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Cornucopia - Yew and non-yew

Yew and non-yew
Compo Steep

One of my favourite, and certainly in my opinion one of the funniest (not much competition) gardening books ‘Yew and non-Yew’ by James Bartholomew came to mind recently on one of our rare bank holiday excursions to visit a garden that had been recommended to us. The book is a rather tongue in cheek look at us ‘haughty-culturists’, and despite it having been written in 1996, our recent experience showed it is still relevant today. Having had our NGS visit (and thoroughly enjoying it) we got a bit carried away and being in the vicinity of one of our favourite (non-Kent) nurseries thought we would ‘pop in’. Now, in the book one of the comparisons are Garden Centres against Nurseries, and one of the differences stated is that ‘Nurseries’ (Yew) “typically are not open all the time. In case that is not inconvenient enough for you, the catalogue has no pictures”. You can guess what happened next, having gone miles out of our way, and typically specialist nurseries are miles out of the way, it was closed. It was doubly irritating in that Mrs Steep, drawing on years of nursery visiting experience, had suggested that a phone-call might be sensible. Fortunately, there was a disruption to the subsequent homeward-bound stony silence. In our attempt to find civilisation, we stumbled across a Garden Centre (non-Yew) which was displaying the words ‘Massive’ and ‘Clearance’ used in a dangerous combination with ‘Plant’ and ‘Sale’ causing a ‘near miss’ in traffic terms!

We started with one trolley… and as they really wanted to get rid of the plants, (and were priced accordingly) we ended up with two! The main problem arose when our plant caravan arrived at the till. There was only one in operation, and had the ‘bank holiday staff’ on it. Not a problem until a queue started forming, but a couple of tannoy queries later we felt the waves of hate that seem to occur at these times. I know it’s unreasonable of us to be buying plants at a garden centre, especially as they were waiting to purchase their Kendal Mint Cake, silk flowers, and BBQ tongs, and we were standing in their way. Suddenly, the universe stopped, and for a nano-second the world tilted on its axis, as people realised that a new till had opened. We were eventually released back into the community with the simple task of trying to work out how to insert the ‘irresistible’ 8 ft. tall Cercis 'Forest Pansy' (very Yew) into the car. I think this is why our excursions are so rare, how about Yew?

First published in the Kent Group Newsletter, Autumn 2009
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 26.
© Copyright for this article: Compo Steep

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2010. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.


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