|The fasciated pussywillow has curly, twisted stems. Here it is forced in a vase with fragrant Abeliophyllum.|
Yesterday I walked around the nursery yard at Natureworks. It was such a beautiful day and I guess I was looking for signs of life. I wasn't disappointed. I happened upon a weeping pussywillow that was beginning to open! What a stir is gives the heart to see pussywillows in January. We are experiencing quite a mild winter so far, and the plants are reacting to it.
I have three pussywillow varieties in my yard. The first is what I call Mr. Paine's pussywillows. These are rooted branches from my old friend Arthur Paine in Stony Creek. He used to bring bunches of his triple-catkin beauties up to my shop on the corner. He called them "the mama cat and the two kittens". :) When he got too old to harvest them himself, we would go and cut them for him. The second type is the black pussywillow. These have a special place in my heart because the year I got married my friend Sharon had a shower for me. The centerpieces were black pussywillows and branches of Abeliophyllum. This fragrant white flowering shrub has black buds, a perfect match for the black catkins. The third kind is the fasciated pussywillow, with twisted, flattened stems, a flower arranger's dream.
My heavy, poorly drained, thick clay soil in the "back forty" is perfect for these plants. In fact, they are huge. No problem. They LOVE to be pruned in late winter. In fact, Mr. Paine taught me that you should cut them all with a chain saw REALLY hard every winter to encourage the best stems for forcing. I don't do that, but I do take my lopping shears and cut all the new growth off I can reach. They just grow right back every year.
Pussywillows are really important for habitat creation. The catkins open to flowers, which means they are covered with yellow pollen which is treasured by our native bees. Certain butterflies, which use pussywillows as their larval food source, migrate to the flowering of the pussywillows. I am thrilled that my yard is such an ideal spot for these wonderful plants.