Goodbye to Yew, and Other Developments

Downsizing the Yew.

When I was a kid, my family sometimes took vacations at a cabins-on-a-lake-in-the-woods sort of resort. I remember that at the gift shop they sold a t-shirt that said “I Pine Fir Yew and Balsam, Too”. Anybody else remember a t-shirt like that?

Here's a picture I took of the Japanese Yew with my camera. The photos in this post are all mine, Judy's been travelling for her job.
Here’s a picture I took of the Japanese Yew with my phone. The photos in this post are all mine, Judy’s been travelling for her job.

Anyhow, I decided to prune the big Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata) in the back garden last weekend for two reasons. First, it was climbing up into the power/telephone wires that are strung along the alley. And second, I noticed that the leader of the new and nearby ‘Golden Raindrops’ crabapple was leaning away from the Yew, which probably meant it was getting too much shade from its neighbor.

Corona folding saw. I gotta say, it worked like a dream. Small but mighty.
Corona folding saw. I gotta say, it worked like a dream. Small but mighty.

So I got my loppers and my nifty little Corona folding saw (swag from the Portland Garden Bloggers Conference) and went to work.

Now, I should say that we don’t really like this Yew, and have been tempted to get rid of it. It’s dark and hulking and boring – it just stands there, doesn’t fruit or flower or change color or anything. Although, it’s a good screen for a section of the alley. Plus it’s the only evergreen we have, and the birds like to hang out in it.

Here's the side of the Yew facing the 'Golden Raindrops' crabapple.
Here’s the side of the Yew facing the ‘Golden Raindrops’ crabapple.

My intent was not to give the Yew a flat top haircut. Rather, I wanted to find the stems that were either giving the most shade to ‘Golden Raindrops’ or messing with the wires.

I really love pruning, it’s very satisfying. Once I got going, I was sorely tempted to keep at it until there were only a couple of stumps left. But I restrained myself, and finished after about 1/3 of the Yew was removed.

Here's an After picture. Some stems are still as tall as the wires, but they are growing in front of and not through the wires.
Here’s an After picture. Some stems are still as tall as the wires, but they are growing in front of and not through the wires. Sorry these shots aren’t better, it’s not easy to see the changes.

When she returned home, I asked Judy how she thought my pruning job looked and she answered, “Well, it doesn’t look any worse than it did before.”

Container Tulips Coming on Strong

Container tulips
Container tulips

There are now 65 tulips (out of 120 planted) coming up in 10 of the 12 containers – only two have yet to show any signs of life. Hope to see the remainder of the tulips before long. Plus all five of the ‘City of Haarlem’ Hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis) have shown themselves.

Crocuses are Blooming

Crocuses blooming in the Sidewalk Border.
Crocuses blooming in the Sidewalk Border.

Though it is annoying that they won’t all bloom at the same time. Here are some Crocus tommasinianus.

More on tulips and crocuses in future blogs!

49 Comments on “Goodbye to Yew, and Other Developments

  1. I loooooovvvvvveeee to prune. It’s a sickness, really. But I do hold myself back, lest I saw pare something back too far.I myself, would have cut back those tall limbs near the wire.

  2. I find pruning quite therapeutic as well. It is always so difficult to know when to stop, so I commend you on your restraint – the yew looks very good!

  3. I think you did a fine job with your pruning!!! Do you get some privacy from this yew?? If so I think it is worth saving as green is always better than seeing other houses. And I need to get one of those folding saws…you would not believe how long it took me to take down my dead diablo nine bark with a flimsy old hand saw thing…..This one looks like a dream! Happy tulips to you!! Nicole

  4. We have some yew in our garden too, and experience has shown it grows back a lot quicker than the books say! I am always chopping bits off, sometimes with successful results, but not always! So I think you’ve done a good job.

    • Thanks! I’ve always thought of Yew as slow-growing, but I guess I’ll find out if that applies to this particular plant.

  5. It appears that you used great restraint in your trim job. I like yews. They are like old men in the garden to me. They are a strong green color in the garden and rarely are sick. A good backdrop to roses. It will be fun to see your parade of tulips when they appear.

    • True, they can make a good backdrop for more colorful plants. I just get impatient with their sameness through the year.

  6. Good job w/ the pruning. I have one of those saws and have been putting it to use too.

  7. I think Judy is a very wise and discrete lady!
    Its amazing how when you cut a yew right back to the ground it will rapidly regenerate and can be shaped into something with a decent shape!

  8. Nicely done. The yew looks much shapelier. I’m terrible at pruning–hard to stop once I finally start.

  9. I don’t have many mature plants that are in need of a prune yet but always go too far when pruning smaller things. Personally I’m impressed, I’m not sure if I’d have been able to stop.
    It does look better and I’m sure Golden Raindrops will thank you for the effort Jason.

  10. The mature messy Yew is the one item that all my clients ask me to remove from their gardens. While it is enchanting when young, it can be depressing to look at when old.

  11. The great thing about pruning yew is that you can cut them right back and they will grow again, so you can’ t do any harm. Those little pruning saws are great; such fun. I love mine.

  12. I’ve had numerous classes on pruning, yet I am still hesitant. I admire gardeners who can see what needs to be done and simply wade in with clippers. Good job!

  13. It’s hard to do much with a yew like that all at once but over a few years they can be tamed a bit. It takes a lot of time and patience though. If nothing else for now it looks like it will let in a little more light.
    You’ve beaten us for crocus blooms. I haven’t seen a single one yet.

  14. The birds will be glad it is not gone. No crocus here yet either. Some of the garden is still rock hard in ice. May be a while yet even though we had one day of 65°F.

  15. Very nice! We love pruning besides being very therapeutic it gives room for the future new growth. we experiencing a pretty bad drought here in California so the spring foliage is not as lush as used to be 🙂
    J+C

  16. I think Jason your pruning job looks good. I love pruning as well, I think in this work the important thing is to stop on time. There are crocuses in your garden, very nice!

  17. “It doesn’t look any worse than it did before.” High praise! I’m impressed with the number of tulips you planted in pots!

  18. Hello Jason, the folding saw certainly looks the business with all those teeth. I like Judy’s rather mid-way comment of it not looking worse than it did before and yay! Your container tulips are coming on, looking forward to seeing those brightly blooming on the steps to your house.

  19. You certainly can see the difference your pruning has made, it’s so much lighter! Hopefully your crab apple will appreciate your efforts.
    Good to see your tulips coming through and those crocus are gorgeous, such a lovely blue.xxx

  20. I love how cathartic pruning is but I’d pull that beast out and replace it with something you actually like. About 2 doz of my tulips rotted. So very mad and frustrated….. 😦

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