Bold, evergreen plants with a strong upright habit make great additions to any garden. These green columns make perfect accents, or frame doorways and openings, as well as giving a feeling of permanence and stability to your garden. Sometimes you can achieve this with fast-growing plants by regularly trimming them, but a better long-term strategy is to use plants that are naturally dense and upright, and that form perfect columns without the need for regular trimming. This low-maintenance approach means a lot less work in the garden, and a lot more time to simply relax and enjoy it. For the perfect dark-green column, look no further than the Columnar English Yew. This classic tree has a long history, and it can be seen in some of the most famous gardens in the world, as well as in ordinary gardens everywhere. It is tolerant of almost all light conditions, from sun to shade, and grows well in any well-drained soil.
Growing Columnar English Yew Trees
The Columnar English Yew grows steadily into a narrow, upright bush with such tight foliage that clipping is strictly optional. In normal garden conditions it will add 6 to 12 inches of growth each year, so that in 10 years it can be as much as 10 feet tall, yet it will only be about 2 feet wide, with a columnar form, rather than a tapering narrow conical form. That is, the top will be approximately the same width as the base. Older trees grow more slowly, but in time this tree can become 30 feet tall, and still be only 3 or 4 feet wide. The leaves are soft, and narrow, about 1 ½ inches long, and tightly packed around the stems. Older trees will often produce a large crop of bright red fleshy berries in fall, about ½ an inch across. The flesh is sweet and tasty, but the seeds are poisonous if crushed, so avoid eating them, and teach children to leave them alone. The leaves are also poisonous and should be kept away from horses and cattle.
Uses on Your Property
The Columnar English Yew is perfect as a specimen plant in a lawn or paved area, especially in smaller spaces. It brings height and permanence, while taking up very little width, and it will never grow too large. Unlike many other upright evergreens that can become fat, this tree remains slim and upright forever. Plant a pair to frame an entrance, such as a doorway or garden gate. Place specimens alone, or in groups of 3 or 5, as accents in your beds or in the background of lower plantings. For a narrow hedge in a tight location, this is an excellent choice. Plant trees no more than 2 feet apart, and they can be clipped into a beautiful and very dense hedge over time.
Planting and Initial Care
The Columnar English Yew will grow well in full sun in cooler regions, but like other yew trees it is best used in partially-shaded areas where the choice of trees is much more limited. Yew is an excellent choice for shade, keeping its strong green color and dense growth in all but the shadiest locations. It grows well in zone 6 and in warmer zones too, at least into zone 8. In colder zones, choose the Japanese yew and its varieties, or a hybrid yew, such as Hicks Yew (Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’). These are all hardy in zone 5, and often in zone 4 as well.
Grow the Columnar English Yew in moist, well-drained soil. Although it is a reliable and easy tree to grow, it does not like to be grow in places where the soil is often saturated, so good-drainage is essential. Once established it has moderate drought-resistance to ordinary periods of dryness. Pests and diseases are very rare, and this is a reliable and easily-grown plant that needs no attention once it is established.
History and Origins of the Columnar English Yew
The English yew is found naturally all over Europe, north Africa and into Turkey and western Asia. In hotter regions it is found only in mountainous areas where the summers are cooler. It has a long history of use, particularly for making bows, including the famous English longbow once used in battles. It was often grown in churchyards, since these were the only places where grazing animals could not reach it, as the foliage and seeds are poisonous. There are separate male and female trees, and female trees carry fleshy red berries containing a seed, not the cones we would expect from a conifer, which this is.
Over the centuries different forms have been selected, and one of the most famous is the Irish Yew, an upright tree found growing wild by a certain farmer, Mr. Willis, who found it growing wild in the hills above his farm in Fermanagh, Ireland. A few years after he found it, he dug it up and planted it in his garden. This was in 1780, and pieces were taken and distributed far and wide. As well, seedlings of this female tree have been grown, and some have a similar habit. These are sometimes given different names, including ‘Erecta’ and ‘Hibernica’, but all have the same narrow, upright form.
Our trees of this classic plant are produced from stem pieces, to carefully preserve the upright habit, as seeds are variable. Avoid cheaper plants, as they will usually not have the dense, upright habit of this great plant. The demand for shade-loving evergreens is always very high, as every garden has shady places to fill. Order now, as our top-quality stock will soon be gone.