Look Up: In the willows

M and I planted the willow trees on the southern side of the pond about 5 years ago.  When we planted them, they were nothing more than skinny little twigs (about 1-2 feet in length) with a few straggly roots on the end.

They’re magnificent now.

It’s difficult to capture the sense of height in a photo so you’ll have to take my word for it:  they are very tall.

(View of the pond from under the willows.)

In between the willows we planted hemlock trees.  The willows are there to shelter the hemlocks from the wind and cold until they are well established.  M has planted a second line of willows behind this row to take over when we cut down the row sheltering the hemlocks.

For as long as I can remember, the willow has been my favorite tree.  One of the my earliest childhood memories is playing under the willow tree when I was very young.  My parents were renting a house with a willow tree in the side yard.  I remember it as being very big and very beautiful.  It was a weeping willow whose branches reached down to the ground.  I would go under the branches and let the tree envelop me in green.

The willow tree can grow up to 8 feet per year.  Pretty amazing.  They like moist soil which makes them perfect for here in the Bogs, especially in the area near the pond where we planted them.  The willow’s sap contains salicylic acid which is the precursor for aspirin.  The wood from willows is used for a variety of things including wicker and cricket bats.  They are also very useful for bio-filtration, slope stabilization, soil reclamation or building, as well as the way we are using them — as windbreaks.

We’ve been thinning out the willows little by little as the hemlocks grow so it’s not quite as traumatic or dramatic as it would be if we were to cut them all down at once.  Still, I dislike cutting down trees and will be sad to see that row of willows go while at the same time happy to see the hemlocks thrive while the second row of willows (which will remain there) grow and settle in.