The yews made it out of rehab this year, and the garden is benefiting from their triumphant comeback. Five years ago, they were the typical overlooked foundation hedge, trimmed into the classic crew cut, barely concealing barren, knobby-kneed branches and a hollow interior of brown and dying needles. They're planted in a tough site—fully shaded northern exposure in inert subsoil, "mulched" with black pumice stones that look like charcoal briquets—so the thought of tying them to the bumper of a pickup and extracting them like an achy tooth was briefly tempting, but impractical.
Instead, I pruned them severely, especially trimming the tops and sides with the hope that it would allow more light and encourage new growth from the bottoms up. The four little evergreen stumps looked ridiculous for a few years, but growing they were, and every spring, I kept trimming, and trimming. And, finally, this spring:
Gentle, lush sprays of succulent, lime-green growth. Look; touch.