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Yew tree Wm


Extreme Pruning

The trouble with inheriting an overgrown garden is that trees and shrubs can get out of hand. This yew had taken over half the path; to get past it one had to walk sideways. But I’d done my research. They can be cut back. Hard. Really quite hard.


This is the same tree today..


Yew tree 002 Wm



But look closely…


Yew tree 003 Wm


Admittedly, it may be a while before I need to prune it again.

It got me thinking about some of the other horticultural escapades we’ve undertaken this year. It’s not all good news. There was that Christmas Tree taking over the front of a border..


Christmas Tree 6 Wm


Sadly, it didn’t survive. I don’t know what we’ll do this time around. I’m reluctant to dig up another one. Perhaps buy a tree, already established with roots, and try to maintain it in its pot.

And then there was the root pruned bonsai maple..


Bonsai Roots 3 Wm


It hasn’t been particularly vigorous this year, but it is alive. The autumn leaves are a testament to that.

A real success has been our hacked back Pieris..


Pieris 002 Wm


You can see the place where we chopped it back. Controlling its shape is the challenge now. It wants to grow tall and leggy. Twice more I’ve pruned it hard and new shoots are finally starting to appear from the base.

More recently there’s been the slow to ripen chillies..


Chilli 002 Wm


Yay! The banana skins worked!

And how about that unfortunate upending of a very large Hydrangea..


Hydrangea moved 3 Wm


No flowers this year. Not much of a surprise as I cut it down by half. Against all the odds though, it does seem to have made it. Recently I’ve changed my opinion of these plants. For not all hydrangeas are the same. And some are especially beautiful when they fade..


Hydrangea Paniculata 'unique' Wm


 Hydrangea paniculata ‘Unique’

Following on from Jo at The Good Life, this year I’ve been trying to purchase one plant every month that is in flower at the time. This is my choice for October. In mid summer the bracts open pure white. As the season progresses the inner faces of the petals fade to cream. The reverse sides turn pink. It is exquisite. Maybe even unique.

Well whoever knew I’d wax lyrical over a Hydrangea.


2018-02-08T21:03:28+00:00October 25th, 2013|Tags: |


  1. Amy at love made my home October 25, 2013 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    Well it certainly looks as though it has been a busy year for pruning in your garden, and hey if the yew was too big and out of hand something had to be done, and at least this way, although it may be a slow regrowth, it gets to live to fight another day – it could have found itself on a bonfire or in a skip! Tell it to get a move on!!

    • Jessica October 25, 2013 at 7:35 pm - Reply

      It very nearly was a bonfire job, it has re-sprouted just in time!

  2. Joanne October 25, 2013 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    I rather fancy a hydrangea or three , I like them pink too so it wouldn’t have to go in a tub.

    • Jessica October 25, 2013 at 7:37 pm - Reply

      Hydrangeas in the ground here ‘sit on the fence’. They have both pink and blue flowers on the same plant! I suppose this will affect the colour of my new one too, it will be interesting to see what happens.

  3. justjilluk October 25, 2013 at 3:41 pm - Reply

    Very interested in your pruning of hydrangea. What time of year did you do it. I dry the heads gorgeous in the house then, forever.

    • Jessica October 25, 2013 at 7:49 pm - Reply

      This is the one we shifted from the bottom of the garden up to the top, back in March. We got it out of the ground using a winch, but then it was too heavy to move! I hacked away at the roots to remove as much soil as poss and chopped the top hamper down by half. Ordinarily I’d just trim the old flower heads off in Spring.
      The RHS have a good article on pruning hydrangeas:

  4. Em October 25, 2013 at 3:54 pm - Reply

    I’m a convert to the hydrangea too; I used to hate them Perhaps it’s an age thing! I’m also a great believer in hard pruning and saw the results in a previous garden where we planted two purple beech hedges. One I cut back hard, the other I didn’t as we wanted as much height as possible to screen us from next door. Needless to say, the one I cut back hard grew much bigger than the weedy thing I snipped pathetically at! I’ll keep a look out for that hydrangea – it’s stunning.

    • Jessica October 25, 2013 at 7:53 pm - Reply

      There are so many newer varieties now, which perhaps are more aligned to modern tastes. Cutting back hard often produces very vigorous growth. My problem is knowing when to stop!

  5. Pauline October 25, 2013 at 4:04 pm - Reply

    Don’t worry, your yew should be fine, they can take a lot of cutting back. The National Trust usually cut theirs back one side at a time when they go for drastic cuts, but I’m pretty drastic when chopping at my seedlings which pop up where least expected.
    Your maple has given me an idea for two seedlings that I am growing, one could be a bonsai, I hadn’t thought of that. They are seedlings of Acer Osakazuki which turns a wonderful fuchsia pink and the two seedlings seem to be the same colour as the parent, which is wonderful.
    The last photo of your hydrangea is beautiful, such lovely muted colours for this time of year.

    • Jessica October 25, 2013 at 9:26 pm - Reply

      There are three little sprouts from the yew at the base. I’m thinking that if they survive the winter I’ll cut the rest of the trunk structure away and recreate a whole new tree, which I’ll then keep clipped.
      As a bonsai Acer Osakazuki would be stunning! Good luck with that.

  6. Denise October 25, 2013 at 4:07 pm - Reply

    I kind of like hydrangeas because they are a big handful of flower! Glad the yew is surviving.

    • Jessica October 25, 2013 at 9:28 pm - Reply

      I may still need the fairy lights on the yew branches.. this year at least!

  7. Jo October 25, 2013 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    Thank you for the mention and link. I approve of your October plant, it’s a beauty. Hubby is a great one for wielding the secateurs, he doesn’t listen to pruning guidelines for each plant, it doesn’t matter what they are, they’re all in for a good haircut given half a chance. Needless to say, I keep sharp objects out of his reach at all times.

    • Jessica October 25, 2013 at 9:31 pm - Reply

      I have the same problem here, only he favours a chainsaw!
      November’s going to be a challenge. The nurseries are all shrinking their stock around here..

  8. BadPenny October 25, 2013 at 4:54 pm - Reply

    You’ve had some great success there Jessica . There are loads of Hydrangea in my village – I think they grow well near the sea.

    • Jessica October 25, 2013 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      They do! They’re a great seaside shrub.

  9. haggiz October 25, 2013 at 5:03 pm - Reply

    I seem to like hydrangeas more and more as I get older, especially as they fade. Thinking about it, those of us of a certain age probably just saw them in our childhood with bright pink or blue flowers, whereas these days there are so many more varieties.

    I think looking at the photos above there has been an awful lot more success than failure, so well done!

    Julie x

    • Jessica October 25, 2013 at 9:35 pm - Reply

      Thanks Julie. You’re so right about the varieties, they’re rather more subtle now.

  10. countrysidetales October 25, 2013 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    Nice to catch up with your garden and see some sunshine in the pics too!! x

    • Jessica October 25, 2013 at 9:41 pm - Reply

      We took advantage of the sunshine while we could… looks on the grotty side for the next few days. Take care x

  11. wherefivevalleysmeet October 25, 2013 at 6:50 pm - Reply

    We have a yew tree – not planted by us, I think it came to us via birds. We have trimmed it and it is now a lovely big round ball.
    I have abandoned real Christmas Trees, much as I prefer them. ‘H’ puts then in the garden following Christmas and we now have three very tall trees growing there so I decorate one of them with lights. Three Christmas Trees in the garden is quite enough.
    Love the photo of the chillies in the autumn sunshine.

    • Jessica October 25, 2013 at 9:50 pm - Reply

      Much better to buy trees with roots that you can then replant. I hate the thought of them being cut just to sit in the house for two weeks and then discarded. Hence I’d like to try and keep one going in a pot, which I bring in year after year.
      The yew tree which we’ve pruned will become a ball, if it survives.

  12. Janet/Plantaliscious October 25, 2013 at 7:41 pm - Reply

    Hah! You have been infected by a hydrangea! A mighty fine hydrangea, I have to say – I do like the paniculatas. Its the mopheads I have issues with. And the suddenly very pink lacecap I moved… Your shrub pruning adventures made me smile, I am still embarked on the same kind of thing, and am poised to prune the evergreens at the back of the garden now that the blackbirds have kindly vacated. No consideration for my pruning schedule, those blackbirds…

    • Jessica October 25, 2013 at 9:57 pm - Reply

      We had blackbirds nesting in the bank behind the house and very reluctant they were to leave. I’ve been wanting to cut it back all summer and have only just achieved it. If a plant has outgrown its space it’s a no brainer for me. It gets a chance to grow up again in a way that I can control, or it ends up at the tip.

  13. snowbird October 25, 2013 at 8:10 pm - Reply

    Some interesting results there! Yew is a slow grower so I’m sure it’ll be back….eventually!
    I’ve become a fan of Hydrangea of late, when you look at the flowers they are incredibly detailed and beautiful.
    Glad to see your chilies finally turning, I got two red ones this week too!xxxx

    • Jessica October 25, 2013 at 10:03 pm - Reply

      It’s a slow grower all right! But that’s no bad thing because it means I can contain it.
      The chillies are now ripening all at the same time! I hope they store..

  14. Sarah October 25, 2013 at 8:14 pm - Reply

    We have lived in our present home over 20 years and have planted many shrubs over that time. We are finding year or year that the pruning takes more and more of our time, but we only have ourselves to blame. Plants can be quite robust and most will recover. That’s a lovely hydrangea you have choosen.
    Sarah x

    • Jessica October 25, 2013 at 10:14 pm - Reply

      The garden never stays static does it, it’s a constant battle to keep it in shape. Many of the shrubs we inherited have grown well beyond the limits of their space. I’d like to think we’ve broken the back of the shifting about now, but am not at all confident that I haven’t made some of the same mistakes!

  15. Jacqueline October 25, 2013 at 11:08 pm - Reply

    Such is the nature of gardening Jessica …… as you know, there are highs and there are lows and, we have to work out what grows well in the conditions in our gardens and what doesn’t { I don’t know why I’m telling you all this ….. you know far more than me !!!! }
    …. and, I LOVE hydrangeas. I ordered two new ones today ….. Hydrangea Paniculate Limelight and, Hydrangea Vanilla Fraise . We have two spaces to fill !! XXXX

    • Jessica October 25, 2013 at 11:47 pm - Reply

      Limelight is on my list and I will look up Vanilla Fraise. I am not at all sure that I know more than you, I just pick stuff up as I go along. Trial and a lot of error!

  16. nataliescarberry October 26, 2013 at 12:46 am - Reply

    Ya know sometimes we just have to cut somethings way back especially ones previous owners didn’t place well or ones we put somewhere and didn’t expect it to get all that big. If they come back, that’s wonderful and if they don’t there’s always something to take its place. At least that has been my experience. When my hydrangeas don’t get fried in the summer heat, I love the colors they turn in the fall. I enjoyed your post, Jessica. Have a great weekend. Blessings, Natalie

    • Jessica October 26, 2013 at 1:46 pm - Reply

      I’ve moved a lot of stuff about too and think the same. It’s great when something starts to shoot up again in a spot that is much better suited to it. If not, well I haven’t lost too much because I’d have had to pull the plant up anyway. The bigger they get though, the harder they are to move!

  17. young at heart October 26, 2013 at 8:54 am - Reply

    a few years ago a friend gave me a hydrangea she’d rescued from a dump…… survived and leafed for a couple of years but this year it has become enourmous and bloomed white with a hint of pale pink!!

    • Jessica October 26, 2013 at 1:50 pm - Reply

      They do seem to be quite resilient. I’ve moved two huge ones now and both have survived, even though I probably lost about half the roots. Yours sounds beautiful!

  18. Linda October 26, 2013 at 9:39 am - Reply

    I can just imagine my husband getting the secateurs and doing some topiary work on your yew! I expect a good cut back means you can start again and get it into the shape that’s suitable for where it is. Glad the banana skin worked on your chillies. I’ve done that with some greenish ripening cherry tomatoes that were brought into the kitchen after tidying up the plants.

    • Jessica October 26, 2013 at 1:55 pm - Reply

      I was thinking of shaping it into a ball if I get the chance. If I can keep the diameter the same as the narrow bed it will look good and not get in the way of the path!

  19. Simone October 26, 2013 at 10:10 am - Reply

    Looking good!

    • Jessica October 26, 2013 at 1:56 pm - Reply

      Thanks Simone. I just have to hope they all get through winter unscathed.

  20. Rosie October 26, 2013 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    I’m always nervous about pruning plants but they do seem to survive it all. The banana idea does seem to work with ripening things indoors. I love the hydrangea – ours are looking lovely and faded and papery at the moment:)

    • Jessica October 26, 2013 at 1:59 pm - Reply

      Your garden looks lovely, from the pictures in your last post. I hope mine will look as tidy one day!

  21. Sue. October 26, 2013 at 2:30 pm - Reply

    I too inherited a lot of over grown shrubs large potentillas and wiegelias and various ones I have not identified but they have all had a good haircut and seem none the worse for it. I have given them a lot of manure and FBB
    Nurseries. Brighton Plants. Lots of moreish things.
    .Rare Plants for bulbs etc. Fairly reasonable postage.

    I also garden on a slope quite a challenge. I find sitting down safest!

    • Jessica October 26, 2013 at 7:48 pm - Reply

      Hi Sue and welcome to rusty duck.
      Thanks for the nursery tips, I will check them out. It’s either sitting down, or kneeling up against the slope for me. I’ve discovered working from the bottom to the top is the easiest, but have the problem of where to put the rubbish trug when there’s no flat ground. The number of times I’ve seen it fall, disgorging weeds as it goes!

      • Sue. October 26, 2013 at 10:14 pm - Reply

        I use black builder buckets to put the weeds in. I can usual anchor them. Sometimes like you they fall over and roll gentle to the bottom of the bank. I live in North Yorkshire so envious of all your flowers still out. Mostly leaves coming down seems to be gardening at the moment. And keeping the collar doves from pulling up my specious autumn crocii.

        • Jessica October 26, 2013 at 11:17 pm - Reply

          The builders buckets are a great idea! I am envious of your bulbs, the mice eat all of mine.
          I don’t suppose I’ll have many flowers left, after the storm that is coming. I hope you are far enough north to avoid it. Keep safe.

  22. Caro October 26, 2013 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    Funny reading about the drastic chopping you’ve given your Yew as I’ve been studying conifers this week in college. They are great for topiary or hedging (look at Great Dixter) and will get very big if left to have its own way but are very slow growers. It will be a while before you have to reach for the shears! Very impressed that your hydrangea survived; we had a glorious pink/green one in a border under my flat but it seems to have died, most unusual!

    • Jessica October 26, 2013 at 7:52 pm - Reply

      I suppose I should wait and see how the hydrangea copes with winter before I count my chickens, I have had to resuscitate it several times this dry summer as it is.

  23. Wendy October 26, 2013 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    I’m so pleased to see the yew is sprouting those green shoots and good to see the chillis ripening at last.Your fading hydrangea is lovely – mine isn’t doing very well and so I’ll probably replace it (and the fact that I’m seriously considering this just shows how converted I am to them, now, as well)

    • Jessica October 26, 2013 at 7:57 pm - Reply

      Thanks Wendy. It’s odd isn’t it, how fashions change. I love the white ones that turn a dusky pink, but can’t stand that same pink in summer!

  24. Cathy October 26, 2013 at 8:42 pm - Reply

    I am all for a good hack, Jessica – if the victim wants to survive it will, and usually all the better for it. I have similar photos of a hydrangea – which I moved as well as hacked – and it is poking its nose up again and asking if I mind if it stays (oh, go on then!), as it knows I am not a great fan. Oh, and do you need an excuse to buy a new plant every month…?!

    • Jessica October 26, 2013 at 9:30 pm - Reply

      I am coming to the conclusion that hacking is good for the soul.. theirs and mine. This particular hydrangea had a perilous encounter with the slope having been dropped out of a wheelbarrow, so I have to wish it well.

  25. CJ October 26, 2013 at 10:09 pm - Reply

    Excellent pruning! Good to see that the yew is coming back, they are some of my favourites.

    • Jessica October 26, 2013 at 11:08 pm - Reply

      I hope it survives the winter, they are only tiny shoots! But yew is hardy isn’t it, so it should be OK.

  26. elaine October 27, 2013 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    I’m always terrified of hard pruning – you have given me courage.

    • Jessica October 27, 2013 at 10:04 pm - Reply

      Murphy’s Law will dictate that if it’s a shrub you really want to keep the outcome will be very different. Most of these had grown far too big for their space. I had no choice really.

  27. Jenny October 28, 2013 at 10:59 am - Reply

    I’m always amazed by how harshly you can treat a plant and have it survive – magic 🙂 We’ve got a few in our garden that need some similar treatment I think – been allowed to do what they like for far too long.

    • Jessica October 28, 2013 at 5:06 pm - Reply

      Some are more amenable than others, so it’s worth doing some research first. But it is great when you see new growth sprouting out. I just need to keep them under control now, the Pieris will be the greatest challenge I think. It wasn’t planted in the ideal place.

  28. Sue@GLAllotments October 29, 2013 at 3:56 pm - Reply

    Oh dear mustn’t let Martyn see this as he is threatening to prune our pieris! I’ve told him it will kill it!

    • Jessica October 29, 2013 at 5:13 pm - Reply

      Hi Sue and welcome to rusty duck!
      Try and restrain him until April, just as the plant is starting back into growth. According to the RHS article I read, this is the best time and it certainly worked for me. I cut back to some shoots that were already sprouting a little way up the trunk. These then took off at an alarming rate and I’ve been hacking them back ever since!

  29. knitsofacto October 31, 2013 at 12:28 pm - Reply

    I could wax lyrical about hydrangeas at great length. Yours is definitely very beautiful 🙂

    We prune the Clematis by the front door back to nothing each winter, and every summer it grows to cover the porch again. I always worry that one year it won’t come back, but if it wasn’t cut back so radically I think it would have enshrouded the entire house by now!

    • Jessica October 31, 2013 at 2:10 pm - Reply

      It sounds lovely Annie. Clematis is something I need more of too, but I’ve always adored those. Hydrangeas is a much more recent thing!

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