yew for tight, narrow topiary form

5 months ago

I want to create a narrow sun/privacy screen in a section of my small zone 6a, full-sun urban garden. My idea is to have a rectangular yew monolith (or two) with dimensions of approximately 12"W x 8"D x 7'H. My two top contenders are Taxus x media 'Hicksii' and Taxus x media 'Stonehenge Skinny'.

My understanding is that "Skinny" is extremely narrow with strongly fastigiate branch growth (branches essentially all parallel to the trunk.) By this measure, I could simply plant a couple of these and let them go without pruning, and they would fill the small space admirably. However, I don't want to just let them be. My garden contains several contorted, weeping, and otherwise unkempt-looking specimens, and I intend this planting as a contrast, with a very controlled, sharp-edged topiary form--along the lines of the metal object from "2001, A Space Odyssey" or that short-lived Utah Desert monolith--perhaps with a slightly floppy bend at the top.

My concerns with the "Skinny" are:

• Would it be difficult to prune in this manner, especially in terms of width? How well would those extremely upright branches respond to pruning for width? The descriptions I have read of it online usually mention that no pruning "is needed", but they don't address whether or not it is a good idea.

• What is the growth rate, especially the horizontal growth rate, and thus how long would it take to a) need pruning and b) recover from it.

The Hicks yew is touted as ideal for topiary and easy to control in size and to maintain a tight, dense leaf (needle) structure, but I still have questions:

• Will it grow too fast for my allotted space? I enjoy the pruning and shaping process, and hope to play around with the shape over time. That said, I would hope that if I were to trim as infrequently as twice a year, the plant won't have gotten outrageously out of hand.

• Can a Hicks yew be kept to such narrow dimensions as 8 inches wide without damage?

Finally, is there another yew altogether that would suit this situation better? I wish to stick to yew if possible, for personal reasons.

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