Thursday, February 18, 2010

Salix alba x for winter colour

The third post in a series about my willows is about Salix alba, White Willow and some of its hybrids.
The many varieties and hybrids of Salix alba offer beautiful "sunshine" colours for the winter garden.
Salix alba 'Chermesina' click image to enlarge

Salix alba 'Chermesina', Redstem willow truly lights up in a snow filled landscape. These photos from March 2009 show plants planted from cuttings in April 2008. The bud scales are flat and yellow.
The bright yellow-orange-reddish colours are unique to the newest growth on a dormant willow plant. As I coppice (cut down to the ground) my willows every year, they will always show colour on the whole plant during winter. When the plant is left un-pruned the colours will slowly change to brown and only the newest growth will show colour during the dormant season.
Salix x 'Flame' click image to enlarge

The new growth on 'Flame' in early summer is very pretty with red stems and orangey-red tender leaves, but during the summer the plants turn rather dull with light greenish-yellow branches. As the plants prepare for dormancy, they start to take on the fiery colours.
Salix x rubens 'Hutchinson's Yellow' click image to enlarge

Salix x rubens, Hybrid Crack Willows, are hybrids between Salix alba and S. fragilis and they hybridize readily in nature.
The seasonal changes for 'Hutchinson's Yellow' are very much the same as for the above 'Flame' and they both have beautiful red bud scales on the dormant rods. Looking at the plants up close, it is difficult to tell the difference. From a distance, however, the overall winter colouring is darker, reddish for 'Flame' and more yellow, orangey for 'Hutchinson's Yellow'.
Salix x 'Red Corkscrew Willow' click image to enlarge

The corkscrew willows have become very popular for floral arrangements and are available at most floral suppliers. If you'd like to grow your own, it is very easy and you don't need to have space in your garden for a big tree. When you coppice the plant in early spring, you'll end up with 5-7' long curly branches by fall and they will develop beautiful colour when dormant. There are different varieties yielding different colours.

Some Salix alba varieties have flexible rods and are also used for basketry. The yellow colours are attractive, often used for contrast although the colours change drastically during the drying and subsequent soaking of the rods. Sometimes the rods are woven before they are completely dry and still flexible enough for weaving which often results in work keeping more of the original colours.

Words and photos by Lene Rasmussen,Willows.


  1. Hi Lene.
    How does 'Britzensis' compare to the willows you have described?
    Nice photos. Is Lakeshore Willows the name you chose for your enterprise?
    Spring is coming very early here in the Pacific Northwest.

  2. Thank you Steve,
    I only have a couple of 'Britzensis', placed in the middle of a bed and they have not performed well enough for me to compare them. Do you have any?
    We live on Lakeshore Road and I have registered Lakeshore Willows for my web-site (when I get it done)
    No spring here, only snow although daytime temps are above freezing.

  3. Let's see Lene, exactly where are you located again? I'm in Northern Minnesota, USA in what I think is Zone 3 or maybe 4, can't remember. I transplanted some basketweaving willow plants from a willow grower in Iowa a few years ago. However they have not really taken off at all, rarely getting more than 9-11" tall each year and only have maybe three rods each, for the 9 plants. Are you on the same latitude as me? And do your temperatures get to -45 degrees F in the winter? Maybe it's just too cold for the delicate Green Dicks, Purperea (sp?) Black Maul that I planted?

    The Wicker Woman-Cathryn Peter

  4. Hi Cathryn
    Brrr, sounds like you are very cold up there!
    I live at the eastern end of Lake Erie, close to Buffalo, NY.
    The Canadian hardiness zones are not calculated exactly the same way as the US, but I think my 5b compare to the USDA 6a.
    It certainly doesn't sound like your willows are liking it. I wouldn't know if it is just too cold or if something else is the reason. Most willows like moisture and sun. How do the wild willows in your area grow? Maybe you would want to try other varieties.

  5. hi Lene, do you know any willow for sandy / mid-sandy soil ? I live in Europe in similar zone like you.
    Med hilsen (I suppose you have swedish origin)


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