7 Jun 2021

‘It’s true, everything we do, we do it for Yew’

Alex Summers

Our Estate Team have been very busy over the last few months! As well as updating our Sakura Cherry Orchard and preparing the Restoration Lakes Project ready for our reopening they have also found the time to create a brand new Yew Circle in our Arboretum.

Replacing an existing, very small Yew Circle planted in 2019 and inspired by recent revelations regarding the connection of West Wales to the blue stones that make up Stone Henge, the National Botanic Garden of Wales is proud to unveil our new and improved Yew Circle. (The Garden is also home to a couple of Preseli Blue Stones on the opposite side of Llyn Uchaf from our Yew Circle.)

Yew trees, as well as stones, were often used by Neolithic communities to create circles potentially as sites for gathering, though no-one knows the exact reason for these formations. Due to their regenerative properties Taxus baccata (Common Yew) has long been celebrated due to the great lifespan of these trees and the subsequent symbolism for life and death which have arisen. This is why you will find Yew trees in churchyards and at other pre-Christian sites and they are a key part of Welsh and British cultural history. Who knows perhaps these Yews will live to be over 2,000 years old!

Measuring an impressive 12 metres in diameter our Estate Team undertook the monumental task of removing the turf for this near 60 metre circumference circle by hand to give our new Yew trees the best possible start in life. The removed turf has been placed upturned around the edge of the circle to create low mounds which offer the young trees some protection from the wind. These mounds will be sown with wildflower seed to benefit the Garden’s pollinators and to create a floral perimeter to welcome you to the circle.

Our Yew Circle is made up of 19 Yew Trees (Taxus baccata) with 14 trees in the outer circle with one tree planted in the centre and an inner circle of four trees planted on the cardinal points of north, south, east and west. Once the turf was removed many tractor loads of top soil were brought down to backfill the depression which was then topped with an equal amount of bark mulch. This mulch should suppress the return of grasses to allow the trees to establish without competition (although we do imagine there will be occasional weeding to do!)

The Yew trees finally went into the ground on Thursday the 4th of March 2021. We added some mulch to each hole consisting completely of Taxus baccata which we had produced from some pruning work undertaken earlier to another Yew tree in the Garden. This Yew mulch should give the trees a boost with the exact nutrients required for healthy growth.

You will notice that the circle has been fenced off with a low chicken wire mesh to deter the resident Fallow Deer population from investigating our new plantings (we hope that they don’t jump over it!) Although Yew trees are generally poisonous (needles, wood and seed are all toxic to most animals) deer will browse on their needles in winter when there is little else to eat. Deer can also cause damage by rubbing their antlers on trees so until our Yews get a little bigger we will need to keep them safe.

You can find the Yew Circle not far from the Arboretum entrance next to our Australasia area. Please come and have a look and chat with our Estate Team who will likely be giving the trees a water in the summer!