by Janet Macunovich / Photos by Steven Nikkila
It doesn’t take long to seek second or even third opinions before you place a new plant. Try it this year. Here’s what happened when I checked some trusted, respected sources to learn about two plants’ size and growth rate.
- Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’ _Hicks Yew_ InstantHedge 10 linear feet
- Which size is right for you?
- Overgrown Yews
- Hicksii Yew Tree
- Five-Star Hedge Performer
- Planting & Care
- Examples of Yew Hedges
- These yew hedges look great, right?… So why aren’t they more popular?
- Here are several varieties that make excellent hedges:
- What they Like and Don’t Like
- About Yews for Hedging
Considering: Upright yew (Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’)
Textbook A: 20 feet in 15-20 years
Textbook B: 8-9 feet in 20 years
Mail order catalog: 4 feet in 10 years; growth rate 1-6 inches per year
Garden Center A: 6-8 feet tall x 3-4 feet wide, growth rate 4-8 inches per year
Garden Center B: 10-12 feet x 5-7 feet
Garden Center C: 12 feet in 10 years; mature height 20 feet; fast-growing
Botanical Garden: 12-20 feet tall x 8-12 feet wide
My own Hicks yews: 12 feet tall x 6 feet wide in 16 years, grew 8 inches in 2011
One of the trusted sources we checked when looking into the Hicks yew’s vital stats was our own hedge. We planted these Hicks yews in 1995. They were then just 36 inches tall. 16 years later their tops are level with the 12-foot pole pruner in my hand.
Left: Even if we couldn’t see the shrubs themselves, we could read a lot from just a branch. The current year’s growth begins at the whorl of side branches, and has green twigs because it has not yet developed wood. Do you see the scaly bark developing on last year’s wood, below the whorl, in the lower part of the photo? Right: That’s 8 inches of growth this year, less than the average they’ve established in this site, but still significantly more than the rate some sources told us to expect.
Considering: Tricolor beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Roseomarginata’)
Textbook A: 9-12 feet in 10 years; full size 30 feet tall x 20 feet wide
Textbook B: 20 feet in 25 years; full size 70 feet
Mail order catalog: 5 feet in first 10 years; 6-12 inches per year
Garden Center A: 6-12 inches per year; 40-50 feet tall x 30 feet wide
Garden Center B: 30 feet x 20 feet; slow
Garden Center C: 15 feet in 10-15 years; mature height 50 feet
Botanical Garden: 20-30 feet tall x 10-20 feet wide
My own tricolor beech: 20 feet in 18 years, grew 15 inches in 2011
Left: We can let plants tell us exactly what they’re capable of, in a given site. It’s there in the growth rate of a branch. See the series of close-set creases that ring this tricolor beech twig? They formed where growth terminated last year, and began again this spring. Measure from that “terminal bud scar” to the branch tip, to discover the annual growth rate…which is just about 15 inches on this (center) branch. Right: On many woody plants, including beech, the terminal bud scars that mark cessation of growth each year remain visible for many years. Notice that the scar is not the only line. Changes in the bark can reveal the line between one year’s growth and the next. In beech, the bark is thicker and less red on the older wood, in the lower part of the photo.
This is six years’ growth on the tricolor beech growing in my own garden. I was able to read backward, and see that this branch grew 76 inches in six years. That’s an average of 13 inches per year. Overall, the tree tells the same tale. It was 6 feet tall when planted and after 18 years is over 25 feet tall.
Of the two, Hick’s yew is faster growing.
According to Plant World (www.plantworld.net), Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’, or Hick’s yew, forms a tall columnar bush without pruning, is broad at the base and narrowing at the top with upright branches. It has the darkest and the glossiest green foliage of all the yews and its bright red berries are added ornament during the fall. It creates an excellent vertical accent point or when planted together will give a great hedge that withstands city conditions.
SIZE: grows to 2m (6.5 feet) in height at maturity although may be kept shorter with proper pruning.
LOCATION: will grow in sun or shade; great for northern exposures.
Taxus x media ‘Hilli’, or Hill’s yew is unexcelled for uniformity and dark green foliage. It is an upright form of dense, compact growth and the shape is broadly conical. The shape lends itself to shaping into a hedge and is also a great foundation plant.
SIZE: it is not fast growing, but if left on its own for a decade or more it could reach 10 feet or more in height. This is easily maintained at a suitable height with a little pruning.
LOCATION: like all yews, it is very hardy and will grow in sun or shade. It is great for northern exposures.
Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’ _Hicks Yew_ InstantHedge 10 linear feet
Which size is right for you?
Tree Pot: Starts at $2.75 per plant, healthy roots, lowest starting cost, ~7 year wait
18-24” InstantHedge™: Starts at $99.99 per unit, easy to maneuver, no wait for small hedge
3-4’ and 5-6’ InstantHedge™: Starts at $215 per unit, need 2 people to install, no wait
About Hicks Yew
Hicks Yew is a hybrid between English Yew and Japanese Yew that was developed at Hicks Nurseries in the US. It was selected for its extremely narrow yet vigorous growth that makes it develop into a natural column over time. It also has improved cold-hardiness over the English Yew. Typically, Hicks Yew grows 6-8” per year, making it easy to maintain. It also responds extremely well to pruning, making it an excellent choice for a hedge. Its growth habit makes it easy to achieve a tall, narrow privacy hedge that won’t have a large footprint. Hicks Yew has beautiful, olive-colored, evergreen needles and bears bright red “fruits” in late summer and fall for nice contrast. The seeds inside are toxic to mammals but are enjoyed by birds. Yew is a great choice for a hedge in a shady area, but it can also grow in full sun. It tolerates salt and urban pollutants, making it suitable for growing in cities. Deer usually avoid yew, but very hungry herds have been known to eat them occasionally. It has almost no disease issues. It grows well in a wide range of conditions. The only thing it does not tolerate is overly wet or poor-draining soil. Yew plants in general are extremely long-lived, so you can plan on your Hicks Yew hedge lasting beyond your lifetime with proper care! It is a classic choice for hedges but can also make a noteworthy accent plant.
Top Qualities of Hicks Yew
- 1. Tall, Narrow Growth Habit
- 2. Moderately Slow Growth Rate
- 3. Dark, Olive-Colored, Evergreen Foliage
- 4. Grows in Full Shade to Full Sun
- 5. Easy to Grow
“Anything but yews!” “ I hate yews!” are phrases we landscape designers hear over and over from clients.
And we understand. We really do.
We have all seen overgrown yews that crowd an entrance, shrinking the walkway so much you have to approach it sideways. We have seen well-intentioned homeowners prune their yews into something that can only be described as big and green. And we have seen homes all but swallowed up by huge yew hedge that covers the front façade and block any natural light from reaching the windows.
But I can only say that you can’t blame the yew.
The very qualities that cause these monstrosities also make the yew hedge a valuable landscape plant.
- They last! Yews are slow-growing and long-lived, and often grow more wide than tall. Some of the oldest trees of Taxus baccata in the British Isles exceed 1,000 years old. The Fortingall Yew, outside a churchyard in Perthshire, Scotland, is estimated to be around 5,000 years old, and is thought to be the oldest living tree not only in Britain, but probably in all of Europe.
- Yews (Taxus) are versatile evergreens perfect for many landscape uses. They show great variation in height, growth habit, and other important characteristics. This makes it possible for the designer to select those that suit the specific use and site best.
- Yews, allowed to grow without clipping or shearing, develop into magnificent specimen plants, but they are most often used as formal hedges and for topiary work.
- The prostrate and spreading kinds are effective ground covers.
- Yew is a great shrub for borders, entrance-ways, paths, specimen gardening, or mass plantings.
- Yew thrive in most soils. While this evergreen shrub flourishes in sun to partial sun and well-drained soil, it is tolerant of most any exposure and soil make-up with the exception of overly wet soil.
- In addition, Taxus yew shrubs tend to be *deer-resistant, drought resistant and tolerant of repeated shearing and pruning, making yew shrub care relatively easy.
Here’s an Update, March 2018
I am updating this blog now that we are having a much different experience. Thanks to Rik Haugen of Garden Design Network in Chelsea Michigan. Rik recently contacted us with a comment: “Interesting article on yews on your website, unfortunately here in southeast Michigan, yews appear to be a universal favorite food of choice for the deer population. You might want to edit the article to reflect that.” Rik went on to say, “You have a great website, but thought I should pass on what we are observing in Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills and all of southeast Michigan. I spend a lot of time outdoors and have never seen such deer concentrations as up there; they are tame and fat! No doubt some of the folks up there love to feed Bambi.”
In our past experience here in a suburban landscape the deer population has had a wide variety of plant material on which to munch before they get to the yews. But the more desperate they become the more likely they are to eat just anything. In recent years we have noticed they have extended their territory, even into densely populated neighborhoods. We are experiencing sightings as never before. They are being noticed in busy intersections and neighborhoods just blocks off of 6-lane Woodward Avenue.
As the local deer population increases and competition for the buffet grows, we have even known them to eat mature rose bushes. Seems nothing is off limits.
Some of our favorites, for different reasons, are:
Everlow yew (Taxus x media ‘Everlow”) is a low-growing spreader with dark green needles. It grows 1-2 feet tall with a 3-4 foot spread and is drought, sun, and shade tolerant.
Brown’s yew (Taxus media ‘Brownii’) forms a dense, rounded shrub to 10 feet tall and wide.
Capitata yew (Taxus cuspidata ‘Capitata’) forms a broad dense pyramid, slow growing to 40 feet tall.
Densiformis yew (Taxus media ‘Densiformis’) is a good choice for hedges, grows about 4 feet tall and 6 feet wide.
Green Wave yew (Taxus cuspidata ‘Green Wave’) forms a low, arching mound to 4 feet tall and 5 feet wide.
Hicks yew (Taxus media ‘Hicksii’) is a fast-growing hybrid with an open habit that is great for hedges. This variety grows 25 feet tall by 10 feet wide.
Taunton yew (Taxus media ‘Tauntonii’) becomes a low-spreading mound to 3 feet across. It tolerates weather extremes of wind, heat and cold well, and is a great plant for dry, shaded spots.
Generally speaking, the yew is an easy-care, slow-growing, shade tolerant, drought tolerant, and highly adaptable shrub, that thrives in all kind of soils. It is valued for its versatility as a specimen, a foundation plant, a hedge plant, and as topiary. And there are spreading and upright varieties available.
So the next time one of our clever designers suggests a yew for your landscape, don’t dismiss it out of hand. It may not have big showy flowers or multi-colored foliage, but its soft green needles and low maintenance will win you over.
We are proud to have been trusted by Michigan homeowners for over 35 years. To learn more about our services, . To view our portfolio of custom landscape design projects, . And please, don’t be shy to contact us to learn more about our custom landscape design and build services. We would love to help you create your own little piece of paradise in Michigan.
Hicksii Yew Tree
Five-Star Hedge Performer
Why Hicksii Yew Trees?
Commonly shortened to Hicks Yew, the Hicksii Yew fulfills multiple uses in the garden. Its narrow, columnar shape gets high marks as a hedge, screen or foundation planting, and grouped together, Hicksiis form a dense, evergreen barrier for use as privacy screens or wind protection.
Adorned with a fine texture of needles, the Hicks Yew can also serve as a lush backdrop for other garden plants. But no matter where it’s planted, the Hicksii Yew is a lively, green focal point all year. It’s technically a conifer with flat needles and fern-like branches. New spring shoots emerge vibrant green, darkening to a richer shade as they mature. In the fall, the female Hicks Yew produces vivid, red berries that present a stunning display of color when other plantings have died.
Why Fast-Growing-Trees.com is Better
For starters, it thrives in those challenging areas of your yard that never seem to get enough sun – in fact, few evergreens are as successful as the Hicksii Yew.
And this popular hybrid of the English and Japanese varieties requires little upkeep. It’s equipped with its own natural defenses against disease, insects and city pollution, so you can expect this shrub to be a prominent feature in your garden for decades. But the best part is that we’ve planted, grown and meticulously nurtured our Hicksii Yews for amazing results in your own landscape. We’ve done the hard work at our nursery so you don’t have to…you won’t get the same experience at big box.
With several different types of yew shrubs available, you can feel confident with the proven performance of the Hicksii Yew. Its versatility, vibrant color and ease of maintenance truly set it apart. Get your order in today!
Planting & Care
1. Planting: The Hicksii Yew grows best well in a wide range of soil types that have a neutral pH balance. Pick a planting location that is well-draining because the shrub does not tolerate an overly wet root system. And choose a planting site in full sunlight or partial shade (4 to 8 hours of sunlight per day).
Dig a hole that is twice the size of the shrub’s root ball. Place the shrub into the hole and gently spread out its roots. Make sure the root crown is level with the soil surface so the roots can pull oxygen in. Mix ample organic material into the soil and pack it around the roots so no air pockets remain.
Finally, spread a three-inch layer of mulch such as pine needles, bark chips, recycled plastic chunks, or peat moss around the base of the shrub to keep the soil moist and slow weed growth.
2. Watering: Water the Hicksii Yew at least once a week. Keep the soil around the Hicksii yew moist but not overly wet for best growth – generally, you should check the soil about 2 inches down for dryness.
3. Fertilizing: Apply a water-soluble 10-10-10 plant fertilizer formula in the spring, once a month, to feed the Hicksii Yew. Sprinkle it at least four inches from the shrub’s trunk, and follow the instructions on the fertilizer’s label for application ratios. Water the shrub thoroughly after applying the fertilizer.
4. Pruning: Prune the Hicksii Yew during the late winter months when the shrub is dormant and “hardened off.” Avoid removing more than one-third of the shrub’s limbs when pruning. Lightly shearing the shrub will encourage it to grow denser.
Fast Growing Trees attracts birds conifer trees evergreens for cold climates evergreens for hedging evergreens for privacy shrubs and hedges Tree Spikes //cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0059/8835/2052/products/Hicksii_Yew_450_MAIN.png?v=1549689724 //cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0059/8835/2052/products/Hicksii_Yew_450_D1.png?v=1549689724 //cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0059/8835/2052/products/Hicksii_Yew_450_D2.png?v=1549689725 13940915175476 1 Quart 19.95 19.95 //cdn.shopify.com/s/assets/no-image-2048-5e88c1b20e087fb7bbe9a3771824e743c244f437e4f8ba93bbf7b11b53f7824c.gif https://www.fast-growing-trees.com/products/hicksii-yew?variant=13940915175476 OutOfStock 1 Quart 13940915208244 1 Gallon 24.95 24.95 //cdn.shopify.com/s/assets/no-image-2048-5e88c1b20e087fb7bbe9a3771824e743c244f437e4f8ba93bbf7b11b53f7824c.gif https://www.fast-growing-trees.com/products/hicksii-yew?variant=13940915208244 InStock 1 Gallon 13940915241012 3 Gallon 69.95 49.95 //cdn.shopify.com/s/assets/no-image-2048-5e88c1b20e087fb7bbe9a3771824e743c244f437e4f8ba93bbf7b11b53f7824c.gif https://www.fast-growing-trees.com/products/hicksii-yew?variant=13940915241012 InStock 3 GallonA trimmed hedge of upright yews.
Q: I want to plant an evergreen hedge that will give me wall-to wall coverage and an eventual height of about 6 feet. I’d like to keep the depth to 2 or 3 feet since my yard is shallow and I don’t want to give up any more of it than I have to.
I’ve been thinking about either ‘Dee Runk’ boxwoods or Hicks yews. I don’t care much for the look of arborvitae, which is what most people seem to have. What’s your opinion?
A: All three of those work for a 6-by-3-foot hedge and take to shearing pretty well.
‘Dee Runk’ is the narrowest and grows more into a pyramidal shape, which will mean you won’t have that wall-to-wall look higher up until the plants “fatten out” with age. You’ll also need to plant them no farther apart than 3 feet as opposed to the 4-foot-spacing that’s more suitable for the Hicks yews or arborvitae.
‘Dee Runk’ isn’t easy to find either (still fairly new), and they’re also way more expensive than yews or arbs. So this definitely would be your costliest option.
The main strike against yews and arbs is that they’re both so very common. They’re good, tough performers, though.
Yews also get fruits that are poisonous to pets and kids, and arbs sometimes are attacked by needle-chewing bagworms.
Other than that, both are inexpensive, durable, fill in fast and make good, dense, evergreen hedges that will get up to 6 feet within a few years (assuming you start with a typical 3- to 4-foot transplant).
Since you’re not a big fan of arborvitae, I’d go with the Hicks yews.
This summer I took a couple of photos of yew hedging plants, because “yews,” in my opinion, should be used much more frequently as hedges and screens than they are. From the small genus, Taxus, there are about 7 species of yews; but, from those species, or crosses of those species, come a whole lot of cultivars!
In this post, you’ll find some good hedge screen recommendations, and I’ve included some examples.
To get started, here are several yews to acquaint you with (botanical /common name listed):
- Taxus baccata ——- English Yew
- Taxus baccata ‘Stricta’ – Irish Yew
- Taxus cuspidata ——— Japanese Yew
- Taxus x media – This is a hybrid of English yew (Taxus baccata) and Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata) which combines the ornamental value of English yew with the winter hardiness of Japanese yew. Several excellent hedge and screen varieties are listed below.
Examples of Yew Hedges
In lower Manhattan’s Battery Park, a yew is used as a powerful background and foil for a colorful meadow of flowers like the yellow, black-eyed Susan in the foreground. This dense hedge – with its’ glossy green needle-like foliage is the perfect backdrop to the airy and wispy texture of the flowering plants in front of it. And while the perennials in front go through yearly stages of dying back, and then returning next spring, the evergreen yew screen will remain attractive, and in leaf, year round. I want to note that this area, right along the Hudson River, can get very windy in the winter– something that yews don’t like. However, this yew hedge is located in what appears to be a more protected and sheltered position, so that’s good.
On the opposite coast, (photo on right) yew is used as a privacy hedge, growing to about 15 feet tall, and spanning the width of the front of this northern California, Mill Valley home. The hedge color is a very attractive blackish green. Sheering is so tight and crisp, it looks like a topiary.
These yew hedges look great, right?… So why aren’t they more popular?
It may have to do with the stigma of many overgrown columnar hedges that grow mythically large over time, and fewer locations have the appropriate scale for this giant. Or the fact that they are very slow growing. Or the fact that this evergreen is off the list in a child friendly garden (plant parts are toxic if ingested).
What do you think?
For hedging and screening options, yews with dense, upright, ascending branches tend to be the best choice. However, to take the guess work out of it, stick with what is tried and true, and you will be off to a green screen in no time!
As mentioned above, Taxus x media is a hybrid of English yew (Taxus baccata) and Japanese yew (Taxus cuspidata). They are slow growers.
Here are several varieties that make excellent hedges:
Taxus × media ‘Hatfieldii’ — This yew is a broad pyramidal form that can grow to 8′ tall over the first 10 years, but eventually matures to 12-15′ tall by 8-10′ wide, unless pruned shorter. It is a male clone that produces no red fruit.
Taxus x media ‘Brownii – This yew is an excellent choice for a low, dense hedge. It’s form is broad and densely-rounded and it typically grows to 8-10′ tall and spreads to 6-12′ wide, however plants can be kept smaller through regular pruning. This is a male clone that will not produce fleshy, berry-like fruits.
Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’ – Hicks Yew. Full to part sun. Available to buy on Amazon
This is an excellent choice for tall hedges, and is a traditional hedge plant.. Slow grower to 10 to 12 ft. tall, 3 to 4 ft. wide.
What they Like and Don’t Like
They like and tolerate: Full sun to part shade. Average to medium moisture, well-drained soils. Tolerate shade: excellent evergreen for shady conditions. Accept pruning and shearing well. Like moist, sandy loam. Tolerate urban conditions.
They don’t like or won’t tolerate: Poor drainage. (No tolerance for wet conditions – root rot can occur in soils with poor drainage.) Need to be protected from cold winter winds (susceptible to winter burn in exposed sites). No serious insect or disease problems.
Pest and Disease: Twig and needle blight can be a problem. Also as mentioned, root rot can occur in poorly-drained soils. Weevils, mealybugs, spider mites and scale can be problems in drier summer climates.
Best time to prune? Early spring before new growth appears.
What tools to use? Electric or hand held hedge clippers. (See Below for specific tool recommendations for pruning, sheering and restoring an old yew).
About Yews for Hedging
Why do these varieties make excellent hedges, screens and background shrubs?
- They take pruning extremely well! To both top and sides.
- They are evergreen with glossy medium or dark green needle-like foliage.
- New growth can sprout from old and leafless wood, which means that you can cut back into old wood – excellent for being able to restore an overgrown hedge, or one that is misshapen.
- Hardy to USDA zone 4 or 5. (Check for specifics.)
- Because of their great ability to produce new shoots almost anywhere on their trunk and branches, they are able to quickly heal after damage.
- Tolerate shade and are considered to be an excellent evergreen for shady conditions.
- They are slow growing. (Once established, this makes maintaining much easier!)
- Tolerate urban conditions.
- Caution: all plant parts are poisonous if eaten.
NOTE: Another option all together, especially if you’re having trouble finding what you need, is to take a look at your options using artificial yew(s). Take a look at this post about artificial trees,used as a screen in San Francisco, CA. They look real and add to the beauty of this gorgeous home and property.
ps: When it comes to maintaining the shape of a hedge, we love our Japanese hedge shears. After using several other brands over the years, and then getting introduced to a pair of high quality Japanese hedge clippers, there was no turning back, (nor was there any comparison.) Though the exact brand and model of our clippers is not available, the Okatsune Precision Hedge Shears are very similar and similar in cost. Truth be told, we’re very hard on our tools, so they need to be tough. The blades are made of forged steel (the kind they use for Samurai swords, if that gives you an idea of how sharp these are) with Japanese white oak handles. And sharp they do stay, for months. That sharpness and their precision really help speed up any pruning job. If you read through the reviews on Amazon you’ll see that everyone gave these shears 5 stars. They all say things like ‘best shears ever’ or ‘wish I bought a pair of these years ago’ or ‘It’s like using a lightsaber to trim your hedge’ – our thoughts exactly!! 🙂
pps: Is your hedge newly planted and in need of regular watering? Setting up drip irrigation with battery operated timer is quite simple (see this post), as long as your hose bib is not too far away…