Ballad of the Yew Slayer
If I were a superhero or a Viking or something like that, I would like my name to be “Yew Slayer”. Fact is, I have taken down a lot of Yews, particularly Japanese Yews (Taxus cuspidata).
It’s nothing personal, it’s just that I really don’t like Yews (although I guess that does make it personal). To me they are just big green blobs. Most of the Yews I’ve taken down were installed as foundation plantings around various houses we have lived in.
Now I have removed almost all of the Yew that stood in the southwest corner of the back garden, by the alley gate. It was 20-25 feet tall, the largest I have ever liquidated. And I did it all with my little loppers and my folding saw. I started in January and would put in a few hours whenever we had a spell of milder weather over a weekend.
Judy and I have been talking about removing this Yew since we moved into our house almost 16 years ago. Here’s a post I wrote in December about our ruminations on the subject, with a lively discussion in the comments.
The thing is, now that it’s down to the last few trunks, I’m thinking I’ll let the rest of the Yew stand. And it’s not just because these trunks are too thick to be taken down with a folding saw. I just kind of like their shape, and I’m wondering about giving them some sort of role in the back garden. The question is, what?
I should mention that we have decided to plant two Red Osier Dogwoods (Cornus sericea) on either side of the deceased Yew. These are tall enough (7 to 10 feet) to provide some privacy, but not too tall. They are wide enough that eventually they will mostly obscure the Yew trunks if you’re looking from the house.
Which raises the question, why not just get rid of them? Well, they will be visible from the alley, for one thing. Also, they will serve as a monument to my prowess as the Yew Slayer.
Maybe I’ll paint these last Yew trunks. A light green or sky blue. Or maybe I’ll grow a vine on them. A Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), or a Clematis, or maybe a smallish climbing rose? Of course, these would be eventually enjoyed mostly by people passing on the alley side of the house.
A lot of folks suggested leaving the Yew up and surrounding it with smaller shrubs. I thought about this, but I was concerned that the Yew would shade and generally out-compete its neighbors. And beside, my folding saw was calling to me.