Crazy for Yew

Do you remember last November I planted some Yews? We ripped out the old hedges and put in some new yews and I was wildly enthusiastic and optimistic about it here. Strangely, I’ve barely mentioned them since. This is because they aren’t doing so well and it’s always nicer to write about things that are going well.

It all started to go wrong we think when winter hit hard a mere couple of weeks after they were planted. Then an incredibly dry Spring came in. They began to look a little off-colour. We watered. They looked sicker and sicker. I decided not to stress them by cutting them to shape until they were looking a bit healthier. We cleared the grass from around them (initially my employer wanted grass right up to them) and mulched and stepped up the watering even further. The RHS’ advisory service ruled out our worst fears about Phytophthera.

Then, whether it was due to our actions or the weather changing in June, they started to recover, barring two which were clearly past saving. We sighed with relief. I planned to do the shaping this month, thinking it would give the wounds time to harden before serious frostiness began. But no. They started to decline again. Now all of them at least have bronzing of the needles and several have yellowing.

It’s not looking good. I’ve cut out anything that’s actually dead, and am delaying shaping again, probably till Spring now. The nursery I bought them from advised removing the mulch in case, having been too dry, they’re now too wet. I’ve given them a foliar feed of a manure tea. Ian le Gros from Hyde Hall was kind enough to give me some advice, which gave me hope that the ones which only have bronzing will recover in the Spring. And barring that, I’ve got fingers and toes crossed.

It’s horribly disappointing, not to mention expensive and time consuming! Have you ever instituted a big project in your garden only to have it fail in some way?

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20 responses to “Crazy for Yew

  1. Sadly I have experienced the same problem with yew. Mine WAS taxus fastigiata. I planted 5 of them around my grass garden in spring 2010. They thrived for the first year, producing new foliage and fruits too. Last winter they’ve been fine under frost until at the end they’ve been waterlogged for a week or two. After that they started changing color to bronze, like yours. Now I only have one left fully alive (planted in a better drained spot!) and another one cut to the base which is giving some life signals. The same happened to my box hedge, although box is a little tougher.
    You have all my support.

  2. I also had the same problem with yew, I planted a yew hedge twice but it did the same thing, it just withered and died. The soil where I planted isn’t great which didn’t help. I have given up with yew now though, and planted a rose hedge there instead which so far is doing well.

  3. So sorry. Wish I knew more about yews. They just grow here in the mid-Atlantic US.

  4. It must be very frustrating. At what point do you say ” Enough” and plant something else? And what would you try instead?

    • I’m not sure. Established yews do fine here which suggests once they get past the awkward ‘establishing’ phase they’ll be ok. If we have to replace them all I might recommend to the boss we go with very small plants – the smaller the better for establishing trees generally, but of course we need the visual impact of reasonable size trees really. Dilemma…

  5. Once I planted six knockout roses to border a path and the next spring only about half came back. They subsequently died one by one. I later learned that the microclimate in my backyard doesn’t support roses. It’s so disappointing. I’ve very empathetic!

  6. I love yews, and have planted a few. But it is too hot for them here – they just fry. I also love sky pencil holly, and I keep buying them, although they keep dying, too. I guess I keep buying them because I don’t know why they are dying! The yew – I knew. I think sometimes it’s the mystery that makes us think “They are supposed to do fine!” and keep trying. Sorry to hear about your problems with these beautiful plants. I hope they spring back.

  7. So sad for you.

    Evergreens have been pretty temperamental at settling in for me, and I think it is because they need so much moisture in order to establish themselves. Unlike deciduous trees which stop loosing moisture over the winter months, they continue to lose moisture through their needles, but cannot take it up through the frozen ground (which is quite solid here in PA). I wait for a little bit of a thaw day in the winter and then trudge out with the watering cans repeatedly to help them recover a bit when they are new. Another option is to spray on them an anti-desiccant foliar spray, or to wrap them to prevent the wind from drying them out further.

    I will be fighting that battle again this year, because we have one new pillar arbor vitae near our back fence. And it has a giant brown branch from the dry fall already. Not good. 😦

    But there is always hope, so do not give up the fight! It is amazing how close plants can get to death and suddenly revive.

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  9. Maybe dig up one of the dying ones and look closely at the roots? Any new growth? Any rot? Any die-back of old roots? Might give you a clue as to what’s happening.

  10. I planted a yew hedge in my old garden and it romped away. No tips I’m afraid it just did. Then last year I planted five at the Priory (where I work) and they are more like your experience. At least one or two are. Browning/silvering of the leaves, die back; I’m keeping all crossed that they’ll pull through. When you plant something like a yew hedge it does seem a personal slap in the face if it fails.

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  13. any updates on this??? We are into the second year of a failing yew hedge, we planted ( bare roots plants) last November and replaced over 100 plants again this November. Exactly the same problem as your leaves golden and then the plant dies .The newly planted batch now have good spring growth but the new growth is now starting to bronze. We have tried folia feed, anti microrhizal and put a huge effort in to soil prep ( Ph testing etc) and have protected from wind and excessive water over the winter – at wits end now!. We live in an old church building so the local Conservation Dep have insisted on a yew hedge. Other Yew trees across church yard are looking healthy. I just can’t understand why we can’t establish a new hedge. We are now patch planting again this time with potted plants and planting in June – fingers crossed – did you have any success??

    • Eventually I replaced them. I wrote about it briefly in this post and the second planting were still doing well at the time I left Layer Marney last year. I wonder if you’ve got a persistent disease in the soil – replant problems due to build up of pathogens aren’t just for roses and, to be honest, it’s always better to replant with something different if possible. If you need to replace them again I’d suggest trying replacing the soil (maybe do a swap with some elsewhere on the site). This is probably a silly question but you have been watering in dry spells, haven’t you? I only ask as you don’t mention it.

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