Thursday, March 29, 2012

Loving willow

 "Sproing" was the word that came to mind when cycling around town today. All at once there is an incredible display of colour on the trees. I saw milky white magnolia flowers pouring over a camellia dotted with strawberry red blooms, tiny tissue like pink blossoms decorating a tree in someone's front garden and my favourite at the moment, dainty little furry catkins on the willow trees. The bees love them too as they are a good source of early pollen. 
There are so many things to love about willow. The fact that it can be used dried as a craft and sculptural material and in the green as living willow hedges, domes and tunnels. Artist's charcoal is made from willow. Willow wood is used to make furniture, toys, cricket bats, baskets and wreaths. A broken willow branch left in water will grow roots and they successfully root in the ground from very thick pieces of stem.
Willow bark contains natural plant growth hormones; indolebutyric acid and salicylic acid. You may have heard of salicylic acid because it is a chemical similar to the headache medicine aspirin. In fact thousands of years ago patients were advised to chew on the bark to reduce fever and inflammation. Before you start gnawing on any branches, aspirin is a synthetically altered version of the chemical which causes less digestive upset. These chemicals also help plants fight off infection which is why willow water is a very useful, natural (and free) hormone rooting aid for cuttings.
 I found this recipe on the Deep Green Permaculture website:

How to Make “Willow Water”

  1. Collect young first-year twigs and stems of any of willow (Salix spp.) species, these have green or yellow bark. Don’t use the older growth that has brown or gray bark.
  2. Remove all the leaves, these are not used. Don’t waste good green material though, compost the leaves or throw them in the garden as mulch.
  3. Take the twigs and cut them up into short pieces around 1" (2.5cm) long.
  4. The next step is to add the water. there are several techniques to extract the natural plant rooting hormones: a) Place the chopped willow twigs in a container and cover with boiling water, just like making tea, and allow the “tea” to stand overnight.
    b) Place the chopped willow twigs in a container and cover with tap water (unheated), and let it soak for several days.
  5. When finished, separate the liquid from the twigs by carefully pouring out the liquid, or pouring it through a strainer or sieve. The liquid is now ready to use for rooting cuttings. You can keep the liquid for up to two months if you put it in a jar with a tight fitting lid and keep the liquid in the refrigerator. Remember to label the jar so you remember what it is, and write down the date you brewed it up, and to aid the memory, write down the date that it should be used by, which is two months from the date it was made!  
  6. To use, just pour some willow water into a small jar, and place the cuttings in there like flowers in a vase, and leave them there to soak overnight for several hours so that they take up the plant rooting hormone. Then prepare them as you would when propagating any other cuttings. The second way to use willow water is to use it to water the propagating medium in which you have placed cuttings. Watering your cuttings twice with willow water should be enough to help them root.

    I will be sharing some more fun projects using willow soon.


  1. Very useful and informative post - love the catkins.

  2. Sproing! It is so good to see the magnolias in bloom Lorna, I share your joy. Willows are definitely good for the bees, an excellent plant!

  3. nice site, all the best from Canada

  4. So glad I came across this post. I am definitely giving it a go in 2013.
    Merry Xmas to you.



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