Question on working on yews

mcpesq817

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I was fortunate to take a yew workshop with Steve Tolley at the National Arboretum yesterday. The material was really nice - field grown yews supposedly 40+ years old with 3-4"+ bases with pretty good character.

Unfortunately, I don't have pictures of my yew from the workshop at the moment. It looks like it can lend itself to a slanting style tree, or maybe a semi-cascade. This would probably be the quickest tree I could develop given where the branches are. As an alternative, Tolley suggested bringing up a very flexible whip as the new trunk line, and putting lots of movement into it. He mentioned that this was a technique often performed in Japan.

The question I had is how long does it take yew branches to thicken up? The flexible branch I'm looking at is probably about 1/2" in diameter, but it's coming off the part of the trunk that is probably closer to 2" in diameter. While that approach would work, I'm wondering if it might take forever for that whip to thicken up to the point of having a nice image (if it took the trunk 40 years to get to a 4" base, it leads me to think that it will take a long while for me to get a decent thickness out of the whip in a reasonable amount of time).

Thanks in advance!
 

Tachigi

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Don't know if you saw his demo...the demo tree (which was mine) was not that much older and has a 12 inch base. A lot of the differences between the two, which were collected in the same area, are where they were...meaning soil condition they were in ... soggy vs. dry / shady vs. full sun. You will find that a yew in a good bonsai mix will grow very efficiently and put bulk on rather quickly contrary to them being known as slow growers, which is usually a reference to trunk bulk.
 

John Ruger

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How well do they throw new shoots off old wood?
 

Bill S

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Don't know if you saw his demo...the demo tree (which was mine) was not that much older and has a 12 inch base. A lot of the differences between the two, which were collected in the same area, are where they were...meaning soil condition they were in ... soggy vs. dry / shady vs. full sun. You will find that a yew in a good bonsai mix will grow very efficiently and put bulk on rather quickly contrary to them being known as slow growers, which is usually a reference to trunk bulk.
So Mr Brown if you wouldn't mind, which is the good one????? Dry or wet and sunny or shaded????

I do agree about them growing well in typical bonsai soil, it works well up here
 

Tachigi

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Bill, Yews are very drought tolerant and enjoy dryer soils. Not bone dry, but thrive really well in an almost completely inorganic mix for the exception of perhaps a small bit of chopped sphagnum. Morning sun for mature trees...full sun for younger trees needing bud development

I believe the tree below shows, how well they respond and the speed of growth. The first picture is at collection 5 years , almost to the day. The second picture is a few minutes ago.

It has always been and always will be my position that Yews of all the conifers are the easiest to develop. They are forgiving on almost all counts which makes them a perfect beginner piece of material, while providing interest and wood working challenges for the advanced.

For any doubters out there I included a third picture of a yew collected a few weeks ago for the trunk, as there are no design possibilities now. I'll post follow-up pictures in the future to document the branch growth that yews are capable of and the amount of time it takes
 

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mcpesq817

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Don't know if you saw his demo...the demo tree (which was mine) was not that much older and has a 12 inch base. A lot of the differences between the two, which were collected in the same area, are where they were...meaning soil condition they were in ... soggy vs. dry / shady vs. full sun. You will find that a yew in a good bonsai mix will grow very efficiently and put bulk on rather quickly contrary to them being known as slow growers, which is usually a reference to trunk bulk.
Hi Tom,

Thanks for the info. Unfortunately I wasn't able to make the demo, but I heard it was fun to watch. Do you have a picture of your yew after Tolley worked on it?

Like Bill S, I'm also curious as to your thoughts on whether soggy or dry and shady or full sun is best for growing yews. I don't know if you saw the workshop material, but the rootballs appear to be in heavy clay at the moment, with the plastic container backfilled with sand. Let's just say that they are very heavy. Not only am I worried about my back, I'm worried that with our wet, DC weather, the container will be too water retentive. Is it too late to repot the tree in better soil? I wouldn't do any root work, except to remove as much clay and sand as I could.

Thanks very much!
 

Tachigi

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Hi Tom,
Like Bill S, I'm also curious as to your thoughts on whether soggy or dry and shady or full sun is best for growing yews.
See above :D ....


I don't know if you saw the workshop material, but the rootballs appear to be in heavy clay at the moment, with the plastic container backfilled with sand. Let's just say that they are very heavy. Not only am I worried about my back, I'm worried that with our wet, DC weather, the container will be too water retentive. Is it too late to repot the tree in better soil? I wouldn't do any root work, except to remove as much clay and sand as I could.
I didn't see the workshop material, but am very familiar with where they were collected and the soil conditions...The expression red Georgia clay best describes the muck that these trees are rooted in.

Any yew that I collect from this area, actually any area, are bare rooted..all that sludge is cleaned way. See faithful daughter below doing dirty job. :D I would say that in your case your stuck for this year. The tree has been stressed by being bounced around in transport and then a workshop. Also there are conflicting reports as to when these were collected. I would play it safe and wait till early April of next year and then go for the roots. The yew will do alright till then.. though you may not get a lot of back budding.
 

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DaveG

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This thread has made me aware of the fact that I had an opportunity I could have taken advantage of before I understood enough about bonsai. The house I grew up in had about 10 old yews in the front and back. My father eventually tired of all of them (because maintaining them required that thing called "work") and tore out all but three of them, assuming those last few are even still there now.

Interestingly enough though, at one point I found two in our yard right next to each other that the birds had been kind enough to plant for us. I moved them where they wouldn't get mowed over and they're probably 3' tall now. One of them was growing unusually slow and always had kind of a sickly-looking yellowish-brown tint to its green, but just naturally. Maybe I need to try to grab all of them next time I'm up that way. I think the sick-looking one could be especially interesting.

How well do they throw new shoots off old wood?
From what I've seen, they throw new shoots off old wood very readily.
 

mcpesq817

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See above :D ....




I didn't see the workshop material, but am very familiar with where they were collected and the soil conditions...The expression red Georgia clay best describes the muck that these trees are rooted in.

Any yew that I collect from this area, actually any area, are bare rooted..all that sludge is cleaned way. See faithful daughter below doing dirty job. :D I would say that in your case your stuck for this year. The tree has been stressed by being bounced around in transport and then a workshop. Also there are conflicting reports as to when these were collected. I would play it safe and wait till early April of next year and then go for the roots. The yew will do alright till then.. though you may not get a lot of back budding.
Thanks very much Tom - this has been very informative. Sorry to have missed your earlier post about the optimal conditions, I think I was typing my post when your post came through.

I'll leave my yew alone for this year. I think they said it was collected in October, but it's better to take a slow approach. I'll have to be sure to eat my Wheaties before moving it.
 

Bill S

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Hmm, a little drier than what we usually do here but sounds right.
Have to agree on the ease of this conifer, amazingly so under used here in the states as of yet.

There are about 12-15 multi trunk yews w/ 3-5"trunk stubs, that were chainsawed off at the stumps a couple of weeks ago, this week or next the back hoe will be removing the stumps, the guy looked at me funny when I asked if I could have some of them.:D
 

DaveG

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There are about 12-15 multi trunk yews w/ 3-5"trunk stubs, that were chainsawed off at the stumps a couple of weeks ago, this week or next the back hoe will be removing the stumps, the guy looked at me funny when I asked if I could have some of them.:D
To a lot of people, this is probably about like if they just finished eating t-bone steak and you pointed to the bone and said "you gonna eat that"? It just doesn't make any sense unless they understand what can be done with them.

That's some good luck though, assuming he lets you have them.
 

Tachigi

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Bill....I assume that these stumps have foliage left on them...sorry I had to ask. Seen it before...nice yew stump with no foliage on it and the person wondering why it isn't budding:eek:
 

grog

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Does anyone find any amendments especially useful with yews? They do great around here in the landscape but I've had horrible luck with them in pots. The only one that's lived more than a year was one that I added some lime to. I assume the difference is between the rain water the landscape plants get and the well water the potted plants are watered with.
 

ianb

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Bill....I assume that these stumps have foliage left on them...sorry I had to ask. Seen it before...nice yew stump with no foliage on it and the person wondering why it isn't budding:eek:
Yeah, just don't tell em which master made you do it:D:D:D
 

Tachigi

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Does anyone find any amendments especially useful with yews? They do great around here in the landscape but I've had horrible luck with them in pots. The only one that's lived more than a year was one that I added some lime to. I assume the difference is between the rain water the landscape plants get and the well water the potted plants are watered with.
What type of soil do you have them planted in? Also how much fussing are you doing? Yews with clean roots in free draining soil that are feed regularly are pretty happy...they don't even have a hissy fit if you miss a day of watering.

I sent some yews to Irene in south Texas.... better known as hell. This is way out of a yews comfort zone. Its been a couple years, and last I heard they were doing well. If they can do well there Grog you should be able to do well in Iowa...its pretty much a sweet spot climatically for all that a yew needs.
 

grog

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Thanks Tom.

They were planted in an inorganic mix and I was too scared to jack with em much. I know our climate's beneficial to em, plenty of cold, plenty of hot, both at the right times, etc. I think the issue has to be with minerals in our water. I don't know what all is in the well water but it is very hard, corrodes pipes, makes a fantastic crust in the tub and toilet.
 

Bill S

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Not much, but around here you can cut them down to the dirt and they push out.

We use a three part mix , which has been convaluted to 5 I think, Turface, composted pine bark, and large particle sand. The sand has turned to haydite and lava to lighten up the mix. We mix it equal parts then amend as needed for particular plants.

The attached pix is a yew owned and created by DougDT who comes in here once in a while, they do pretty well here in the N.E.
 

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gottrees

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I was fortunate to take a yew workshop with Steve Tolley at the National Arboretum yesterday. The material was really nice - field grown yews supposedly 40+ years old with 3-4"+ bases with pretty good character.
Hey! I was at the workshop as well. I was at the front right of the room furthest from the entrance. Where was your work table? It was very informative. Im still jotting down bits of information I learned.


Thanks Tom.

They were planted in an inorganic mix and I was too scared to jack with em much. I know our climate's beneficial to em, plenty of cold, plenty of hot, both at the right times, etc. I think the issue has to be with minerals in our water. I don't know what all is in the well water but it is very hard, corrodes pipes, makes a fantastic crust in the tub and toilet.
I spent 5 years in Iowa City for graduate school and I can believe the water kills plants. While I loved the city, the water and the breezes with the strong hint of manure was a bit much to handle :).


Ted
 

irene_b

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What type of soil do you have them planted in? Also how much fussing are you doing? Yews with clean roots in free draining soil that are feed regularly are pretty happy...they don't even have a hissy fit if you miss a day of watering.

I sent some yews to Irene in south Texas.... better known as hell. This is way out of a yews comfort zone. Its been a couple years, and last I heard they were doing well. If they can do well there Grog you should be able to do well in Iowa...its pretty much a sweet spot climatically for all that a yew needs.


Mine are loving it!!!
Will try to get some fresh pics of them posted here later!!!!!
 
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