Willow Trial Update

Earliest Flowering Willow Trial

Last year I published a post about My Earliest Flowering Willow, and was surprised to see that the willow that flowered earliest for my was a hybrid called ‘Lapin’. I was up in the Forest Garden again today, ‘weeping’ at the damage done to my willows by rabbits, and noticed that again, the earliest flowering willow variety was ‘Lapin’. This was one of the three varieties that I had obtained from the National Willow Collection, at Rothamsted Research.

Rabbit damaged Willow

Many of the willows that I planted two years ago have been completely ‘ring barked’ by rabbits. I had left them unprotected as they had been left alone the year before. Big mistake. Not all of the trees have  been damaged, and luckily some of the ‘Lapin’ trees had been protected. These are the trees that are starting to flower now. As the trees are only just starting to break their dormancy, I hope to be able to cut them off above the damage, and plant the tops as cuttings. With protection this time. I’m also going to put some wider guards around the willow bases/stumps, and hope that they regrow. Again, protected.

Willow as Bee Forage

Willow is one of the key ingredients in a bee forage system. Not only are they an excellent source of pollen, but they also give nectar. At least some willow varieties do. If you’re not sure about your own trees, get up close and look to see if the bees are using their tongues. If they are it’s nectar. That was the point of the trial, to see which varieties flowered first, and then if the earliest flowring plants produced nectar. That’s still in question for ‘Lapin’ as there were no bees on it today. Hopefully that will change as the numbers of tree build up, and increase in size. (Not helped by my Rabbit Problem).

Other Early Flowering Varieties

The earliest commercially available willow that I have is Salix Daphnoides. A beautiful tree, with large yellow catkins, and plum couloured new growth.

Other plants for Early Nectar

My Winter Flowering Honeysuckle has had foragers on for a while, any time that the weather has allowed, and my Cornelian Cherries (Cornus mas) look as though they are ready to flower at any time. Both are good early sources of nectar, and the Cornelian Cherry gives edible fruit.

 

 

10 thoughts on “Willow Trial Update

  1. Patrick Whitefield

    That’s remarkably early, Deano. I’m impressed, especially in the east of the country.

    I think you might find your ring barked willows regrow extremely well. The normal recommendation for growing coppiced willow is to coppice it after the first year of growth. It sounds a bit extreme, but that’s what they do.

    Reply
    1. Deano Martin Post author

      Hi Patrick
      That’s what I’m hoping. Before I propagate more of the Lapin Willow. I want to see the bees working them.
      This is the same time as last year, so it’s been consistent.
      All of the best
      Deano

      Reply
  2. Ute

    We have around 30 willow varieties in our place (Mid-West of Ireland) and the consistently earliest-flowering one is Salix sachlinensis ‘Sekka’, the Japanese Dragon willow. With the mild winter we’ve had it started flowering in mid-January this year, as has Cornus mas. It is also very ornamental and is great for feeding goats (who prefer it to other willows); it is the first one to leaf out (now) and the last to loose its leaves (November) so it spends more time photosynthesizing than other varieties, making lots of biomass.
    There is another very early one which I think is S. decipiens (it came as part of a mixed bunch of biomass willows). S. rubra is also quite early – the catkins have been formed for weeks and it’s just beginning to flower now. Another great one for beekeepers is S. triandra ‘Sempervirens’ as it flowers not only in spring but also in the autumn! Here’s to a better gardening year in Britain and Ireland. 🙂 Love your blog.

    Reply
    1. Deano Martin Post author

      Hi Ute
      Thanks for the detail. Nice to get some suggestionns for other plants to try.
      Our Cornus Mas has yet to flower, and I suspect that we are a few weeks behind you in terms of early production. Our other main willow, S. daphnoides has been ‘about to flower’ for about three weeks now. It normally does around the first week in March.
      I’ll see if I can find any of the varieties that you mention, and add them to my collection.
      Hope that all is well, and thanks for the comment about the blog.
      All of the best
      Deano
      PS. Just found a place that sells some of the varieties that you mention. Order in now in progress 🙂

      Reply
  3. Ute

    Hi Deano,
    typo correction: Salix sachAlinensis ‘Sekka’. Beware though, it does not strike from cuttings for some reason, it has to be rooted in water and carefully potted up or planted out. If you want I can send you some next winter (too late now as it’s begun to leaf out). West Wales Willows is a good place for willow varieties – I think they have over 300. Some of ours are from there and I have another wish list of a dozen varieties build up for next year…

    Reply
    1. Deano Martin Post author

      Hi Ute
      Thanks for the advice. That’s who I’ve just ordered from, but some more next Winter would be great.
      Cheers
      DEano

      Reply
  4. Westy

    Hi Deano,
    Our willow didn’t fare so well this year either – a result of a neighbour’s escaped horse, rabbits and not enough mulching on my part. We’re being a bit more thorough on protection this year and experimenting with more varieties to see which one’s like our local conditions best.
    Thanks for keeping your blog. It is always such a great source of ideas, information and inspiration.
    Westy

    Reply
    1. Deano Martin Post author

      Hi Mark
      Sounds to me like you’ve got the ideal ingredients for a beef lasagna. Stray horses and rabbits…
      Bev was asking how you were yesterday, she must be physcic.
      Hope that all is well. With you all
      Deano

      Reply
    1. Deano Martin Post author

      Hi Niels
      I don’t know. I’ve only looked at flowering. The late leafing isn’t an issue, unless you are asking which remains latest in leaf, as once a plant has leaves it’s useful. I would grow Goat willow (S. Caprea) as the leaves are largest of the varieties that I have. Elder keeps it’s leaves very late. We used to feed it to our sheep when we had it. Ivy is a great Winter feed, but we always stripped the berries off in case they were poisonous. Bamboo keeps its leaves all winter. Pseudosasa Japonica has large leaves, as does the smaller Indocalmus Tessalatus.
      Hope that helps
      Deano

      Reply

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