The deciduous corkscrew willow provides lush foliage in the summer months and interesting, curly branches in the winter. After the leaves have fallen, I prune out the overlapping branches to use for decoration in a vase.
Out in the fragrance garden, I use this small tree to provide shade and add texture. Other companions include a Kousa dogwood, sweet bay magnolia, buddleia and gardenia. In the summer, colocasia and monarda surround the willow. This fast-growing tree also provides privacy by screening our back deck.
Corkscrew willows are available in different sizes and are suitable for zones 4b-8a, depending upon the variety. My willow is planted on the southeast side of the house where it receives sunlight most of the day. Willows like moisture, but this little tree was a tough survivor during our 2007 drought.
If you plant any willow, make sure that it is nowhere near any underground pipes, especially ones that provide moisture. Willows can be short-lived, but they are fast-growing and inexpensive. You can easily propagate the corkscrew willow from hardwood or softwood cuttings. All parts are poisonous.
When I prune out the sprouts that cross the inside of the tree, I bring the best branches inside to use for year-round decor. I don't put the branches in water, I just use them dry as they come in from the garden. Just a quick wipe with a cloth to remove any bugs or dirt is all you have to do.
Our family room mantel has a marshland theme based on the painting by a North Carolina artist. The bronze frogs are appropriately named "Show Off" and "Social Climber." The willow branches are placed in a North Carolina pottery vase that is embellished with dimensional frogs, lilypads and lotus. The willow branches fit in well with the marsh theme while providing height in a room with a high ceiling. I have no art of my own to add to the mantel, but at least I grew these willow branches in my garden!
Photos and story by Freda Cameron