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Salix caprea subsp. caprea - goat willow, pussy willow, sallow

The goat willow is one of the most widespread woody species throughout Eurasia: its natural range extends from the Atlantic coast via the cold northern seas to the Pacific coast. Male and female flowers are produced on separate trees and early in spring the male trees can easily be distinguished at the forest edge from the yellow glow of their flowering. They are an important source of food for bees awakening from their winter dormancy.

From some reason the goat willow is rather despised among the native Finnish species. Very often its multi-stemmed habit is enough for it to be the target of brush saws. But among the various forms some have beautiful foliage and the species deserves a place in the garden. The coloration of the young branches varies from green to very pale. In the right place it grows to a good size, with an oval crown which gradually spreads with age as the branches curve outwards.

The habit is variable and several forms have been selected for cultivation, such as the male weeping ’Kilmarnock’ and female ‘Weeping Sally’. Unfortunately sales outlets seem to offer only Salix caprea 'Pendula'. The branches of the weeping forms droop so strongly that they create bowl-shaped leafy shelters which children love.


Salix alba var. sericea 'Sibirica' - silver willow cult. ‘Sibirica’

Salix 'Sibirica' ©Susanna

The silver willows cultivated in Finland are very similar to each other and probably of Russian origin. This cultivar is a beautiful slender tree with weeping branches whose flowers swarm with bees in the spring. It has been popular in gardens because of the attractive silvery foliage; as the trunk thickens with age the vertical furrows and colour are also decorative. The tree is particularly attractive as it reaches maturity and the shoots of the large branches start to take on weeping form. From autumn to spring the bark of the crown’s leafless branches are glowing shades of red.

’Sibirica’ is at its best at the edges of open spaces and especially near water. Along the waterways of Lake Vanajavesi near Aulanko Park in Hämeenlinna, avenues of these trees are of national importance. Sometime after the 1960s the cultivar was planted to excess, which resulted in a decrease in its popularity. Nowadays there is a need for younger specimens in built-up areas. Of the large willows, this is one of the hardiest and healthiest.

Silver willow can also be used for attractive avenues and hedges, which provide excellent wind-breaks. The best results are achieved by annually trimming most of the previous season’s growth on all branches. This also emphasises the silvery foliage on the current season’s growth.


Salix × sepulcralis 'Öresund' - weeping willow ’Öresund’

This weeping willow was found in the wild in at Öresund, southern Sweden, with long narrow leaves and a beautiful weeping habit from which the common name derives. The reddish to yellowish colour of the branches intensifies during the winter, making it showy even after leaf fall.

The yellow of the branches resembles that of the well-know weeping variety ’Chrysocoma’, from which ‘Öresund’ is thought to have originated. ‘Öresund’ is a female tree, however, and is considered hardier than its (probable) parent.

This variety has been tried in Finland as early as the 1950s at Mustila, but has not gained much of a foothold here. It seems to be hardy in southern parts but the shoots and leaves are blackened by a fungus disease which reduces their attractiveness and makes them susceptible to other problems. This seems to be the fate of the tree planted by the pool below Atsalearinne (Azalea Slope) in 2004, which has not grown well.


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