Updated: May 24
I admire all trees but Willows (salix) hold special place in my heart. I have great memories from my childhood, making traditional willow whips during Easter holidays, that were used by boys to gently (well some not so gently) slap girls on their legs and back, singing traditional rhymes and spray the girls with water and perfume. As a reward we would get colorful ribbons to decorate our whips, treats, coins, food and shot of alcohol for those mature enough.
It is not so much the tradition, as since become married and living in Ireland we no longer continue this, and to my wife's delight, switched to more female friendly egg hunting tradition. It was the arrival of spring, life bursting from every corner of the garden and forests, pollinators and bees busy doing their thing that lifted my spirit. No more cold and gloomy winter days.
But willows provide more than raw materials for the traditional whips, basket and obelisk weaving and more recently for biomass. Willows are important habitat and early food source for pollinators and insect. Their catkins (flowers) are laden with so much pollen, few other trees can match. They not only support bees, but also many moths and butterflies, the caterpillars of which feed on their leaves.
Willows thrive in wet soils near ponds and river banks, stabilizing the soil and slowing down run offs during heavy rain. As such they are great for land biodiversity, riparian habitat and healthy waterway eco-systems.
Willows are very easy to propagate from hardwood cuttings. Cut 10-15cm pieces, stick them half way into soil or compost the right way up and they will root easily. Cut the bottom flat and top at an angle to make sure you know which is top and bottom.
Recently as part of our tree planting scheme, I took about 100 cuttings, 76 of which we planted directly to ground near river and pond. The rest we cut into smaller pieces and let root in pots for next year. Willows are quite vigorous growers so in 2 years the cuttings will grow enough to provide food for pollinators. So why not try it and grow your own willow? Its easy, fun and helps biodiversity. Just remember not to plant willows near the house, unless it`s dwarf variety, otherwise the roots can damage the foundations.
Since last planting blog we have also planted:
- 110 dogwood
- 80 oaks and hazels mix (including 4 saplings from The King Oak)
- 50 blackcurrants
Many of these native trees were planted in Dunsany Nature Reserve that is one of few rewilding projects in Ireland, 750 acres of ex-farmland converted to nature reserve to provide habitat for wildlife. Very special place and I`m lucky to live close by.
With this latest planting we have planted total of 1806 trees since 2021.
Help us plant more native trees
Every purchase from our website will help us to buy and grow more native trees of which we have so little in Ireland. You can also help by sharing our content, products, or donate additional trees here. You can also help us during the planting days. Every small help will be greatly appreciated.