Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Plants With Winter Interest-Part 11 - Corkscrew Willow

Corkscrew Willow in Eckhart Blue Ridge Summit Landscape

Inspired by Jerry's Coral Embers Willow, and Carol's Contorted Hazel posts, here's another plant with Winter Interest that has connections to both - Corkscrew Willow, or Salix matsudana.

Corkscrew Willow is a small to medium-sized, upright spreading tree of about 30 feet in height with a 15-foot-spread, the main ornamental feature of this plant is the contorted and twisted branches and twigs. Branches arise from the trunk at an acute angle and grow up almost parallel to the trunk before they curve back to the horizontal. The winter branch pattern is most interesting and probably accounts for the popularity of the tree.

Corkscrew Willow in Eckhart Blue Ridge Summit Landscape

It is native to China and hardy to zone 5, and the warmer parts of zone 4.

The cultivar
'Tortuosa' was introduced into North America in 1923 when Arnold Arboretum received a cutting from China, it was named the next year and entered commerce during the 1930s.

Corkscrew willow grows best in full or partial sun, and tolerates multiple soil conditions including clay, sand, loam, acidic and alkaline.  And, like all willows is more tolerant than most plants to "wet feet" conditions.  More information here.

Corkscrew Willow in Eckhart Blue Ridge Summit Landscape

Pollarding is a method of pruning that keeps trees and shrubs smaller than they would naturally grow (a practice generally not recommended for most trees), but in this case, it can enhance the contorted effect in winter landscapes.

The best time to prune, or pollard, is late winter.

Corkscrew Willow Branch used as Decoration
The added bonus is that the trimmings can be used in dried arrangements, or as support structures for climbing vines in container gardening.

This one, decorating the entranceway to my home, became available after male deer (bucks) used it to rub off the velvet from their antlers, and to mark their territory, girding the whole branch.

Like all willows, corkscrew willow is very easy to propagate.  Take your cuttings, or prunings, and place in water, and they'll root easily. The reason is that willow cuttings secrete a hormone called auxin, that stimulates growth and encourages roots to form. Auxin is also water soluble, so it will dissove in the water and create a solution that can be used to help root other plants and shrubs.  You can even make your own "Willow Water" by cutting up twigs of willow and letting them steep in water.  The resultant "tea" can then be used to root other plants.

Here's a Fine Gardening article describing the process.

Learn more about Plants with Winter Interest:

Winter Interest in MG Iris Master's Landscape and Other Penn National Gardens
Nandina - Heavenly Bamboo
Landscaping for Four Seasons of Interest
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 1 - Partridge Berry
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 2 - Snowdrops
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 3 - Stinking Hellebore
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 4 - Native Jewel Orchid
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 5 - Lavender
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 6 - Witchhazel
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 7 - Paperbark Maple
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 8 - Eastern Teaberry or Wintergreen
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 9 - Harry Lauder Walking Stick
Plants With Winter Interest - Part 10 - Coral Embers Willow
Ascot Rainbow Spurge - a Year Round Delight

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