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Saving the Common Yew at St. Margarets Church, Rainham, Kent (written 31 July 2009 for the congregation).

Over the years, damage has occurred to the branches coming from this multi-trunked yew tree. Some of this is where a branch has broken off or broken at the junction with its trunk leaving a jagged edge. When it rains, the water collects in this jagged edge and provides a carrier for rot bacteria to enter and break down the strength of the Heartwood. This has happened down the middle of most of the trunks. Mr Noakes (Churchwarden) and I are excavating and removing as much of this rot as possible before replacing it with Polycell Expanding Foam (which contains Diphenylmethane-4, 4-diisocyanate) and empty bottles. The empty bottles reduce the number of cans of Polycell Expanding Foam used. This Foam is normally used in the construction industry to fill the space between Windows and Walls and thus prevent draughts round the edge of the windows. In this case, it fills all the space occupied by the removed rot and if any beastie tries eating it, it will be killed by the cyanate in it. This also prevents the bacteria from having access to air/rain; thus hopefully stopping any further internal rot. Unfortunately the Foam is attacked by light, becomes brittle and flakes off, so we are painting it twice with Black Masonry Paint to prevent that. The Masonry Paint is a plastic film which is flexible, so if the tree moves the paint will move with it rather than cracking apart



The following Diagram is from Wikipedia.org/wiki/wood.jpg:-



When a tree grows it has Bark on the outside, which is the tree's growth area. 


Inside that are the xylem sections which are responsible for the transport of water and soluble mineral nutrients from the roots throughout the plant. 


Inside that is Heartwood. Heartwood is wood that has become more resistant to decay as a result of deposition of chemical substances (a genetically programmed process). Once heartwood formation is complete, the heartwood is dead. Some uncertainty still exists as to whether heartwood is truly dead, as it can still chemically react to decay organisms, but only once (Shigo 1986, 54).


The Bark and Xylem sections on the outer part of the trunk or branch are quite thin. The Heartwood does the structural support of the entire tree. The Heartwood is dead and therefore if anything attacks it, the tree cannot defend itself from woodworm, wet rot, dry rot, honey fungus etc. Therefore if the Heartwood is exposed it needs to be defended against attack. It used to be done using concrete, but unfortunately concrete shrinks when it cures and therefore it allows for air and water to get at the heartwood again. If the tree bark and cambium layer is broken apart all the way round a trunk so that the lower liquid in it cannot connect with the liquid in the higher trunk, then all the trunk above that will die.

Some of the branches have fallen away from the trunk and are almost on the ground, but are supported on thin branches from them to the ground (the next paragraph explains how we will provide nutrients for these thin branches in the ground). We will replace the rot at the trunk-branch connection with Foam and apply the Masonry Paint. All the exposed Heartwood on these branches and the rest of the tree will also be liberally painted with the Black Masonry Paint to prevent woodworm or anything else from eating or changing it thus removing its function of holding up the rest of the tree. The colour of the paint is immaterial but black is easy to buy and does not draw attention to the fact that 20% of the tree will have to be painted, unless you wish us to create a painted work of art!

The roots of a tree are generally embedded in earth, providing anchorage for the above-ground biomass and absorbing water, air and nutrients from the soil. It should be noted, however, that while ground nutrients are essential to a tree's growth the majority of its biomass comes from carbon dioxide absorbed from the atmosphere. Some of the area round the tree has been used to dump the subsoil from digging graves. Subsoil has no nutrients and so is not a benefit for the yew tree. We can change the subsoil into topsoil by mulching it with organic material which the worms will take down into this subsoil. It is suggested that all the flowers and foliage from the church and churchyard are placed on top of the pile of branches on the ground next to the trunk between 9.00 and 10.00 o’clock when looking at the tree from Station Road. These can then be spread over the area (under the tree not cut by the lawnmowers) before covering it over with a thin layer of shreddings of tree prunings to make it look tidy. The shreddings will come from professional tree surgeons; and as they decompose this mulch will replenish the minerals for the tree. You will notice in a natural wood, that when the leaves and branches fall on the ground, they are not removed but are recycled by the worms and bacteria for the trees to reuse the minerals for future growth. This new mulch will duplicate this natural process in a neater fashion.

This repair and restorative work will take some time for David and I to complete


The Yew Tree of St Margaret’s Church, Rainham, Kent,

written by Clifford Hansford. Contributory Member of the Ancient Yew Group www.ancient-yew.org


Observations of the tree’s current restoration/conservation work now nearing completion, 15th February 2010.


The following observations have been recorded in response to a request from Tim Hills (Ancient Yew Group) for information relating to the particular method currently being used to rescue and protect the above yew from further decay. It is hoped that the information will be of use to assist Mr Russell Ball, President of the United Kingdom & Ireland International Society of Arboriculture, in assessing the methods’ acceptability for such a task.

Having learned of the tree’s plight from a colleague at the Kent Wildlife Trust, and visited the yew on Sat’ 13th February with Mr Chris Garnons-Williams, who is undertaking the work, my understanding of the situation is as follows:-

1: This yew (recorded in the AYG Gazetteer) is believed by the church to be an ancient yew of approximately 1300 years old.

2: Concern was raised by members of the church regarding the way in which the open centre of the yew retained water. Such water retention was believed to be accelerating the decay already prevalent in this area of the yew. Also, it was noted that other areas of the yew were displaying similar symptoms, particularly where a large branch had partially broken away from the main trunk.

3: Having engaged the services of Chris Garnons-Williams, the proprietor of Ivydene Horticultural Services (www.ivydenegardens.co.uk) a horticulturalist, it was agreed to implement the current method of recovery and conservation as Chris has proved it successful when used on other types of tree.

Firstly, all old decayed material is removed. All hollows and cavities are then back-filled with a combination of empty bottles (supplied by the pub next door to the church) and expandable polystyrene foam. The bottles are used to help fill the cavities, thus saving money on the use of foam. Care is taken to ensure the foam forms around the bottles, and mates with all areas of surrounding heartwood. Finally two coats of black masonry, water based paint is applied to both the foam and locally exposed heartwood (Without a paint covering the foam decays if directly exposed to sunlight).

4: To date £700 has been spent on this work, (£200 donated directly by a group of church members and the remainder supplied from church funds).


An assortment of different size bottles, ranging from whiskey and wine (large bottles) to the smaller fruit juice bottles, are used depending on the size of the cavities/gaps to be filled.

In hindsight, Chris would recommend the use of high-pressure water to remove the decayed wood rather than screwdrivers and other blade-type implements. The residual water left from the process would help to set the expandable polystyrene foam.

Work started in August 2009, with a break during the cold weather, and is still ongoing. A further five to ten days is anticipated for completion.

All old, firm wood has been left in situ. Lots of new shoots are now forming.

Between Chris and myself we were able to measure the girth of the yew as being 26 feet at its base.

It just so happened that on the day Chris and I met for the first time (13 Feb 2010), the church had its annual open day. This gave me an opportunity to learn from church members how very determined they are to preserve this much respected yew.


Western facing aspect.



View of Eastern aspect.




View of Southern aspect


View of Northern aspect which indicates the open centre before preservation action.




View of Northern aspect with Clifford Hansford - after preservation action.




Bottle-filled foam repair.


View showing filled split in a limb growing from a fallen branch.



A minor point to remember is the following penalties from Tree Prervation Orders: A guide to the Law and Good Practice:-


9.13 Anyone who cuts down, uproots, tops, lops, wilfully destroys or wilfully damages a tree in a conservation area without giving a section 211 notice (or otherwise in contravention of section 211) is guilty of an offence. The same penalties as those for contravening a TPO apply (see Chapter 10 of this Guide). For example, anyone who cuts down a tree in a conservation area without giving a section 211 notice is liable, if convicted in the Magistrates' Court, to a fine of up to £20,000. Anyone who carries out work in a way that is not likely to destroy the tree is liable to a fine in the Magistrates' Court of up to £2,500.

Replacement Of Trees: Enforcement

9.14 If a tree in a conservation area is removed, uprooted or destroyed in contravention of section 211 the landowner is placed under a duty to plant another tree of an appropriate size and species at the same place as soon as he or she reasonably can.116 The same duty applies if a tree is removed because it is dead, dying or dangerous or because it is causing a nuisance.117 The duty attaches to subsequent owners of the land, although the LPA have powers to dispense with the duty.118 The LPA may enforce the duty by serving a tree replacement notice under section 207 of the Act (see Chapter 11 of this Guide).

109 See regulation 10.

110 Anyone proposing to cut down a tree in a conservation area on the grounds that it is dead, dying or has become dangerous is advised to give the LPA five days' notice before carrying out the work, except in an emergency.

111 Diameter as measured at 1.5m above ground level. In the case of multi-stemmed trees, the exemption applies only if the diameters of all the stems are less than 75 millimetres or 100 millimetres, as the case may be."

If as the owner you do nothing, there is no problem despite the fact that the above tree in St Margerets would rot internally, fall apart and die off. If you prune one leaf off the tree then you can be fined £2500, if you have not got the neccessary permission from your local authority.

I was handed a sheet stating best practice for trees from the the local Tree Officer from the local council on 20 May 2011. Contained in the first section of that sheet of best practice I read that carpet may be laid round the tree to conserve moisture. The yew tree is at the top of a mound of waste subsoil put there from gravedigging. Most of modern carpet backing is plastic and therefore if that was done, the rain would fall on the carpet and run off it beyond the drip line of the tree, thus as the tree roots take up the water then dehydrating the ground occurs. Best practice!!!! Putting the carpet there would also stop the Carbon Cycle and the Nitrogen Cycle of the tree, since it would stop gaseous exchange from the roots in the ground to the air.

Due to the expertise of the local authority, people living in the UK would be advised to not allow any of their vegetation to exceed 75mm in diameter at 1.5 metres from the ground, otherwise you are likely to end up in court.

As of May 2013, do remember that this wise UK government is overspending by 120,000 million pounds each year for the past 3 years and will need to pay that back. Make sure on your new property that it has no vegetation within its boundary so that you can avoid the likely fines due to allowing plants to grow from your property to the public property outside, if any of those plants are detailed in Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981



For educational purposes, so that people following best practice can fully understand why the evergreen trees never lose their leaves; here are the written facts from The Book of Nature Myths by Florence Holbrooke:-


'Winter was coming, and the birds had flown south, where the air was warm and they could find berries to eat. One little bird had broken its wing and could not fly with the others. It was alone in the cold world of frost and snow. The forest looked warm, and it made its way to the trees as well as it could, to ask for help.

First, it came to a birch-tree. "Beautiful birch-tree," it said, "my wing is broken, and my friends have flown away. May I live among your branches till they come back to me?"

"No, indeed," answered the birch-tree, drawing her fair green leaves away. "We of the great forest have our own birds to help. I can do nothing for you."

"The birch-tree is not very strong," said the little bird to itself, "and it might be that she could not hold me easily. I will ask the oak." So the bird said, "Great oak-tree, you are so strong, will you not let me live on your boughs till my friends come back in the springtime?"

"In the springtime!" cried the oak. "That is a long way off. How do I know what you might do in all that time? Birds are always looking for something to eat, and you might even eat up some of my acorns."

"It may be that the willow will be kind to me," thought the bird, and it said, "Gentle willow, my wing is broken, and I could not fly to the south with the other birds. May I live on your branches till the springtime?"

The willow did not look gentle then, for she drew herself up proudly and said, "Indeed, I do not know you, and we willows never talk to people whom we do not know. Very likely there are trees somewhere that will take in strange birds. Leave me at once."

The poor little bird did not know what to do. Its wing was not yet strong, but it began to fly away as well as it could. Before it had gone far, a voice was heard. "Little bird," it said, "where are you going?"

"Indeed, I do not know," answered the bird sadly. "I am very cold."

"Come right here, then," said the friendly spruce-tree, for it was her voice that had called. "You shall live on my warmest branch all winter if you choose."

"Will you really let me?" asked the little bird eagerly.

"Indeed, I will," answered the kind-hearted spruce-tree. "If your friends have flown away, it is time for the trees to help you. Here is the branch where my leaves are thickest and softest."

"My branches are not very thick," said the friendly pine-tree, "but I am big and strong, and I can keep the north wind from you and the spruce."

"I can help too," said a little juniper-tree. "I can give you berries all winter long, and every bird knows that juniper berries are good."

So the spruce gave the lonely little bird a home, the pine kept the cold north wind away from it, and the juniper gave it berries to eat.

The other trees looked on and talked together wisely.

"I would not have strange birds on my boughs", said the birch.

"I shall not give my acorns away for any one," said the oak.

"I never have anything to do with strangers," said the willow, and the 3 trees drew their leaves closely about them.

In the morning all those shining green leaves lay on the ground, for a cold north wind had come in the night, and every leaf it touched fell from the tree.

"May I touch every leaf in the forest?" asked the wind in its frolic.

"No," said the frost king. "The trees that have been kind to the little bird with the broken wing may keep their leaves."

This is why the leaves of the spruce, the pine, and the juniper are always green.'



I visited this churchyard on 19 May 2013 and found that the clearing work I had started in July 1999 had been considerably further extended, so now there is a glorious view beyond the church of the surrounding hills and valley.

The current very elderly yew trees on the left as one comes into the churchyard have rotten open trunks, which could have the earth removed from inside together with the heartwood rot using trowels and chisels. Then, use a high-pressure water hose to remove yet more of the internal rot, before following what was done to protect the Common Yew at St. Margarets Church, Rainham, Kent as detailed in this Introduction Page



Written for the congregation in July 1999 when I was clearing its weeds and brambles as the volunteer. I mulched round the shrubs/trees with the shredded prunings and mown weeds.


The following plants are all rabbit-resistant, suitable for clay soils and for flower arranging. The areas under the yew trees have been used by the gravediggers for the excess soil. The intention is to plant around these trees to make the churchyard more attractive and to provide the church flower arrangers with foliage and flowers throughout the year



Attractive to Birds (Bi),

Bees and Butterflies (Bb)

Scented Flowers (Sc),

Aromatic Foliage (Ar)

Uses in flower arranging/


‘Braun Hertz’,
‘Pink Elf’ and
reptans ‘Atropurpurea’



Miniature arrangements/ Groundcover. Plant with the irises and geraniums

Aucuba japonica ‘Rozannie’ and ‘Variegata’



All-year-round shiny foliage with berries in autumn and winter/ Groundcover. Plant with orange-cupped daffodils

x ottawensis ‘Superba’ and
thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea Nana’

Bi, Bb


Foliage spring to autumn with flowers in spring and berries in autumn/ Groundcover and autumn foliage

Buddleia davidii
‘Black Knight’,
‘Dartmoor’ and
‘White Profusion’

Bi, Bb


Fragrant flowers in summer/

Choisya ternata ‘Sundance’



Fragrant flowers in summer with yellow foliage all year/ Groundcover.

Cotoneaster adpressus praecox and dammeri

Bi, Bb


/Groundcover. Plant with buddleia and ribes

Eucalyptus gunnii



Silver-blue foliage all year/

‘Claridge Druce’,
macrorrhizum ‘Album’, psilostemon and



Flowers late spring to autumn / Groundcover

Hypericum androsaemum and Calycinum

Bi, Bb


Golden-yellow flowers summer to autumn/ Groundcover

Foetidissima citrina and unguicularis (stylosa)



Winter to early summer flowers/ Groundcover

Japonica ‘Halliana’ and periclymenum ‘Serotina’



Scented flowers in summer and autumn/ Climber

Narcissus (Daffodil)
‘St Keverne’,
‘Ice Follies’,
‘Golden Ducat’,
‘Geranium’ and



Spring flowers/

‘Blue Peter’,
‘Christmas Cheer’,
‘Harvest Moon’ and
‘Snow Queen’


Sc, Ar

Foliage all year with flowers in summer/ Groundcover

Ribes alpinum ‘Aureum’

Bi, Bb


Spring flowers/

‘Partridge’ and
‘Rushing Stream’



Scented summer and autumn flowers/ Groundcover bushes

‘Bobbie James’,
filipes ‘Kiftsgate’,
‘Francis E. Lester’,
‘Kew Rambler’,
‘May Queen’ and
Wedding Day



Scented summer flowers/ Climber

Solidago ‘Goldenmosa’



Summer and autumn long-stemmed flowers/

Spiraea japonica
‘Anthony Waterer’,
‘Goldmound’ and



Spring flowers/

Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’



Fragrant spring flowers/



You can select one of the 1 EVERGREEN TREE by clicking on its:-

or by clicking on the Thumbnail to see its Plant Description alongside from the:-

or clicking on the Botanical Name link from one of the:-

or by clicking on the Thumbnail to see its Plant Description alongside from the:-

  • 5 Flower Colours per 12 Months Comparison Pages in the menu above. List of empty pages from this gallery below.

Empty Pages
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The Plant Height Border in this Gallery has changed from :-
Blue = 0-2 feet, Green = 2-6 feet, Red = 6+ feet to:-

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Click on thumbnail to add the Plant Description Page of the Evergreen Tree named in the Text box below that photo.
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Evergreen Tree Name

Flower Colour

Flowering Months

Height x Spread in inches (cms)

Foliage Colour

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K







Leptospermum scoparium

White or
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120 x 120
(300 x 300)

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Ivydene Horticultural Services logo with I design, construct and maintain private gardens. I also advise and teach you in your own garden. 01634 389677


Site design and content copyright ©July 2009. Page structure amended January 2013. Feet changed to inches (cms) July 2015. Chris Garnons-Williams.

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