Willow trees are a deciduous broadleaf tree native to the UK and Europe, through to western and central Asia.
Scientific name: Salix alba Family: Salicaceae
The cricket bat willow is a hybrid of the white willow and crack willow. As its names suggests, willow is used to make cricket bats.
Mature willow trees grow to 25m and often have an irregular, leaning crown. Willow bark is grey-brown and develops deep fissures with age, and twigs are slender, flexible and grey-brown. The name white willow is derived from the white appearance of the undersides of the leaves.
Leaves: the slender, oval leaves are paler than most other willow due to a felty covering of fine, silky white hairs on the underside.
Flowers: white willow is dioecious, meaning male and female flowers grow on separate trees. Catkins appear in early spring – male catkins are 4-5 cm long and female catkins are 3-4 cm long.
Fruits: after pollination by insects, the female catkins lengthen and develop small capsules, each containing minute seeds encased in white down, which aids dispersal by wind.
Willow trees perform well in almost any climate. Willow trees are easy to grow and require moderate care. Prune young trees to keep lower limbs up for easier maintenance. Otherwise, willows do not need trimming and only removal of old and dead wood is required.
Willows trees flourish in moist organic-rich soils. If your soil is poor and has limited nutrients, work in compost at the time of planting and fertilize with an all-purpose plant food in early spring.
Provide a collar around young trees to protect them from wildlife. Young trees are especially susceptible to the nibbling of deer.