Hidcote Yew Topiary Birds

Yew Topiary Birds at Hidcote After 110 Years of Clipping

The gardens at Hidcote Manor are now open over the weekends during the winter. I’m so pleased the National Trust has decided to do this as it gives the opportunity to appreciate the bare bones of the garden without the distraction of the beautiful flowering borders and leafy trees. Lawrence Johnston was the man responsible for the creation of the garden. In 1907 he began building a series of ‘garden rooms’, divided mainly by yew hedging. The Arts and Crafts philosophy was a major influence in Johnston’s designs, of which topiary plays an important part. Between 1907 and 1914 the…

Yew Hedge Restoration

Removing Vertical Growth When Restoring Yew Hedges

I’ve been working on restoring the shape to a yew hedge this week so thought it would be a good opportunity to show the importance of cutting out vertical growth. This technique applies to restoring both yew hedges and yew topiary. If a yew has been left untrimmed, or has been badly clipped in the past, then thick, long stems can start to grow up on the outside of the hedge. These will thicken over time, causing the hedge to bulge and sag. Ignoring these stems and running the hedge trimmer or shears up over this vertical growth can create…

Wibbly Wobbly Yew Hedges at Montacute House

I took the opportunity to visit Montacute House gardens when travelling home through Somerset the other day because I wanted to see in person their beautiful yew hedges. Montacute House is magnificent – a fine example of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture. The gardens would have been a formal design, with yew hedges clipped to perfect straight lines, flat tops and precise right angle corners. Although the formal layout of the gardens remain, the yew hedges are now over 4 metres high, free-form, organic shapes and affectionally called the wibbly wobbly by the Montacute House gardeners. This style of yew hedge is…

Restoring Yew Topiary Back From Tunnels to Triangles

Last week I worked on restoring some yew to their original triangular design. The yew had been allowed to grow to create two tunnels. Although a lovely idea, the yew never really knitted together sufficiently to create solid tunnels. This probably could have been achieved but it would have taken many years of careful trimming, thinning and tying in. On a practical level it was very difficult to trim the tops of the tunnels using a long reach hedge trimmer and ladders. Taking the time to set up platforms was not cost effective and this would have been difficult with…

Linking a Garden with Doorways in Hedges

Recently I have become mildly obsessed with doorways cut into hedges. I think they are a wonderful way for large gardens to link different areas. Too often hedges are seen as static features, acting as a barrier to divide one area from another. By cutting a doorway the hedge’s purpose changes and becomes an integral part of the garden design, linking rather than preventing access. And there is also something ‘Alice in Wonderland’ about them, appealing to our human nature to explore. I am lucky by living in the Cotswolds to have two gardens nearby that utilise hedge doorways with…