My Earliest Flowering Willow

Two years ago I was sent some willow cuttings from the research centre at Rothampstead, who keep the National willow collection. The cuttings were for me to use to see which were the earliest flowering willows. My interest is early bee forage. I have¬† a lot of violet willow (Salix daphnoides), which is my earliest flowering willow and every year I’m relieved when I see my bees foraging on it, as I know that their lean period is over. From then on, there is a steady flow of nectar until early Summer, and only the weather.

I was expecting to find that the Musk willow (Salix aegyptiaca) that they sent, would be the earliest to flower, based on what I’d read. That’s not proved to be the case. A week ago I saw this.

Early flowering willow

Lapin

This is a hybrid willow, and I cannot find the paperwork with the proper name (very frustrating for a plant geek). What I remember is that the variety was ‘Lapin’. It is already a week ahead of all of the others, which is impressive as the larger trees normally flower first, and these are still small. They are planted below the swales in the forest garden.

Early Flowering willow

Lapin

I normally mark the earliest flowering trees, and use them to take cuttings from, making sure that they are male trees (also carrying pollen).

This is one example of the permaculture principle of Observe and Interact. We see something, note it, and use it to help with our designs. In this case, I planted three new varieties, and observed which were the first to flower. I will now wait another year, in case this has more to do with the vigour of the species, than it being inherently earlier flowering than the others. Once I’m sure, I’ll use cuttings from the earliest, to fill in any gaps in my tree plantings.

Staying on the theme of bee forage for now, my Cornelian cherries (Cornus mas) are also about to flower. These are 5 trees, planted as hedging whips, three years ago. Again, this is useful to know. Not only are they good early bee forage, but they have edible fruits. These trees were planted a year before the 50 that went into the Coppice and orchard. Hopefully, that means that these should begin to flower next spring. The winter flowering honeysuckle have been flowering for a while. I have some more to plant, that I’ve grown from seed, provided that I can stop giving them away. The crocus are flowering, but not in large quantities. Not sure if the numbers are dropping, or that there are more to come. I’m planning to plant some more. They’re a good way of adding¬† a lot of bee forage quickly.

Wishing you well

 

Deano

10 thoughts on “My Earliest Flowering Willow

  1. Debbie Qalballah

    Our small dwarf willow is already opening, but it has been such a mild winter, hasn’t it? Really glad to find this blog – I dream of being able to run a smallholding in lincolnshire – fingers crossed for us!

    Reply
    1. Deano Post author

      Hi Debbie.
      Fingers are crossed for you. had a quick read of your Q & A page, and chuckled. Love the sense of humour.
      Wishing you well
      Deano

      Reply
  2. prohl

    hi Deano,
    inspiring reading, thanks for sharing your knowledge with everyone.
    Do you know the web site “fruitiers.net”? probably yes,
    may be it would be worth it creating one like this for bee forage plants including seed.
    I am on the same track, forest garden + bee forage plants, in the south east of France.
    best regards,
    herb

    Reply
    1. Deano Post author

      Hi Herb
      I’ve not seen the site that you mentioned, but will look at it. How are things going for you?
      Wishing you well
      Deano

      Reply
  3. prohl

    Hi again Deano,

    the site “fruitiers.net” is a goldmine, free to join and once signed in easy to use because all names are in Latin and the pictures are helpful too. I would rank this site next to Martin Crawford’s site in respect to the amount of scions to choose from.
    the only drawback is the French language. If you want me to help, please let me know.
    I started some 7 years ago planting for a forest- and now also for a bee garden and have had bees for 10 years, but just for our consumption. Last year I sprouted some 100 tetradium daniellii because there were hard to find and than expensive. now I sell some surplus to “Ickowicz”, THE french beekeepers supermarket, well worth a visit on the net.
    If you are in Martins forest garden listing you will find us there,
    we live in a small village, 05700 L’Epine, almost 900 m amsl in usda zone 6b. Strong Mistral winds, dry in summer and cold in winter.
    I always enjoy meeting like minded people so if you are in our area please stop over at our place.
    best regards,
    herb

    Reply
    1. Deano Post author

      Hi Herb
      I’ve also grown the same tree, but under the name Evodia danielli. They’re still young, but doing well. Also chinese mint bush Elsholtzia stauntonii, and Hop Tree (Ptelea trifoliata)
      We would like to visit friends in Europe when the opportunity arises. Let’s stay in touch, and I’ll add you to my itinerary. Do you have a website?

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Willow Trial Update - The Sustainable Smallholding

  5. Nicolas M.

    Hi,

    just discovering your blog, and it is very interesting. I’ll post more comment as i’ll dig into it.
    I’m a lot in permaculture too, and i’d love to have some hives but i need to understand more about how bee work and how to manage the hive the permaculture way.

    If you go to my website you’ll be able to download a botany database i’ve forked from pfaf, and that can display results of a query ordered by flowering time, this can be a powerful tool in the hands of a permaculturist apiarist.

    I’ve read in the Designers Manual that bees “prefer to fly 100m or more to forage, and their flight assists in the evaporation of nectar to honey, so that forage species are planted this distance or more from hives” (p468). I’ve not be able to find any other info confirming that, have you some infos on the subject ?

    Thanks
    Nicolas, SW France, USDA zone 7/8

    Reply
    1. Deano Martin Post author

      Hi Nicolas
      I’ve read the same about forage, but mine forage all around the area of the hives. That may be because I plant for flowering times when we are short of forage, normally early or late. Some plants will always get visited, however close they are to the hives. Borage is a good example.
      All of the best
      Deano

      Reply

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