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Newly planted yew hedge bronzing

Our goal is a 3-4ft yew hedge surrounding two sides of our patio. 
When the patio was laid in May 2018 the contractor supplied and planted 20 3ft yew saplings which each had their root all wrapped in hessian
I don’t believe the soil was particularly well prepared and generally we have a fairly heavy clay soil. 
Although a few of the yews have taken and are a rich green many of them have bronzed over the summer and some look positively dead
i have dug a couple up and some 18 months after they were planted have no obvious new roots 
I am thinking that their roots have been too wet and so I am planning to dig a trench down 2ft, put a 4” layer of pea shingLe at the bottom then replace the soil with a well gritted compost. 
Will I be doing right or is there something else I should do Instead


  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,587
    The grit base is probably a good idea but I would just work in well-rotted manure to the main planting trench or you'll end up making a sump that attracts water and will rot the roots.

    Here's what the RHS advises about planting yew and it includes advice on heavy soils -
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 49,201
    Was the hessian left on? I've never been convinced of that for planting anything.  :/
    The photos are difficult to see properly.
    I would agree with @Obelixx re the gravel. It's far better to mix organic matter, and grit as well, rather than a layer of gravel, as she explains. I'd remove the dead ones and address the poor soil by prepping properly, as indicated,  and then plant new ones. They look a bit tooclosely planted too.
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • madpenguinmadpenguin Isle of WightPosts: 2,448
    Are you sure those are yew trees?
    From the photos they look more like a fir of some kind,I may be mistaken though!
    “Every day is ordinary, until it isn't.” - Bernard Cornwell-Death of Kings
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,587
    Good point.   I thought so too but forgot to mention it.   Looks more like chamaecyparis lawsoniana to me but it would still benefit from good drainage -

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Thanks for the advice. The photos were supposed to be quick snaps just to give a feel for the layout. I have attached a further picture which I think clearly shows the plant as Taxus Baccata which I know as a common yew

    I have started to dig them up and have taken out the first 5 together with 18” of heavy clay soil, already a puddle is starting to form at the bottom of the trench so I’m thinking I may need to irrigate my trench with a lead off into a soak away. Any tips towards this would be appreciated 
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,587
    The benefits of a close-up!  Yew does recover when pruned back hard so you may be able to rescue the ones that are only partly brown if you put them into good, John Innes 3 type compost andmake sure they are on pot feet for drainange.  Prune off the brown bits, trim what's left to shape it if very lopsided and then stand them somewhere light but shletred form strong winds and heavy cold till spring.   Then you'll see which have decided to grow.

    There's all sorts of info on Google about making a soakaway and how deep and wide it should be for given situations.   You should also look at the RHS advice on improving drainage - 
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
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