The BIG yew project

Cofga

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Last year this time I talked my next door neighbor into letting me dig up three old yews growing in his yard. These are probably 30-40 years old and have been neglected for ages. Since he has two hounds that chew on everything he was very happy to let me dig them even though I wanted to wait a year. So yesterday I went over lopped off the long branches on all three plants in preparation for digging up the first one. The other two I plan to let back bud in the ground and then dig them next year. Here are photos of them last spring.

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Ok, so after lunch I took two Alleve in anticipation of pain and gathered up my chainsaw, reciprocating saw, pruners, come along, shovel, and Root Slayer and headed next door. I raked back the leaves from around the tree and using my Root Slayer cut a circle around it at about 8” out. When I ran into a root too big for the Root Slayer I used the reciprocating saw with a long pruning blade to cut through them. As soon as I had made it all the way round I grabbed one of the long stems I had left and pulled the tree back sharply amd was rewarded with a loud POP. With that one little maneuver the whole tree rolled over and it was out of the hole! All told it didn’t take me 30 minutes to get it out of the ground. I knocked off some loose soil and then cut the remains of the tap root flush with the bottom of the rootball.

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With it out of the ground I muscled it into my wife’s garden wagon and hauled it back to my yard for the second part of the job. Look for that in part two.

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Cofga

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Part two begins with me hosing all the soil from the roots. As you can see from the photos there are a lot fo big ones but a sizable number of smaller roots too. I pruned the long ones back so they would fit in the 18”x18” wooden box.C19A7C8E-A484-44D6-A4BD-5DB3BA9B6FC0.jpeg42A1723B-983A-4A28-97FD-F467A01FCDB1.jpeg

Once they were in I tightened up the tie down wires and was ready for the bonsai soil.

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For my bonsai soil I used a 50:50 mix of pumice and Permatill (haydite). I figure this stuff will drain very well and will hold enough moisture for the yew. I poured it into the box and worked it in with an oversized bamboo chopstick.

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I tried to leave foliage on each branch and just wonder whether I left too much on some of them? For now I have the tree sitting in the shade in my driveway but after a few days will transition it into part sun and later on full sun, or at least as close to what passes for full sun in my yard. Next year depending on how well this one does I will rinse and repeat with the other two.

All told I wasn’t at this for more than two hours and most of that time was getting tools out and putting them away. I don’t want to get too cocky about it since I still have two more in the ground but I worked harder collecting two wisteria last month than this one yew today. All the horror stories I have previously read on this forum had me dreading this project but now I am ready for next spring. I think having all the right tools made the job easier too. That battery powered reciprocating saw was worth every penny. So now go out and find a yew for your collection,
 

Cofga

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Ok, so @Dav4, @fore, @mcpesq817, @defra and all you other yew experts in the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, etc as you can see the yew is holding its own after only about 1 week. However I am wondering about all the foliage on the right hand side. Given the reduction in roots I am wondering whether the foliage might be stressing the tree since it can’t take up as much water as usual. Should I cut some of those long leafy branches back by about 1/2 to compensate or leave it alone? I mist it several times each day and have it in part sun but plan to start moving it to more sun this week. The buds that were just forming a couple weeks ago are now pushing well so hopefully it is also pushing out some new roots too. Here is what it looked like a few minutes ago.

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Dav4

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I might cut back overly long branches, but leave plenty of green on them, and I wouldn't prune any of the lower branching if you can, as that's where you will build your tree. Don't be fooled by buds pushing and elongating. I collected an awesome trunk with not much in feeder roots years ago in April. That tree pushed new growth and stayed green for the next year before gradually yellowing and dying. The post mortem showed that the tree hadn't grown any new roots and had been living off reserves for over a year. Hopefully, you'll have a different outcome... good luck!
 

defra

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Like dav4 says
Misting will help allot and I cannot think of anything else that you can do beside waiting :)
 

Cofga

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Almost a month later and I’ve been misting the foliage several tines every day and with all the rain we’ve had it hasn’t needed much watering. The good thing is none of the branches have turned brown although a few of the older needles have dropped off. Although there is a lot of these nice bright green new shoots all over the branches I have read many times where the tree can put out new growth entirely on stored energy. Still I find it hard to believe that they could do it without some water entering through the roots so hopefully it too is a good sign. We’ll know in a year or so assuming I figure out a decent place to winter it.

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defra

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Nice looking good!
but still be careful how cold does it get In your climate?
Yew is pretty hardy
 

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