is for Yew Trees, wise guardians of the dead.
If I had a garden….I would plant it with masses of conifers. Tall ones, small ones, dwarf and spreading, I love them; but my favourite of all is the Yew.
Because when seen in a typical English country churchyard, all rich dark green and sometimes sooty black…clipped and often shaped to that never intended by nature; they appear to be watching and waiting for….something. I don’t know what these stunning trees could be waiting for but I wouldn’t be surprised if….come night fall when the village sleeps, they uproot themselves and wander around their melancholy domain just because they can….maybe.
Yes, I know that’s really fanciful but that’s how I see Yews. They live, breath and think and are blessed with the wisdom of ages. They never fail to give me goosebumps when I see them flanking a path to the church door, or grouped almost protectively around graves as in the image below. The Yew, then has been the subject of myth, legend and worship for centuries, and it is said that this is rooted in Plato’s teachings that evergreen plants are associated with the immortality of the soul.
Beautiful ancient clipped yews among table top graves. The Yew has been the subject of myth, legend and worship for centuries, and it is said that this is rooted in Plato’s teachings that evergreen plants are associated with the immortality of the soul, and in Wales the Yew is indeed the symbol of immortality arising from the pre-Christian beliefs and customs of Celt Druids. Yews were planted around Pagan temples and later, this custom was adopted by Christians as a ‘Holy Symbol’ and consequently Yews were planted in British graveyards as a symbol of everlasting life.
Yews can live for hundreds of years, indeed some say thousands of years and some very ancient British Yews are the only survivors of lost Medieval villages. Yews have a maximum height of 33ft they grow very slowly and larger trees have two or more trunks growing and uniting through fusion. And in this case, they can have a circumference of up to 57ft. So goodness only knows how old these trees are. I wonder what they could tell us if they could talk.
Yews in Borley church yard, Suffolk
Can you see the ghost nun amongst the Yews? Borley church yard