The Tuesday tree: a yew for artists and dreamers
Some of the strongest presences here at Castle Beastie are the yew trees. We have a large number of them, a few of which are thought to be as old as the castle, which would mean that they were planted in the fifteenth century. Planted closely in a long avenue, they reach up rather than outwards and have not grown particularly wide. The yews that are spaced further apart or singly, however, have had room to expand over the centuries. Their massive trunks look like ropes or snakes twined together: there is something sinuous, fluid and intensely alive about these trees. You can easily find faces in their twisted trunks, and imagine the Green Man looking down at you from the hairy boughs.
There is one in the garden that I particularly like. It is one of several which are believed to be survivors of the original planting of the walled garden in the seventeenth century. The Laird of the time had gone to university in Leiden, and returned to Scotland enthused by the latest Dutch fashions in formal gardens. One expert on historical gardens tells me that these yews were probably intended to be clipped topiary, either balls or cones. Over time, however, as fashions changed towards a more informal look, the regimented yews were allowed to grow out of their confines. Three and a half centuries later, they are the dominant feature of the garden: broad, twisting, many-limbed and mysterious. One could pass many hours drawing their infinite details, or just contemplating them and their slow, inscrutable history.
For a post about the fate of another yew here, see The Tuesday tree: yew.