A few years ago a friend gave me a couple
of cut stems of a special pussywillow. I got them in the spring while dormant, before the leaves
had come out. I pushed the stems deep into wet soil, they rooted and grew. This
year for the first time they blossomed, producing a multitude of large, furry gems. Not
only that, this pussywillows is distinctive in that some of the stems are
curved or twisted, and some stems are flattened out near their ends, creating
flat stems loaded with the catkins.
These willow stems, left in a dry vase, will look the same a few months from now.
I hate to admit it, but I had no recollection of the
name of this type of pussywillows, and if I’d labeled the plants, those labels
were long gone. But after a Google search, I found the name. This type is
called Japanese fantail willow or dragon willow. Its scientific name has been Salix sachalinensis 'Sekka', but recently it has been has been changed to Salix udensis ‘Sekka’. It is hardy to Zone 4, surviving temperatures
as low as minus 30 degrees.
Fantail willow grows to be 10 to 15 feet tall and wide. They are fast-growing and I’ve read that, like most willows, they are weak-wooded and prone to breakage. I have not had any breakage on mine, however. The bark on first year stems is a nice reddish-brown and quite handsome.
The catkins on fantail willow are larger than on the usual wild willows I have.
If you want to try some, you can order them from
the Vermont Willow Nursery in Fairfield, Vermont. I spoke to Michael Dodge, the
owner, who has some 150 different kinds of willow. They will ship dormant stems
that you can plant by pushing them into wet soil. They are a great addition to
any wet spot.
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