The Wind Whacks The Willow

Our neighbors across the street used to have a magnificent Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica) in their yard. Over the last few years, the tree has sustained storm damage several times. After our most recent storm, though, there really isn’t enough left to be worth saving.

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I’ll regret the loss of this tree, but then again it’s a poor choice for the home garden. The roots are ravenous and are known to insert themselves where they aren’t wanted. Plus it’s just generally prone to breakage, disease, and insect pests.

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After the storm: broken branches.

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Weeping Willows in May at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Planted along bodies of water in parks and public gardens, Weeping Willow is a magical tree. There are quite a few at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Despite the species name, Weeping Willows are actually from Northern China, not Babylon. If I had space to plant any Willow, it would be the Pussy Willow (S. discolor). Sadly, the full sun that Pussy Willows require is in short supply where we live.

Do you grow any kind of Willows in your garden?

38 Comments on “The Wind Whacks The Willow

  1. We have Dwarf Arctic Blues in our garden, though they are not dwarf by shrub standards! I can’t imagine the garden without the movement and small, silvery leaves. But a big Weeping Willow? Pass!

      • I’m getting mixed messages, but I think it would be fine with part sun- just not full shade. Maybe with some part sun it would stay closer to the advertised dwarf size!

  2. Forty five years ago, long before I really knew anything about gardening, I stupidly planted a weeping willow in our small front garden. To give the nurseryman his due, he did try to disuade me, but I wouldn’t listen, it looked so pretty! Thank goodness when we moved, the first thing the new owner did was to dig it out!

  3. I love willows, but not their roots…they are such greedy suckers (literally!). I had a couple of small ornamental ones that we removed for that very reason. It’s always sad, though, when a large tree needs to come down.

  4. There are weeping willows around the edge of the lake where we sometimes do a morning walk…they look beautiful in all weathers, but it is easy to see that the roots of these Willows are keeping the banks of the lake together….imagine the damage they could do in a garden!

  5. The irritating neighbor next door has these all over his yard. Mostly dead, but he refuses to cut them down, I have told him that I will be suing if they fall and damage my home. One of his large 30 footers completely toppled over a few years ago, but luckily it all landed in his yard. I had to pay someone to come out and trim the branches that overhang my property line.

  6. It’s always sad to see a tree go down. I love willows of any description. We have planted pussy willow, eared willow (Salix aurita) and white willow (Salix alba) around our new garden. They look lovely when the wind blows through them. A long wat till ours are any decent height though!

  7. Sorry your neighbor lost a tree, but I have heard lots of horror stories about weeping willows over the years. I used to have a black pussy willow here, but I took it out a few years back. Lovely tree, but it was crowding the others around it. I cramscaped the area originally and once everything had grown, things were not happy being so close together.

  8. I have one weeping willow. My husband was at recycling one day and a man had dumped a bunch of branches. He grabbed a few, I tried rooting them all, and I’m left with one. It’s about 20′ tall now and is at the edge of our property so it doesn’t interfere with anything. We had one in the Midwest. I’m just a sucker for weeping willows.

  9. Weeping Willows are such beautiful trees. There is one a few miles from here that fell over but it is still quite alive! Interesting about the botanical name! I wonder if it was mistakenly thought to be from Babylon? Our orange jewelweed is called Impatiens capensis because someone thought it was native to the Cape of Good Hope!

    • I think the name is an allusion to the biblical psalm where they talk about weeping by the waters of Babylon. It’s more that the shape of the tree suggests weeping.

  10. It is always sad to lose a tree. We regularly drive by a house that had a fairly large weeping willow in their side yard. I often used to wish I could go stand under it. It died last year due to several years of drought. It didn’t show any signs of decay prior to just giving up. I thought it was situated in an odd place, in the middle of a field. I did look quite majestic standing there all alone, but it is no more.
    I have a pussy will shrub in the garden. It has been here so long I have lost the name of it. It got so large that I couldn’t reach the limbs to cut a few to bring in when the pussies started forming in spring so I had Gary take the chain saw to it. Cut it down to nearly a stub and it has come back with vigor. It doesn’t get near enough sun but continues to thrive.

  11. I had a friend with one in his garden and helped him clean up on a few occasions after storms damaged the tree. The trees were always lovely, but I don’t think I would ever consider planting one in my yard.

  12. I had a beautiful pussy willow in the low wet spot in my yard for 15 years. It was grown from a small Home Depot plant. The neighbors had two maples planted along the lot line several years ago right where my pussy willow was and as they grew they cut out more and more light to my tree. Sadly it started to decline and I had to cut it down 2 years ago. I miss it. I planted a Sweet Bay Magnolia in that spot.

  13. No Willows here, but I do enjoy them–especially in locations like the waterfront at the Chicago Botanic Garden. People along the lake a few blocks away from here have them–another appropriate location. Will your neighbors’ loss of the Willow tree affect the light conditions in your garden?

  14. I have a massive weeping willow in my garden, planted by a previous owner, I quite like it in spring, but in winter it drops branches everywhere and makes such a mess. You are right, they are beautiful in the right place but not suitable for gardens.

  15. Red willow or swamp willow grows wild here. It is probably like swamp willows in your region. Although there are many different specie, many of them are difficult to distinguish. We do happen to have one of the golden weeping willows here. It was planted as a memorial tree, so I am guessing that whomever selected it is not aware that they do not live very long. I have taken copies of it, just because I like it so much. I would prefer some straight green ones, so will probably get some twigs this winter. They do well in the swampy areas where other trees would not be happy. the problem is that others object to cutting trees down when they get old. Willows are short term trees that we expect to cut down after a while.

  16. Hello Jason, we have a Goat Willow, it’s huge too. We have kept it because for a few days each year, if the conditions are right, it fills the air with its fluffy seeds and you can see them drifting on the breeze, whirling in the air, it’s a mesmerising sight. The underside of the leaves are silvery so when the wind blows through the canopy you get a shimmering effect.

  17. In our much larger garden place, we did have pussy willows, they lasted a little while and then who knows what happened. We did also plant weeping Willows in an area that collected water. I love them, so very majestic BUT they are a mess when branches fall.

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