Thursday, December 18, 2008

New passions

I took possession of my very first gaden 35 years ago. Young, working full time with lots of activities on week-ends establishing and taking care of this 1300 square meter property certainly was a challenge.......Oh, I'm not going to tell you my life's story......

I thought I knew it all after many years of gardening - and then some - until some very lush, dark glossy green, 2 meter long willow rods caught my attention during a visit to my native Denmark in 2005.

In my world willow was either the very ornamental, huge weeping kind you find everywhere around here - like the 100+ years old one on our property shown here -

or a practical row planted to act as a windbreak protecting more delicate trees and shrubs.

Not so....According to Christopher Newholme's book "Willows, The Genus Salix" there are some 400 species of willow and more than 200 listed hybrids consisting of trees, shrubs, and even low, spreading ground covers - and I had just discovered one.

The vast variety is one aspect. Research has found plants belonging to this genus are among the earliest recorded pre-Ice Age flowering plants, and for centuries humans have used willow for crafts, coracles, basketry, cricket bats, furniture, soil consolidation, windbreaks, fodder for livestock, medicinal uses, and short rotation coppice for biofuel to name just a few.

Personally I am fascinated by the potential for ornamental and environmental uses which you'll hear a lot about in future blogs.