Large plants for formal & informal hedging and screening

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Trimming your hedge can become quite a chore, so choose slower growing plants; unless you need a very fast growing screen and simply can’t wait. Informal hedges are a lot less maintenance, whereas formal hedges may require trimming every six to eight weeks in summer. Tall formal hedges are hard to reach, so try to keep your formal hedges below 1.5m tall. If you require a tall formal hedge, remember that the base needs to be wider than the top so that it does not look top-heavy and so that sunlight and rain can penetrate.
 

Sagewood, iLoshane, Saliehout (Buddleja salviifolia)
This beautiful indigenous shrub has dark green sage-like leaves which are conspicuously wrinkled and puckered above, and densely covered with whitish hairs below, giving them a distinctive silvery colour. It produces large panicles of small flowers from August to October; varying in colour from white, to lilac and purple, and rich in nectar. It grows quickly and has an aggressive root system; if left un-pruned, and under favourable conditions, it can reach up to 4m tall, but is generally sold as 2 to 3m tall, with an equal spread. It responds well to pruning and makes an excellent windbreak, informal screening plant or hedge for large properties if it is pruned often. It is ideal for Mediterranean gardens and although it thrives in full sun it can also be grown in semi shade. It is semi-deciduous, losing some of its leaves during winter. Young plantsmust be protected from frost until they are well established, after which they will withstand both frost and drought.

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Weeping Sage (Buddleja auriculata)
This evergreen South African shrub has a graceful weeping habit and beautiful glossy, dark green leaves that have silver undersides. It is grown for its profuse spikes of tiny, tubular, sweetly-scented cream, orange or lilac flowers from mid-winter to spring. This large growing shrub is not recommended for small gardens but is excellent for medium to large properties and farms, making an excellent screening plant, windbreak or informal hedge. It grows throughout the country, but prefers areas with cold winters. It is also suitable for hot gardens, tolerating temperatures from -5°C to 38°C. In the Western Cape it often flowers earlier and has a more upright growth habit. It is hardy to frost and tolerates drought, making it a great water-wise plant. Plant it in full sun where it will grow quickly to about 4m tall and 4m wide. Prune if necessary after it has flowered; cutting the flowering branches right back to the old wood.


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Wild Laburnum, Geelkeurboom, inDloli, umKhiphampethu, umLalandlovana (Calpurnia aurea)
The wild laburnum is perfect for small suburban gardens and townhouses because it has a non-aggressive root system. It makes a wonderful specimen plant if it is planted on its own in the lawn, but is also most effective if planted in groups. It also works well in a mixed shrub border, and makes a great informal hedge or screen. This decorative evergreen varies in growth habit from a multi-stemmed shrub to a slender, graceful small tree. In forests it can grow 9 to 15m tall but in gardens it will generally grow about 2 to 4m tall and 1.5 to 2.5m wide. It responds well to pruning after flowering and can be trained. It has a light open crown and drooping, light green leaflets. The bright yellow flowers hang in large, showy bunches and appear irregularly throughout the year. In the summer rainfall regions of the country the peak flowering time is from middle to late summer, and in the winter rainfall regions they often flower best in late summer and autumn. The flowers are followed by a thin green pea-like pod that is almost translucent, drying to a papery, light brown. It flowers in full sun, but will tolerate semi-shade. It is hardy to frost (-5°C) if is planted in a sheltered position in the garden and is protected when young.

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Tree Fuchsia, Witolyf, Kinderbessi, Notsung, umBinza  (Halleria lucida)
Halleria has been cultivated in South Africa since the early 1800's and makes a good specimen tree for the smaller garden because it does not have invasive roots. It also makes an excellent informal screening plant or hedge. Most often this plant is multi-stemmed, with a dense, spreading crown of bright green, glossy leaves on lovely drooping branches. This plant varies in height, according to the climate in which it is grown. In exposed positions and dry regions it generally remains a small shrubby tree about 2 to 5m tall, but in moist, protected positions it can reach 10 to 20m tall. The common name of Tree Fuchsia was acquired because of its clusters of tubular, fuchsia-like flowers that are produced in the axils of the leaves and on short shoots on the old wood and even on the main trunk. The flowers vary in colour from dark orange to brick-red and yellow and can appear anytime from May to January. The flowers are somewhat hidden amongst the leaves but are rich in nectar; and are followed by black, berries. It grows in full sun or semi-shade and does best if planted in rich, well-drained soil. Although it will tolerate some drought, it performs best if watered during dry spells. It is hardy to frost but in very cold regions needs protection when young.

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Bougainvillea
For large properties in temperate, sub-tropical regions bougainvilleas can provide a flamboyant, impenetrable barrier. They look wonderful if a single colour is planted, but there is no reason why you cannot mix your colours, as long as the growth rate of the various varieties is the same. They can be grown as informal screens, or clipped into formal hedges. Informal hedges will need lots of space to grow, and formal hedges will take lots of training initially, requiring time and patience. To train a formal hedge, use the A-frame concept and space your plants about 4m apart, depending on the variety selected.  Pin the new growth down parallel to the ground and in the direction of the next plant.  As the plant grows, continue to do this; gradually increasing the height of the parallels, and pruning the leading shoots as necessary. Tie the branches with string that will eventually rot away and not restrict the growth of the branches. Once your framework is established, prune after flowering. Bougainvilleas are evergreen and thrive in hot humid areas in full sun but are semi-hardy to moderate frost if planted in a hot, protected position; but they will lose their leaves in cold areas. They require full sun, well-drained soil, and thrive on neglect. 

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Cross-berry , Kruisbessie, Mokukutu, Mogwane, Mulembu (Grewia occidentalis)
This attractive medium-sized, branching, woody shrub or small tree is widely spread and can be found growing in all the provinces.  It is a decorative garden subject which is grown for its starry, mauve or pink flowers in summer; followed in late summer by distinctive four-lobed berries that turn a shiny reddish-brown to light purple when ripe. It does not have an aggressive root system, making it perfect to plant near paving, and buildings as an informal hedging or screening plant. It grows beautifully in warm, moist, temperate to subtropical regions, but is both frost and drought hardy once established. It is evergreen but may lose leaves in winter, in certain areas. For best results in the garden, plant it in good, well composted soil and water it regularly. In very cold regions it is best to plant it in a protected position in the garden and to cover it in winter, until it is established. It loves to grow in full sun, but can be planted in semi-shade; in hot inland gardens it will appreciate some shade during the day. This plant varies greatly in height and spread, according to the climate of the region in which it is grown. It can reach anything from 2 to 6m tall and is normally well-branched. It can be cut back hard if it becomes too large.

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Firethorn (Pyracantha)
This dense plant has glossy green leaves and bear masses of small white flowers in early summer, followed by showy clusters of berries in late summer, autumn and winter. ‘Orange Charmer ‘produces orange berries and ‘Santa Cruz’ has red berries. This evergreen grows well throughout the country, except those hot, humid regions and is hardy to frost. It requires full sun and if left un-pruned can grow very large, +-3 to 4m tall and 3 to 4m wide. If planted closely together Pyracantha will form a dense privacy hedge that is totally impenetrable; young plants will need a support such as a fence of timber or wire for the first few years, until the stems are strong enough to support the plant. Pruning back each year will also encourage stability as it will encourage the plant to bush out.

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Red Robin (Photinia x fraseri)
This evergreen produces brilliant red new leaves and white flowers in summer, followed by red berries in autumn. Its dense growth serves as an effective barrier, and it makes a fantastic hedging and topiary plant that can be pruned to form large formal hedges. With regular clipping you can get red growth right through summer. It grows best in regions with good summer rainfall, but grows throughout the country if watered regularly. It tolerates intense heat and is hardy to all but severe frost; in very cold regions plant it in a protected part of the garden, because young growth can be caught by late frosts. It also grows well in coastal regions, but needs some chilling in winter, so does not thrive in tropical conditions. It varies in height from 3 to 6m tall and 3 to 6m wide. It thrives in full sun but will take some shade.

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Lemonwood, Tarata, Kohuhu  (Pittosporum)
Pittosporums have always been popular for their foliage. Some species have attractive black stems and silver-green foliage which shimmers beautifully in the sunshine. The plants respond well to pruning, making them great for formal or informal hedging and screening plants. The species are evergreen trees and shrubs which vary in height and spread from +-4 to 10m tall. The small flowers are fragrant; and the leaves are strongly scented if crushed. The flowers are followed by woody capsules containing the sticky seeds. They grow well in all South Africa's growing regions except those areas which experience severe frost. (Pittosporum tenuifolium) is the hardiest species, and in areas with moderate frost they are remarkably hardy if they are planted in a protected position in the garden. Pittosporums grow well at the coast but in dry regions they will require year round watering; in the winter rainfall region they will need regular watering in summer, and in the summer rainfall regions they will need a weekly watering in winter as well as during dry summer spells. They will grow fairly quickly in full sun or semi-shade and little pruning is required other than for shaping, but if you are using them as hedging plants, pruning is done in both spring and late summer.

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Australian Brush Cherry  (Syzygium paniculatum)
This shapely evergreen tree or shrub has glossy, dark green leaves which are paler below, and the new growth is an attractive bronzy-red. In early summer, it bears masses of fluffy, creamy white flowers, followed in late summer by clusters of very attractive edible magenta fruits. In the ideal conditions of the rainforests the Australian brush cherry can develop into a broad, dense tree +-15m tall with a spread of +-6 to 8m, but in the garden, if left un-pruned it generally grows +-5 to 8m tall and 4 to 6m wide; depending on climate and rainfall. Because it responds well to trimming it is widely used for topiary and formal hedges. It also makes a wonderful informal hedging or screening plant, and a good windbreak at the coast.  It thrives in the warm, moist, frost free, and coastal areas of the country; but will tolerate moderate frost once established if it is planted in a sheltered part of the garden and is covered and mulched when young. In dry summer rainfall regions and in the winter rainfall regions it will need regular watering in summer to look at its best. The Australian brush cherry prefers full sun but will tolerate light shade.

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Sand Olive, Hop Bush, Sandolien, Ysterhout (Dodonaea viscosa angustifolia)
This indigenous plant is known for its resiliency and tenacity, tolerating a wide range of growing conditions. It is highly variable in growth habit, depending on the climate in which it is grown and occurs as a small to large, multi-stemmed shrub; or a small tree. The summer flowers are insignificant but the papery, three-winged seed pods are extremely attractive, starting off green and shading to a reddish-burgundy and then to brown and tan. It has shiny, bright green, sticky leaves and a blackish bark. It makes a great informal screen or hedging plant. The Sand Olive grows in gardens throughout the country. It thrives in hot, dry regions and is hardy to all but extremely severe frost.  It is a good choice to plant in exposed, windy sites; both inland and at the coast and grows in any well-drained garden soil. It loves full sun but will also grow in light shade. If watered regularly in the garden and left un-pruned, it will grow quickly to about 5m tall and 2.5m wide. Prune it when the seed pods fade, to keep it smaller.

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Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)
This beautiful deciduous flowering shrub produces masses of showy flowers; varieties include single, semi-double and double blooms, in shades of purple, violet, blue, pink, red and white, often with a spot of a different colour in the middle of the throat. The individual flowers last for only one day, but numerous flower buds are produced on the shrub's new growth, providing prolific flowering over a long period in late summer and autumn. Rose of Sharon is a dense, upright growing shrub with a vase shape, and makes an excellent screening or hedging plant. It prefers cold, frosty winters and hot summers, tolerating temperatures well below zero with no problem. It grows well throughout South Africa, but does not like high humidity; and although it can withstand dry conditions, it will require regular watering in summer in the winter rainfall regions it. The plant flowers best in full sun but will tolerate light shade; and grows fairly slowly. The varieties vary in height from +-2 to 4m tall, and some can eventually reach +-5m tall and 3m wide.

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Revolution Gold, Black Tea Tree, River Tea Tree (Melaleuca bracteata)
These very low maintenance plants can be pruned into lovely dense shrubs or small trees; making them ideal as informal screening plants and windbreaks. Melaleuca bracteata is a variable species, some populations are rounded shrubs about two metres high, whilst others develop into trees about 15 metres tall. In the garden the plant is generally pruned to keep it small and neat; +-2 to 6m tall and +-1.5 to 2.5m wide. Small needle-like leaves with sharp little points are scattered along the branches; and if crushed they release a lovely lemony fragrance; 'Revolution Green' has green leaves and 'Revolution Gold' has golden-yellow to lime-green foliage. In late winter, spring or summer fluffy creamy-white flowers are carried in clusters, on or near the ends of the branches. They are adaptable to most environments, growing well throughout most regions of South Africa. They will grow in humid regions and in sandy soils near the coast; and although they tolerate reasonably salty winds, they will look at their best if planted in a more protected position. They will also tolerate temperatures as low as -7°C once well established. The plants thrive in full sun but can take some shade.

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White Karee, Witkaree, mosilabele, Garas (Searsia pendulina)
This fast growing indigenous evergreen tree naturally has a low branching habit, and because of its dense growth habit it makes a most effective windbreak or barrier for large properties, farms and game farms. If required, it can be clipped into a formal hedge. It is grown for its graceful habit and its fresh green willow-like leaves that are divided in three (trifoliate). Tiny green flowers are borne in panicles in spring and summer, but they are inconspicuous. The flowers are followed by small green edible fruits that ripen to a reddish colour in autumn. Male and female flowers are borne on separate plants, and only the female plants bear fruit. It does not have an aggressive root system and grows quickly; the eventual height and spread can vary greatly, according to climatic regions and rainfall and the tree can occasionally reach up to 10m tall, but in the garden it will usually grow between 4 to 6m tall and can spread almost as wide. It loves full sun and is hardy to all but severe frost, but will lose some leaves in winter in colder areas. In these regions, cover it for the first couple of winters until it is established. It grows well throughout the country and is hardy to drought, tolerating the dry summers of the winter rainfall regions and withstanding wind, making it an excellent windbreak for coastal regions.

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Tarwood, Wild Pepper Tree, Teerhout (Loxostylis alata)
This ornamental evergreen tree has a compact shape and is usually single-stemmed but branches low down on the trunk.  It is fast growing and will not become too large, making it a good choice for smaller gardens. It can be grown as a large, dense shrub, and if it is pruned regularly, makes a useful screening or boundary plant. Under favourable conditions it can grow to 6m or more, but in gardens it generally grows 5 to 6m tall and about 4m wide. Male and female flowers are produced on separate trees and can appear anytime from spring to late summer. The male flowers are white and pleasantly scented, and the female flowers are greenish white. The petals of the female flowers drop quickly, but their sepals remain, covering the developing fruit and enlarging substantially; turning pink to rust-red and creating a very beautiful display. It thrives in warmer areas but is cultivated in a wide range of habitats. It will tolerate mild frost if it is planted in a protected position in the garden.  Although it will tolerate drought once established, it grows best if watered regularly. It thrives in full sun or semi-shade and requires fertile, compost-enriched soil.

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Kei Apple, Keiappel, umkokola, amaqokolo (Dovyalis caffra)
This dense, spreading, indigenous plant has stems and branches which are armed with spines between 3 and 5cm long, making it a perfect barrier plant for farms and large properties. The roots are non-aggressive and will not damage foundations and pathways. It is very useful to grow as a hedge or screen in regions where low rainfall, and hot days followed by cold nights, make gardening difficult. The creamy-green flowers appear in summer and are sweetly-scented but not particularly attractive, but the bright orange-yellow, edible fruits put on quite a show in late summer. Only female plants bear fruit, so a few specimens should be planted to ensure a supply of fruits. Although the Kei Apple thrives in full sun in the warm coastal areas of the country it will withstand drought and moderate frost once established. This evergreen will lose most of its leaves in winter, in cold regions. It has a slow to moderate growth rate and varies in height from 3 to 8m tall and 2.5 to 3.5m wide. It will grow in any garden soil that drains well. To grow as a hedge plant about 1m apart and prune as required.

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Camphorbush (Tarchonanthus camphoratus)
This tough, fast growing tree is widespread in a variety of habitats throughout South Africa, growing well on the coast as well as in severely cold, dry inland regions. It is an excellent coastal tree that takes strong winds, coastal sea spray and drought. It is a most effective pioneer species that is planted to create shade and shelter for slower growing trees and shrubs. Its hardiness makes it an excellent choice for creating tall hedges or windbreaks in coastal gardens and for binding sand dunes. If it is grown as a single specimen it will grow larger and more densely, forming a good, v-shaped canopy of leaves. The camphor bush is a semi-deciduous small tree that varies in height from 2 to 9m tall. The narrow, felt-like textured leaves are grey-green above and pale grey underneath and give off a strong camphor fragrance when crushed. Creamy-white male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. The attractive fruiting heads are strongly scented and covered with fluff, and the bark is a pale brown.

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Coast Silver Oak, Kusvaalbos, Phahla, Mphahla, umPhahla  (Brachylaena discolor)
This excellent evergreen coastal tree can be found growing from Mozambique to the Eastern Cape and is easily distinguishable  by its silvery-blue appearance. It has a natural tendency to form a dense bushy shrub or a multi-stemmed tree that branches low down, to form an irregular v-shaped canopy. In the garden and in exposed positions it will grow about 4 to 10m tall but in the protection of the forest it can reach 20m or more. The shiny, dark green leaves have grey undersides that are densely covered with silvery hairs. During winter and spring the bush is entirely covered with large panicles of creamy, thistle-like flowers that are rich in nectar; male and female flowers are borne on separate trees; small brown nutlets follow the flowers. It has a non-invasive root system and responds well to pruning, making it an excellent hedging or screening plant that is particularly useful for stabilising dunes. Plant it in full sun or semi-shade, in sandy to loamy soils, with added compost. Mulch thickly and water regularly until established. Once established it is drought and frost resistant.

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Common Holly (Ilex aquifolium)
Several beautiful hybrids and numerous cultivars of holly have been developed for the garden, many with beautiful green and gold, or green and cream variegations. The small, fragrant white flowers appear in summer and are followed by clusters of bright berries in late autumn to mid-winter, displaying beautifully against the glossy dark green, spiny leaves; berries can occasionally be orange. Holly is dioecious, meaning it has separate male and female plants, and both sexes are required for the female plants to produce their berries. They are ideal hedging plants for many reasons; growth is slow so they require little maintenance, and their dense form and prickly leaves are a good deterrent for intruders. Trimmed they make superb formal or informal hedges, providing an excellent windbreak which is also pollution resistant. Hollies vary greatly in height and spread; the common holly grows initially as a large shrub +-2 to 3m tall, with a spread of +-1.2 to 1.5m, but at maturity can reach 25m tall. Holly is a hardy plant capable of surviving in most conditions, except where it is extremely wet. It prefers cool moist regions and is hardy to severe frost. It does not like humid regions, but will tolerate warmer areas if the summer rainfall is good and it is planted in a cool shady spot in the garden. They will grow in full sun, semi-shade and even full shade. Water regularly during long dry spells.

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Cape Holly, Waterboom, monamane, iPhuphuma, umDuma, phukgile,
(Ilex mitis)
This beautiful indigenous tree is a close relative of the European holly, but it does not have the characteristic, sharply spiny leaves. It is very widely distributed in Africa, growing from sea level to high mountains, in all the provinces. It produces a straight trunk and a dense, rounded crown of dark green leaves, carried on plum-coloured stalks; new growth is a reddish brown. The small white flowers are sweetly scented and are borne in spring or early summer; the plants are dioecious, meaning male and female flowers are borne on separate trees. The flowers are not very showy, but in autumn and winter the female trees bear heavy crops of small red, holly-like berries. In the wild it is a tall tree that can grow from 7 to 20m tall, but in cultivation it is a small to medium-sized tree that seldom grows taller than 8m. It makes a good hedging plant and can be clipped into almost any shape and size; making it perfect for formal gardens. Ilex grows best in regions with temperate summers and good rainfall. It will grow throughout the country as long as it can be watered regularly. Although it loves water it will tolerate long periods of drought. It is hardy to frost and relatively fast growing (about 80cm per year). Plant it in a sheltered position in full sun or semi-shade.

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Bay Leaf, Sweet Bay (Laurus nobilis)
This evergreen tree will vary in height and spread, depending on climate and rainfall. It is a slow grower and under optimal conditions can eventually reach a height of +-12m or more, with a spread of 10m. Bay leaf trees respond very well to pruning, making them an excellent choice for topiary, and well suited to formal gardens. They make superb slow growing hedges or screening plants; and their dark green leaves provide an ideal backdrop for other plants. Pruning is usually done in spring, once all danger of frost is over, but light trimming can be done at any time during the growing season. They grow well throughout South Africa and are reasonably tolerant of salty sea spray but will do better in coastal regions if planted in a sheltered position. In hot dry summer regions they will need moderate watering during the growing season. In cool to warm areas they will thrive in full sun, but in hot dry or tropical regions they will appreciate some shade during the hottest part of the day. They are fully hardy to -5°C but in severely cold regions young trees will need protection from cold, drying winds and severe frost until they are well established.

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Water Berry, Waterbessie, umDoni, umSwi, umJoni   (Syzygium cordatum)
The water berry is a gorgeous tree for large properties, but it needs to be planted well away from building foundations, walls, paving etc. where its strong root system will not cause damage, and it can be allowed to spread. Planted close it makes a tall, fast growing screen or hedge. This medium to large evergreen shade tree has a tall, upright growth habit, and a lovely rounded crown. It varies in height from 6 to 15m, but has been known to reach up to 20m.The elliptic to almost round leaves are bluish green on top and paler green below; and the new growth is pinkish-red. Fleshy, deep pink berries follow the flowers, ripening to purple-black when mature. It grows best in moist, subtropical and warm-temperate climates. It will tolerate moderate frost once established but is not recommended for very dry regions or regions with severe frost. It will grow rapidly if it is grown near water or is watered regularly in the garden. In cold regions, water less during the winter months. Plant it in full sun in fertile soil with lots of added compost; mulch the roots regularly to conserve water.

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Common Yew, English Yew, European Yew (Taxus baccata)
Taxus is a genus of small coniferous trees or shrubs in the yew family Taxaceae. They are relatively slow-growing and can be very long-lived. Ancient specimens can reach heights of 10 to 20 metres or more; with a trunk up to 2 to 4 metres in diameter; but because of its slow growth the common yew is generally sold as a small to medium-sized evergreen tree. Its bark is brown and scaly, coming off in small flakes; and the dark green leaves are arranged spirally on the stem, but with the leaf bases twisted to align the leaves in two flat rows on either side of the stem. The spring flowers are insignificant and unlike most other conifers; in place of cones, they bear a unique single seed surrounded by a fleshy covering called an aril. These small, red berry-like fruits covering the seeds appear only on female trees, and are the only nontoxic part of the Yew. Yews are widely used in landscaping; and due to their dense foliage and their tolerance of even severe pruning, they are extremely popular for formal hedges, topiary and mazes. For a new Yew hedge, space the plants about 45 to 60cm apart. Because of their relatively slow growth rate, they will only need clipping once a year in late summer. The only essential prerequisite for successfully growing Yew is good drainage, and they tolerate growing in a wide range of soils as long as they are well-drained. Yews thrive in full sun but will grow in semi-shade and even complete shade, although in deep shade growth is less dense. They are extremely hardy to cold and frost; and tolerate wind but not maritime exposure. Although they are drought tolerant, they grow well in regions with good summer rainfall and respond well to regular watering during dry spells.

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