T. Canadensis is the Canada yew which is more of a shrub than a tree with narrow, curved leaves that turn bronzy-green in winter.

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