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Scaling the 55ft yew trees in a mechanical cherry picker, these gardeners make maintaining hedges look easy. But for the groundskeepers at Powis Castle in Powys, Wales, in a bygone era the task was a much more difficult feat.

The 14 iconic hedges require a fresh trim every summer to ensure the iconic 26-acres surrounding the castle are ready for the coming year.

It takes a gardener about 10 weeks using an aerial working platform to keep the famous 300-year-old yew 'tumps' in perfect condition.

They were originally planted in the 18th century and clipped into small, formal cones or pyramids, but at the end of the century English landscape gardening, made fashionable by figures such as architect 'Capability Brown', had become popular.

The yews were allowed to grow naturally and become more tree-like before formal gardening made a resurgence in the Victoria era and the trees were once more clipped back into shape, giving them the unusual structure that is still visible today.

In these days it took 10 people using shears and sickles - a small hand-held curved blade - balancing on top of very long ladders, tied together where necessary, about four months to keep the hedges in shape.

Nowadays it only requires one person in a cherry picker to maintain the huge plants Dan Bull, one of the gardeners trimming the huge hedges this week, said: 'Basically it's like cutting your hedge at home but a bit higher up in the air.

'It's a bit scary when we first start cutting them but after being in it for about eight or nine weeks you get used to it.

'For cutting the large yews it's a one person job but about 100 years ago there were about 10 people on the job and in the old old days they used to use sickles to cut the hedges.

'The yew trees here are about 400 years old which is still quite young in the life of a yew tree. The gardens here are pretty spectacular. We're very lucky with the setting we have being in rural mid-Wales.

'It's quite a lot of satisfaction to stand back up and look up at the terraces and see the nicely clipped hedges.'

David Swanton, Powis' head gardener, added: 'It’s a huge task for us to get all the trimming done. Two gardeners spend six weeks trimming the box hedge and two more spend 12 weeks working on the yew.

'One gardener spends about 10 weeks in the air on this hydraulic cherry-picker getting all the high trimming done.'

The gardens have almost 8,500 square metres of formal hedging, with a 14-metre high top terrace hedge plus a further 7,000 square metres to this.

From the castle's Wilderness ridge, the huge yews appear to melt over the edges of the terraces, like wax, making them so iconic of the National Trust site.


By Gemma Mullin for MailOnline