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.