gardening in autumn

Roses framed against yew hedging

Yew hedges are usually trimmed once a year in late summer and crafted into intriguing shapes and designs.

Yew (Taxus baccata) is typically grown as a hedge in formal settings owing to the density of its evergreen foliage and the smooth finish thats a result of cutting well over successive seasons. 

Gardener Jon with the essential kit
Gardener Jon with the essential kit

At Nymans we use battery-powered trimmers for the yew hedges. These not only save on energy but, because yew is relatively slender, stronger petrol-powered cutters are not required. Ear defenders are a must for this task, along with protective goggles and ideally gloves.

freshly cut yew in the rose garden
freshly cut yew in the rose garden

The yew trimming technique involves getting as close as possible to the previous year’s cut. This means the darker, older growth is left behind and the newer, lighter growth is removed. The flanks are cut using an upward motion, with more than one pass required to achieve the desired finish. We then trim the top from side to side.

A squared-off hedge top
A squared-off hedge top

The top edges of the yew hedge can either be cut to a sharp point or rounded off slightly depending on the effect that you wish to create. As for the base, the electric trimmers tend to miss the straggly low growth so it is worth using shears to remove any remaining shoots at soil level to ensure a neat finish all over. 

Yew globes grace the Summer Borders
Yew globes grace the Summer Borders

It only remains to clear up the clippings and dispose of them under trees or bushes, as a mulch, or on paths if you have informal areas in the garden. It is not advised to compost the trimmings unless you only have small quantities. Alternatively, they can be collected by a specialist firm and processed for use as a chemotherapy drug.