Fantail Willow Success

Last March, I bought a few dried stem of Japanese fantail willow (Salix udensis) at a local floral store to use in our garden club’s Asian floral arrangement workshop. It is a willow shrub that seems to grow normally but for some reason that is not fully understood, mutant stems begin to appear on an otherwise normal looking plant. Here and there, one or more stems begin to merge together or fasciate into flat stems that can end in unusual curls. Fasciation can occur on any plant and experts believe the effect may be caused by either hormones, genes, bacteria, fungus, virus or the environment.

 

The stems I purchased last year were used in arrangements, then put away to dry for future arrangements… that is all except one tiny twig. That one twig I placed in a glass of water and sat it in a sunny window to root.

fantail willow 3/7/2019

It did produce fine roots and in the spring, I plopped it into the garden when the soil had warmed enough to support the plant. Like all willows, it grew fast.

Fantail Willow 2019

When it was about 2 1/2-ft tall, I noticed one thick shoot on the side was beginning to widen and merge multiple small stems that soon mutated into a beautiful elongated fantail. Success! I was delighted but totally surprised because I’d read that it usually will take 3 to 4 years to develop this weird condition.

fantail willow 2019

Soon the shrub will turn a golden yellow and the leaves will drop. In late winter, it will develop a profusion of tiny puffs of pussy willow catkins. It is then that I’ll harvest the stem to incorporate into my floral decorations…… and next spring I’ll donate the shrub as a transplant to my daughter who has much more garden space than I.

Fantail Willow 2019

In her lovely landscape will be an endless supply of fantail willow for both of us!

A shortcut to spring

Well, it’s not a real shortcut. It’s -2° this March morning and we’re covered by snow, but it feels like spring in all our grocery stores. Greeting us at the doors are the true harbingers of spring, bundles of daffodils in large displays selling for less than a couple of bucks each. Next to those blooms, there is the other harbinger of spring, tall stems of pussy willows willing you to purchase a bunch and take them home. I don’t think we’ll see either one in our New Hampshire garden for weeks and weeks.

Tete-a-Tete, Boston Flower Show 2017

I buy the cheerful daffodils to hurry along spring but have ignored the pussy willows until yesterday when I came upon ones I couldn’t resist… Japanese fantail willow, Salix udensis ‘Sekka’, an ornamental willow with contorted branches that I love to use in flower arrangements.

fantail willow 3/7/2019

The stems of the fantail willow are a bit twisted but it’s the wonderful tips that flatten out and curl in interesting formations. The fuzzy catkins are small and numerous. I could keep them in water and watch the catkins mature to a soft yellow, but I’m keeping them dry to preserve this stage of development for floral arrangements to use over and over.

fantail willow 3/7/2019

I did trim off a small twig for rooting. I’ll keep it in water in a sunny window and hope to see small roots forming in time. We’re the right zone to transplant the willow to the yard… not the right plant for my small yard, but nearby in a daughter’s landscape will be the perfect site for future harvesting.

fantail willow 3/7/2019