What I Did About the Japanese Yew

You may recall a couple of posts during the spring where I talked about how I was removing a large Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata) from the southwest corner of the Back Garden, right next to the gate that opens up to the alley.

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One of our new Red Osier Dogwood flowering back in May.

We did implement the decision to replace the Yew with 2 Red Osier Dogwoods (Cornus sericea). I found a couple of good specimens at a local garden center, and they were planted by early May.

The wet, cool weather we’ve had was probably fortuitous in terms of helping the Dogwoods to make themselves at home. They were about 5′ tall at planting, and have put on another foot or so. They still need to fill out and in, though, as it’s possible to see through them to the various bins (trash, recycling, landscape) in the alley.

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One of two Red Osier Dogwoods against the back fence.

As for what remains of the Yew limbs, let me say this: don’t do what I did. Because what I did was make an impulse purchase before doing any research. Specifically, I bought a Kentucky Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens ‘Amathyst Falls’), a cultivar of a species  native to the upper south and lower midwest, though not to the Chicago area.

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This picture kind of lets you see both Dogwoods.

Kentucky Wisteria is smaller and less rampant than its Chinese counterpart. It’s a twining vine and so to be hospitable I wrapped chicken wire around the thick Yew stems.  It can grow more than 20′ long, so I’ll try to trail the stems along the top of our alley fence, if it ever comes to that.

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Here’s the Kentucky Wisteria planted at the base of what remains of the Japanese Yew.

Some sources say American Wisteria prefers acid soil (ours is alkaline) others claim that it is adaptable on this point. It can take several years before it starts to bloom. So I really don’t know how this is going to work out. It’s all in the hands of the gardening gods. This may not turn out to be the smartest gardening decision I’ve ever made.

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Wisteria ‘Amathyst Falls’. Photo from Netpsplantfinder.

Why did I embark on what may be a horticultural fools errand? I guess because Wisteria flowers are so beautiful.

Can you say that you’ve never made an impulse plant purchase that made less than total sense? Huh? Can you?

39 Comments on “What I Did About the Japanese Yew

  1. The wisteria looks like it will be beautiful eventually. I have three red twig dogwoods along my alley fence that were planted a couple years ago and they have really filled in quickly. Have I ever bought a plant on impulse–how much time do you have?

    • I’ve seen some red twigs, you are right that they will grow really thick and substantial. That’s what I’m hoping for.

  2. Actually. I happen to like the American wisteria. I got it because I wanted a tame vine. I think that the problem that most have with it is that they expect it to be like other wisterias. I think of it as instant coffee, which is a pretty good beverage as long as one does not compare it to regular coffee.

      • Oh, it is completely different. In fact, mine grew slower than I wanted it to. It was worth the wait. Now, the pruning is very minimal. I want to eventually get the white one too.

  3. I have always loved Wisteria, (possibly a different variety to yours) but our neighbours inherited some lovely Wisteria growing along the front of their house, and after a few years they were dismayed to find the roots had grown so big and strong over time they were starting to lift the foundations of the house!

  4. Let me say this about impulse buying…I do it regularly. It is a way of life. 😉 I will say I bet that wisteria grows like mad. If it is anything like the one I had it will bloom faster than you might think. I like your dogwoods too.

  5. I love the randomness of vines and the way they drape themselves over anything and everything. No matter how “successful” it certainly will be interesting!

  6. None of my impulse plant purchases make sense. That’s why gardening is fun and accounting is not.
    Excellent choice btw. It may not be native to the area yet but I think you’re just helping it along as it spreads north

  7. I love Wisterias and succeeded in our previous place. They bloomed with long racemes, twice in a season; excited by the prospect of my early success, I planted one in our new home-no luck. Later, I bought a Chicago Wisteria and got small flowers which were nothing like my previous success. Lately, a friend gave me a baby from her plant, so far it’s growing well! In essence I have three-my first one lives -a lonely life! while I wait for the new one to bloom. I should have unfriended them as I do with all the non performing plants, but I can still remember my first one, and so keep hoping!

  8. Who, me? Never! Red Osier Dogwood can grow pretty big. As you probably know, old canes need to be removed so the young ones can get really red in winter. Looks great against the snow.

  9. I planted an Amethyst Falls several years ago. It has been doing great. It even survived the super cold winter and very wet spring.

  10. Red Osier is so pretty. It grows wild all over the place here and adds some much appreciated color to the winter landscape.

  11. I can’t say that I haven’t but my impulse purchases were usually planted in someone else’s yard.
    Blueberry growers here often mulch the bushes with white pine sawdust, which raises the soil acidity somewhat. I don’t know if the same trick would help the wisteria, but it probably wouldn’t hurt.

  12. Wisteria “Amethyst Falls” was a selection made by nursery folk near where we used to live in Upstate South Carolina. It’s a lovely plant, although not as robust as Chinese Wisteria, thank goodness. I hope it does well for you!

  13. I would say you definitely made a good choice with the dogwood, but I’ll wait to comment on the Wisteria. I had by ordeals with them in Mississippi when renovating the back yard at the mansion. I am not sure if they survive in your area, but have you tried Nandina domestica (Heavenly Bamboo). I fell in love with them in Mississippi and brought a small one with me when I came back to Missouri.

  14. I’m sure your dogwoods will have bushed out by the end of summer. That wisteria really does have a lovely flower, I’d happily wait for that to flower. Good luck with it.xxx

  15. Wisterias are beautiful, but I have always been worried I might kill them when pruning so avoided ever trying to grow one! Hope yours does well and the yew does not start sprouting from the base. As far as impulse purchases are concerned, I am getting better and more restrained as I get older! 😉

  16. Impulse purchases? Me? Never! (Just don’t ask me about all those plants in my garden that don’t go with the original color scheme…) The wisteria will be beautiful!

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