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There are only about ten species of yew, but there are also plenty of cultivars, mainly of the English yew, T. baccata. Yew is a very slow-growing, evergreen tree. Its interest lies in the dense nature of its branches and foliage. The leaves are like short, flat needles and lie on either side of the shoots. They are generally dark green, which is a good colour for creating a solid barrier such as a hedge. It is a good contrasting colour to that of most flowers, making them stand out and thus is ideal for the background to borders and beds. The dense nature of the yew also makes it suitable for topiary, as it will retain its shape well. As well as acting as a background to other planting, yew make very good specimen trees, some huge examples are thousands of years old. Most of these examples are large and spreading, but there are cultivars available that form compact columns (T.b. ‘Fastigiata’ for example). Although the predominant colour is dark green there are also various golden-leaved forms. Yews flower in early spring and produce berries rather than cones. These berries are poisonous if eaten. The foliage can also be poisonous to certain animals, for instance sheep, so avoid planting it on field boundaries.

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