Yew or Beech for Hedging?

(Question)

Good morning, I want to plant a hedge under the dining room window to provide some screening (pic included):

Target final height 7′ / 8′
Bed width 2′-6″
Total length 14′
Drip line for watering

N exposure, top soil, 2-3 hours afternoon sun/day

Option 1. Hicks or Hills Yew
doubts- would they reach targeted height?
– would they keep the upright shape in winter with snow built up?

– which one should we get- hicks or hills?

Option 2. Beech

doubts- would it grow well with N exposure?

– is the bed width sufficient for growth with it disturbing the paving?

Other options we should consider?

 

(Answer)

You have obviously given this project considerable thought. In terms of plant choice both yew and beech are good options for providing the screening you wish for. Having thought about this for a couple of days a yew hedge might be the better choice. Yews (Taxus spp) will certainly grow to 8 feet and can reach 15-20 feet according to the “Reader’s Digest Illustrated Guide to Gardening in Canada”. Yews tolerate shade and are hardy in Zones 4-5. In your situation, with a northern exposure, a yew hedge will grow quite nicely.  Drying winds can be a problem but placing the hedge near the house avoids that issue. Regarding the choice of Hicks Yew (Taxus  x media “Hicksii”) over Hill’s Yew (Taxus x media “Hillii”) there does not appear to be much difference between the two. Hill’s Yew has a slightly slower rate of growth and produces a bushier plant.   Both provide dense foliage and are relatively low maintenance plants because of their slow growth. They can be pruned at any time. Yews are evergreens so you will have colour interest throughout winter. Your actual choice, however, will probably be determined by what nursery stock is available to you.

American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) and Common Beech (Fagus sylvatica) should really be positioned in full sun for optimum growing conditions. It will not do as well in a northern exposure especially as Zone 6 is the recommended hardiness level.  Having said that there is a beech hedge growing outside the buildings of the Toronto Botanical Gardens. A beech hedge will not provide such a dense screen as a yew hedge. Furthermore, over the years it will take up more of your valuable time in pruning and trimming to keep its size in check.

Here is some general information for your consideration prior to planting your hedge.  It’s best to plant evergreens (Yew) in early fall giving them time to establish themselves before winter.  Consider the height and width of the plant at maturity. Look at the plant tag to see just how wide and tall the plant is expected to grow. Its important not plant too close to the house. Leave at least 3 feet of space if you intend to clean your windows. That way you can get a ladder in behind the plants. It’s also a good idea to leave space so air circulation and light keeps dampness down on the walls of your house.   You also need to plant away from the overhang and drip edge of the house. You do not want snow falling off the roof onto the plants as it will impact on their upright structure. Its quite possible branches will snap off.

You will need to dig holes wide enough and deep enough to accommodate the root ball of each plant. Work organic material into the removed soil prior to filling in the hole once the plant is placed in it. Make sure the plant is a couple of inches higher than the surface of the soil, as this will help with drainage. Space apart should be about 3 feet. Water well before the ground freezes.

Please note that some parts of a yew are toxic if ingested, such as the red fruit on the female plant. Pets and children could be at risk.

With regard to other options please visit the Toronto Master Gardener site at http://www.torontomastergardeners.ca/ask-list/ and search for hedging or hedges.