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The Tuesday tree: a yew for artists and dreamers

February 28, 2012

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.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Annamum permalink
    February 28, 2012 11:06 pm

    Great inspiration for textural embroidery!

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 28, 2012 11:20 pm

      Aha, trust you to see that! 🙂 I like the little spikes on the branch in the 4th photo down – like a stubbly chin.

  2. February 29, 2012 1:41 am

    What lovely inhabitants live on your farm

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 29, 2012 11:08 am

      Yes indeed, our neighbours are pretty special!

  3. Erika W. permalink
    February 29, 2012 1:25 pm

    I sometimes wear an odd little pendant given to my grandmother by her Lithuanian nurse, for protection. It is of Perkunas, the thunder God, in his role as the green man of the forest. I find it charming–a powerful face looking out from surrounding green leaves. I have always found it interesting that through history children are warned away from the particular dangers that may be around them–in Lithuania the dangerous folk tale characters are associated with the forests and trees are either protecting or ominous.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 29, 2012 3:11 pm

      Your green man pendant sounds very special. Forests and trees have always been ambiguous in folklore, haven’t they? The Forest was the epitome of the Wild in the Middle Ages: hence the Robin Hood legends, as outlaws always escaped into the vast forests that lapped at the settlements of men. We have lost the primeval forests now, but retain our awe of the trees. (Some of us more than others! 😉 )

  4. Toffeeapple permalink
    February 29, 2012 3:08 pm

    The bark and the wood of Yew fascinates me. You are lucky to have so many.

    • dancingbeastie permalink*
      February 29, 2012 8:51 pm

      Yes, they fascinate me too, and I am indeed lucky. I was out taking more photos of yews today!

  5. February 29, 2012 11:27 pm

    The yew trunks in top two photos are amazing, DB – like distorted Gothic columns and so powerful. i love yews for their age and mystery and for the folk-lore and tradition lined with them. Sadly we’ve lost a couple of the original seven yew trees in our churchyard but the others are magnificent specimens. I also like it that they give us a very potent and effective drug against cancer.

  6. March 1, 2012 4:45 pm

    Trees always amaze me, with the inherent history within and without them… if they were sentient beings what emotions would they carry within them?

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