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Avatar for Afrederick88
Jun 6, 2020 12:56 PM CST
Western Mass
My girlfriend and I recently bought a house together. The hedges in the front of the house are way to big and want to know if there is a way to drastically cut them down to size or if we'd be better off digging them up and starting fresh? From plant apps, I believe it is some sort of Yew. Pictures included.
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Jun 6, 2020 2:26 PM CST
Name: Big Bill
Livonia Michigan (Zone 6a)
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I think that you are between the proverbial rock and a hard place!
If you drastically trim back yews, they probably will recover over time. Perhaps within four or five years they will look like something. Yeah, they will look like a yew!! I am not a big fan of yews. There are so many superior things to plant other then yews!!!

And if you decide to dig them out, for a homeowner, that is a huge job! If they were mine, I would bite the bullet and hire someone to dig them out.
Taught classes on Orchids and Orchid growing and led hundreds of bird walks. Retired Wildlife Biologist.
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Jun 6, 2020 5:05 PM CST
Name: Sally
central Maryland (Zone 7b)
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so, yes you can cut back those yews any way you like, they will put out new growth from the stems you leave. The more you cut into them, the more bare stem you'll see for a while. Will have an awkward phase while they grow back out.

As Bill said, yews are not anything to write home about IMHO. But you can't kill them either. If you have other things to work on, these can be lived with.
If you decide to replace them, you won't want to plant until fall, so don't rush to rip these out and plant new shrubs in the heat of midsummer.
I'm not so intimidated by old bushes. Elbow grease and young backs! Or you wrap a chain around the base of each, hook to a pickup, pull them out.
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Jun 6, 2020 6:15 PM CST
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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Cut them down a couple inches below the height you want them to be. They will grow back.
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Jun 6, 2020 6:30 PM CST
Name: Tara
NE. FL. (Zone 9a)
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Yeah, I'd certainly cut them back, and study the area...with the thought of pulling them out and replacing...
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Jun 7, 2020 3:13 PM CST
Name: John
Scott County, KY (Zone 5b)
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If you decide to eliminate them, consider that Yew wood is extremely rot resistant, and the framework of these plants is often quite interesting. Cut off at the ground, you could take the rest and use it as yard art, bird feeder hanger, all kinds of ideas.

Or, pass it on to someone who likes to carve or make things from interesting pieces of wood. Give it an additional life beyond yard waste at the curb.

While I might generally agree with the chain and 4WD approach to ripping out something I don't want to dig, I would think twice with doing that with plants that close to the house. There may be unknown things underground there that may be pricey to repair, or downright dangerous to disturb (some explosive utility lines come to mind).

I have had the pleasure (!) of digging out old Yew plants, back when I was a much more strapping energetic young man. It was awful then, as the extensive roots were like iron against a sharpened D-handled solid steel shovel. Did I say extensive? The roots don't end at the edge of the foliage you see. They will extend all along the front of your house, and are no easier to remove out at their ends than near the trunk of the plant.

With that sunny outlook, make peace with whatever choice you pursue. It is worth the exercise and experience to try the "hatrack" approach of severely cutting back all the branches, and observing how this species of plant is able to recover from that treatment. American Holly is another plant that has traditionally been rejuvenated this way. Not many conifers can be. If you decide you don't like the results, you can dispose of the rest at your leisure.

IN ANY EVENT: document and show us what you do! Evidence is not shared often enough, as a step-by-step primer for those that follow in your gardening footsteps.
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