Ornamental Willows

Ornamental Willows

Part of Ep. 1003 Weep No More

Join Olbrich Botanical Garden Director of Horticulture, Jeff Epping, as he shows off a collection of smaller willows.  He offers tips on how to prune the trees so they can be grown in small yards.

Premiere date: Jul 24, 2002

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
Up close, this looks like your typical weeping willow. But surprise! It's not. It's much smaller and much smaller scale. We're at Olbrich Botanical Gardens. And I'm with the Director of Horticulture, Jeff Epping. Hello, again, Jeff.

Jeff:
Hello.

Shelley:
You have a wonderful collection of smaller willows. When I think of willows I think of the massive weeping willow, which doesn't fit in hardly anybody's yard anymore. Tell me about some of the wonderful choices we've got here.

Jeff:
Well, we have a variety of different shrub types. At least, that's the way they can be treated. This one here is a type of white willow called Salix alba sericea. And it's actually a tree If left to its own devices, it will get to 50 feet tall.

Shelley:
Wow! That's not going to fit.

Jeff:
No. But, we cut ours back to the ground, like every second or third year once they're of this size.

Shelley:
Right down to the ground?

Jeff:
In one season, they'll easily get five or six feet tall. Right to the ground, right.

Shelley:
If we're looking for something for a really quick screen, this is a good choice.

Jeff:
It's a great choice. And you know, like other willows, they're very tolerant. They're very tolerant of wet conditions where other plants won't do very well, but also tolerant of drought, as well. And being fast-growing, it's very advantageous for somebody in a newer home, or somebody like that.

Shelley:
Great idea! When the leaves aren't soaking wet-- This is the one that is white from a distance.

Jeff:
It really is beautiful. People are drawn to it in the garden, because it really is a wall of white. It has very hairy foliage when you feel it. It's very soft. And when it's not wet, those hairs are dried out, and you see the silvery nature to it.

Shelley:
This one here happens to be one of my favorites. That's the Rosemary Willow.

Jeff:
That really is a beauty.

Shelley:
You've got a little one here. This is a young one.

Jeff:
Yes, it is. You can see how fine textured it is. When you look at the leaves, they're very narrow in nature. That's pretty much how they stay through the season. A very dark green on the upper side, but then very silvery on the bottom. And what's most beautiful about it is as it waves in the wind, which it does very easily, because it has very narrow, fine-textured branches. You get this two-toned effect. It's really beautiful that way.

Shelley:
It really looks like the herb, Rosemary.

Jeff:
It really does. It's a shrub that again, if unpruned, probably, 15 feet tall and 15 feet wide. We tend to prune ours back right to the ground every third year. And then, within a season they'll get five or six feet. The next season, they'll get seven or eight feet. If you want to touch them up a little bit by pruning the branches back lightly, you can keep them a little tighter.

Shelley:
You can keep more of the bush shape.

Jeff:
Right. But once they get too big for what you want take them right to the ground and start all over.

Shelley:
Wow! What an easy way to deal with it.

Jeff:
Yes!

Shelley:
You've got one here that's much smaller than anything we've talked about. Look at the leaves!

Jeff:
This one is called Hakuro Nishiki, Painted Willow. It's a tongue twister, for sure. It's one that's been real popular in the market lately, for the fact that the leaves are so interesting.

Shelley:
They're gorgeous.

Jeff:
The new growth is usually the most colorful. As you can see, it has, sort of a mottling of white in with the green. And then, in the cooler spring and fall, you'll also get a pink coloration to that, which is very beautiful.

Shelley:
Pink, white and green, what a gorgeous shrub!

Jeff:
It really is. And again, left alone, not pruned very often, maybe four to five feet tall and wide. Ours, again, we prune them back-- Actually, we prune them hard every season.

Shelley:
Really?

Jeff:
Because the new growth is the most colorful. Some people, even partway through the season, shear them again.

Shelley:
Cutting the outer branches off.

Jeff:
Exactly, to force new growth again, which will be more colorful.

Shelley:
So, this one could get cut back in the spring and then again mid-season if we want.

Jeff:
If you want more coloration.

Shelley:
It's going to stay real small?

Jeff:
Yeah. And it's actually nice. This is much smaller scale than the two previously. It fits into a perennial border or a small space much better than the other two.

Shelley:
Well, one last favorite.

Jeff:
The contorted willows. Salix-- Scarlet Curls and Golden Curls, which are very beautiful in the winter, because of their coloration of their bark. They're also beautiful in the summer for the contorted nature to them. We tend to prune ours a little to open them up, so you can see that inside. And again, with those, we'll cut them back hard every third or fourth year. When they get about 12 feet tall we cut them back. Again, within one season, they're six or eight feet tall.

Shelley:
That's great. Thanks, Jeff.

Jeff:
You're welcome.

Shelley:
These are all great choices for the small back yard.

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