12/4/2018 Just as blackthorn is one of the first spring blossoms to burst its buds, weeping willows are one of the first trees to break dormancy. Rather than losing their orange glow in spring like the crack willow in my garden, the emerging translucent green leaves increase the radiance of their flowing branches, and from a distance the two colours blend into gold. Add sunshine into the mix, and Rapunzel could barely compete.
This year I have my own weeping willow to admire. The number of willow trees in my garden has been gradually dwindling, due to age, gales, disease, and, in one case, reluctant felling due to its hazardous angle over the barn roof. A few years ago the last tall willow on the garden pond fell across the moat and into the mulberry tree on the other side. There was nothing to be done but remove it, leaving the pond strangely exposed, and the mulberry somewhat battered.
Soon after its demise I had a Monet bridge installed and planted a weeping willow beside it. I had long thought the pond required one, but I was also alarmed by the size of the bridge, which I felt needed softening with some graceful foliage.
Finally, after three years, it is beginning to look like a weeping willow. Its fast growth and position on a slope with most of its branches overhanging the water have protected it from the goats’ full attentions, and it even stoically tolerated being stripped bare by sawfly larvae in its second summer. The goats very nearly became scapegoats on that occasion, until I realised they couldn’t possibly have reached some of the leaves that were gone, and closer examination revealed a profusion of little green caterpillars happily munching their way through the whole lot. A certain children’s book springs to mind…
I expect the willow will grow so large that it will need some severe lopping over the years, and I won’t be helping the quantity of organic waste in the pond by adding more leaves to it. But I am excited to have this beautiful tree growing in my garden, and I think the Monet bridge scene will become even more romantic with such a tree overlooking it. Every year I will watch in anticipation for the first brave little leaves to appear, and I will know, even from across the pond, when the moment has arrived.