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yew tree avenue at Clipsham image from w

Image courtesy of Yew Tree Avenue, Rutland

Taxus baccata: a versatile evergreen shrub, perfect for topiary or structural hedges

Taxus baccata is a wonderfully versatile evergreen shrub. More widely known as English or common yew, it will happily grow in full sun or dense shade, it can cope with most well-drained soils, and it is completely hardy for our winters.


T. baccata has interesting foliage, with narrow needle-like dark green leaves growing in rows either side of long stems. It has a dense growth habit and this makes it a traditional choice for topiary and hedges. It clips beautifully, but can look really attractive when left a little bit ‘looser’, where the lighter-coloured fresh growth contrasts pleasantly with the darker older material. Female plants produce attractive olive-shaped red berries if they are left a little more ‘unkempt’.


Topiary and hedging can make a huge difference to the structural success of a garden, providing height and interest whilst also providing screening or leading the eye. T. baccata is a particularly effective choice for such situations and, being evergreen, especially so over the winter months.


For garden hedges, few plants have as much going for them as T. baccata. Dark and dense, it creates the perfect backdrop for other plants and, once established, it is easy to grow and maintain. Often considered to be slow-growing, T. baccata actually grows pretty strongly once it is established. It will comfortably put on 20-30cm of new growth each year, but can be easily kept in check once it has reached a desired size and/or shape. T. baccata is, however, toxic to people and animals if digested, so we really should avoid planting it near livestock or horses.


T. baccata is also a wonderful choice as a feature or specimen plant. Widely available in spheres and cones, T. baccata is perfectly suited to more ambitious topiary. Some fabulous examples of this can be found locally at the Yew Tree Avenue at Clipsham in Rutland (see picture at the top this post). Comprising of 150 substantial yews, the avenue has become rather overgrown in recent years. Many of the shapes have been lost, but now a new charitable trust has pledged to restore the avenue to its former glories. We wish them every success, and plan to keep an eye on their progress. 

Tythorne Garden Design provides professional fixed-fee garden design solutions for customers in Grantham, Stamford, Newark and surrounding areas. Let's see how we can help you to enjoy your garden more. Call us on 07900 224 239 or 01529 455 355.

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