Saturday, November 06, 2004

Yew can be serious! 8th-15th November diary.

Yew can be serious! 8th-15th November diary.

YEW. Botanical: Taxus baccata.

Old Yew, which graspest at the stones
That name the under-lying dead,
Thy fibres net the dreamless head,
Thy roots are wrapt about the bones.


I have been cutting yew hedges this week a favoured of mine to work on, With a very sharp cutter the end result is artistic and the smell beautiful, Cut now they stay pristine all winter and in many gardens where I work this is important as it’s the main structure of the garden during these months.
Yew is one of the few native evergreens in the United Kingdom and is common on chalk areas like the south downs, As it stands it is as atmospheric as the Oak but with a truck of superior beauty, Also fast growing which many don’t believe and a much better hedging plant than the conifer, the wood is extremely durable and elastic and most famous in the uk for its use in long bow making. All parts of the tree are extremely poisonous and cleaning up the clippings in a field of livestock is most important, the only exception is the berry which the birds love Thrushes and Blackbirds can eat the berry however the seed inside is deadly. Despite this yew has been used in cures for centuries and commonly used today in the anti cancer drug Taxol,

In all things of nature there is something marvellous.


This drug works by stabilising cells and has led to a new chemotherapeutic agent called taxanes that stops blood supply to a site of cancer. The new drugs are made from the needles of the Yew and jobs which I have done the fresh clippings are collected for this purpose, There is a company in the uk that does this and also sells yew plants, So if you have a large hedge it may be worth giving them a shout,
Cutting the hedge is hard work on a large job and clearing up even harder so it’s great to do it for purposes. However they will only use the clippings that have at least one year’s growth and like to get them fresh that day.
A fantastic example of English Yew is at Kingley Vale near Chichester, I love this place the wood is left to nature and the Yews are never cut, this is how the trees like it.
William Wordsworth in 1803

There is a Yew-tree, pride of Lorton Vale,
Which to this day stands single, in the midst
Of its own darkness, as it stood of yore:
Not loathe to furnish weapons for the Bands
Of Umfraville or Percy ere they marched
To Scotland's heaths; or those that crossed the sea
And drew their sounding bows at Azincour,
Perhaps at earlier Crecy, or Poictiers.
Of vast circumference and gloom profound
This solitary Tree! -a living thing
Produced too slowly ever to decay;
Of form and aspect too magnificent
To be destroyed. But worthier still of note
Are those fraternal Four of Borrowdale,
Joined in one solemn and capacious grove;
Huge trunks! -and each particular trunk a growth
Of intertwisted fibres serpentine
Up-coiling, and inveteratley convolved, -
Nor uninformed with Fantasy, and looks
That threaten the profane; -a pillared shade,
Upon whose grassless floor of red-brown hue,
By sheddings from the pining umbrage tinged
Perennially -beneath whose sable roof
Of boughs, as if for festal purpose decked
With unrejoicing berries -ghostly Shapes
May meet at noontide: Fear and trembling Hope,
Silence and Foresight, Death the Skeleton
And Time the Shadow; there to celebrate,
As in a natural temple scattered o'er
With altars undisturbed of mossy stone,
United worship; or in mute repose
To lie, and listen to the mountain flood
Murmuring from Glaramara's inmost caves

Many leaves have been collected, putting them in the leaf mould heap. (An area on its own constructed with chicken wire sides and danced on weekly) They rot down well when wet but if it doesn’t rain its important too give each layer some water, Another way to do it is to put wet leaves in a bin bag and make sure you puncture the sides with a fork to let them breath. The grass growth has slowed up but the mower hasn’t gone away when we get a longish dry spell it needs a cut before winter I mow as the weather permits but the mowing season is no longer March-Sept, its Feb-Dec.
I have been doing less watering in the greenhouse; plants like my Brugmansia’s will rot over winter if too wet, and I stop watering the Aoniums. All the small cuttings need ticking over if its not too sunny water lightly one a week. The alpine trough is protected from too much wet, (I have an Auricular one of my favourite plants flowering away in their) We have a lot of rain over the winter and things like Dahlias and gladioli corms and bulbs are traditionally lifted at this time, however for the last five years I have left them and they have been up the same. I tend not to have many rules and believe gardening as an organic thing is all about trial and error.
All the Chrysanthemums look great along with the autumn colour of rich brown sedum. Some of the trees have lost all their leaves the Amelanchier is down to its branches and looks a bit odd now, its not so long ago mid spring when with the fritillaries out around its base it was the gardens star. Not giving up the fight as always are the penstemon I took hundreds of cuttings this year, they are so easy and so good. Like the scabious.

Some things to look out for this week are…..

Seedpods of the Iris, these pop open revealing the berries
Good weather for digging the vegetable patch
If you have turf to lay catch a time and do it this month.

Photographs and text copyright 2004 andrew stenning


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