Hicks Yew substitute?

(Question)

I have received a design from a landscaper that involves planting Hicks Yews next to the house to create an evergreen background for the plants in front. However, they are very expensive plants and she has suggested putting 4 foot Hicks Yews 2 feet apart. If I put them 3 feet apart, how long will it take for them to fill in?the area isvery sunny – south facing and gets many hours of direct sun per day.Are there other shrubs I could consider which would be less expensive or grow faster Ultimately, I
want a thin hedge (that doesn’t encroach on other plants in the bed) that is about 6 feet high.

(Answer)

Here’s what you should consider. If you want an immediate, well established, somewhat traditional looking hedge, you should take the advice of your landscaper and plant the yews closer together. Yews are not noted for being fast growers, even if in full sun. I have a couple that I keep trimmed and I perhaps remove 2-3 inches of new growth every summer. Thus, it might take a few years to make up that extra distance between two feet apart and three feet apart. It’s hard to give exact numbers as growth rates depend on sun, soil, water, nutrients, location, and variable seasonal temperatures. If, on the other hand, you are happy to let the garden evolve and take a couple of years to look ‘established’, feel free to plant the yews further apart.

Personally, I favour planting them further apart. Good air circulation around each plant is healthy and cuts down on pests and disease occurences. It also gives each yew a bit more room to grow healthy roots with less competition for water. Aesthetically, I prefer the defined shapes of each plant instead of a wall of green, but that’s a personal preference, not objective horticulture advice. You should take some time and decide on your aesthetic preferences as once you plant these shrubs they’re there for a long, long time.There are many other possibilities for hedging — cedars, hydrangeas, privet, forsythia, just to name a few. You could even build a trellis and grow vines.
But, now we’ve opened a whole new can of worms. Let’s look at other choices for an evergreen hedge. Cedars are inexpensive and grow very fast. But, they require more maintenance to keep them six feet and compact. Also, they are not as elegant as a yew, and the colour is different. I have a lovely shaped cedar hedge in my back yard because I want my back yard to look ‘cottagey’, and I give them a major pruning at least twice a year.

I like my front yard to look a bit more ‘formal’, so I’ve used perfectly pruned yews. But I only need give them a trim once a year.

Falling in the middle in terms of growth, expense and maintenance would be junipers. They come in different shapes, sizes and shades of green and blues which is an added bonus.

To summarize my musings, here’s what you need to decide. Formal or natural? High maintenance or low maintenance? Established or evolving?If you have other questions based on these decisions, please ask. Remember, these plants are a long term investment, take your time.