ENGLISH YEWS WERE A STAPLE of foundation planting around the house I grew up in, the darkest of green blobs with those tempting red berries we kids were warned to stay away from: poisonous. Maybe that sense of all-too-familiar put me off growing yews here when I began my garden–or at least until I discovered the spreading golden English form. The second in a series on beloved conifers.
Taxus baccata ‘Repandens Aurea’ came to me like so many plants as a rooted cutting many years ago, a misshapen little nothing two gardening friends convinced me to order by mail. (You can sometimes get one at Forest Farm, though not every year.) It is about half way now to a mature size of perhaps 12 feet across and 2 to 4 feet high, and though it’s still irregularly shaped the yew has taken on considerable presence when I recall the wretched thing it was the day that I unpacked it from its traveling suit of wet newsprint.
I actually have three of the spreading golden yews here. (Why is it that I order everything in threes? Is it my lopsided version of Noah’s Ark?). The one shown (top) is swimming in a lake of big-root geranium, G. macrorrhizum. It’s a bed where I recently decided to up the golden quotient by adding a cutleaf golden staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina ‘Tiger Eyes’ (background), another plant whose leaves I love, which will eventually contribute more to the picture. A detail of the emerging new growth, the goldest of all, is shown below.
I’d add a photo of the golden yew with a covering of snow, as I did recently with the first conifer in this series of posts, the weeping Alaska cedar, except for one tiny detail: The golden yew isn’t golden in winter, but does its showing off in spring and summer, and now is just plain green. No matter for me; I think it offers plenty when it’s in the mood, and who among us has a nonstop sunny disposition? What I cannot offer, I do not ask of my plants.