Weeping Willow

Redwood Ryan

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Hey all,

Has anyone ever tried working on a weeping willow? I've gotten quite a few cutttings. This first one was sent to me from an online friend. It's a little over an inch thick and has recently sprouted a lot of growth:




Should I begin to wire this new growth downwards? And does anyone know what kind of willow this is?

Also, my neighbor had their old Weeping Willow tree fall down, and I helped my brother to cut it up and haul it away. Only, I kept some of the logs from this thing. I managed to get 5 cuttings of different sizes. The 2 larger ones are a couple of inches thick, and the smaller ones are about an inch thick. Also, this seems to be a different Willo species than the one I posted here earlier. The leaves look very different, and so does the bark. Here you go:





 

Brian Van Fleet

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"Has anyone ever tried working on a weeping willow?"

Yes, once, and never again. Cool tree, worthless as bonsai. You will never get it to weep without yards and yards of constant wire. Branches die back, sprout again, and look like Don King. They're rabid growers and in constant need of water and trimming. They're about like growing wisteria, except you at least get flowers from wisteria...making them not-quite-worthless for about 3 weeks out of 52.
 

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rockm

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That's pretty much the take on using weeping willow. If you are extremely attentive, you can make a decent bonsai out of them, but it takes a lot of patience and a lot of wire.
 

donkey

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what about other willows? as i have always fancied a goat willow due to their beutifull bark texture and natural tendency to form multiple trunks.
 

Klytus

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Ah yes,the Goat Willow.

In these Chalk downlands they are the only trees that truly belong.

They always pop,describing a landscape without people.

The trouble is scabby and nondescript leaves.
 

donkey

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Ah yes,the Goat Willow.

In these Chalk downlands they are the only trees that truly belong.

They always pop,describing a landscape without people.

The trouble is scabby and nondescript leaves.
the ones we have here must be healthier i have never noticed the leaves to be scabby.
But the general shape of the trees and the beutifull catkins .....
 

Bill S

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Your second one looks like one I have I was told is an Alpine willow, never checked up on it though, thinking I might make it a landscape tree. Everything grows bolt upright.
 
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find a corkscrew willow and you can root large cuttings with movement and taper. i cloned them from cuttings all summer.
 

mholt

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I got a 5" wide log from a black willow to root that I stuck in a large pond basket in the spring. It has filled the basket with roots and I chose it because of the mature bark and good trunk movement but I can't see it ever being a good bonsai...branch die back and then new shoots look like bamboo. It might be fun to try out different cuttings because the success rate is high but as far as bonsai design goes, good luck. I guess nature probably designed the tree to root easily to reproduce as they are short lived and experience die back.
 

sparky

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I got a 5" wide log from a black willow to root that I stuck in a large pond basket in the spring. It has filled the basket with roots and I chose it because of the mature bark and good trunk movement but I can't see it ever being a good bonsai...branch die back and then new shoots look like bamboo. It might be fun to try out different cuttings because the success rate is high but as far as bonsai design goes, good luck. I guess nature probably designed the tree to root easily to reproduce as they are short lived and experience die back.
I started 10 weeping willow cuttings this spring. I am pretty new to bonsai and wanted some cheap trees to practice on. I never expect them to be any kind of bonsai. I just didn't want to kill good trees :)
 

Concorde

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"Has anyone ever tried working on a weeping willow?"

Yes, once, and never again. Cool tree, worthless as bonsai. You will never get it to weep without yards and yards of constant wire. Branches die back, sprout again, and look like Don King. They're rabid growers and in constant need of water and trimming. They're about like growing wisteria, except you at least get flowers from wisteria...making them not-quite-worthless for about 3 weeks out of 52.
I agree with Brian weeping willows are a pain-in-the-butt. I have been working on one for 5 years. Branches die back and sprout vigoriously. I will just keep on trying.

Art
 

Gene Deci

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The same thing happened to me five years ago – a neighbor had a willow come down in an ice storm. He said to take any cuttings I wanted. You can root any size willow cutting so I just looked for branches that had good bonsai possibilities regardless of size and ended up taking four. The picture below is of one of them taken a year ago. As a new cutting it had no branches, but the trunk line was basically all I wanted. The first year I just let it root in a bucket. The second year it went into an oversized nursery container and I cut off all the branches which had sprouted except the few that I wanted. The next year it went into a mica pot. Last year it went in the pot in the picture. So you can have a presentable tree in a relatively short time with willow if, as the guys have said, you are willing to take the time and care that is required.

One thing though, I have never had any die-back. I think you just have to keep them wet
 

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Alex DeRuiter

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Gene Deci, wasn't that tree on show at the Michigan bonsai show in May? That tree looks very familiar. If that is the tree I'm thinking of, are you in Traverse City?
 

Alex DeRuiter

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Hi there! I don't mean to hijack the thread, but your willow was one of my favorites at the show because there was nothing else similar to it. I don't know his name, but one of the other members of your club was praising you and your work. Very well done :)
 

Gene Deci

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Hi there! I don't mean to hijack the thread, but your willow was one of my favorites at the show because there was nothing else similar to it. I don't know his name, but one of the other members of your club was praising you and your work. Very well done :)
Thanks so much. I am a little surprised more people don''t do willow. I hope Redwood Ryan is successful.
 

Alex DeRuiter

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I was wondering that too, but just from what people have mentioned in this thread, they do seem to be a bit finicky -- requiring frequent repotting, suffering dieback in the winter, etc. I do think they make pretty trees, but I don't think I'd do more than one or two.
 

rockm

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They are not finicky. They grow like weeds. They are prolific growers. That's hardly the problem.

The problem is they are extremely unstable as bonsai. Willow grows like many "pioneer species", like , black cherry, birch and a few other. These species s are adapted to taking over, or pioneering, marginal lands that other species can't readily colonize. They all grow very aggressively. They all produce profuse new growth, often through root suckering, quickly in order to overwhelm competitors on marginal land. They are also adapted to react quickly to the changing conditions in those lands. They can shut off growth at the drop of a hat if they find conditions getting dicey (drought, shade, animals, etc)

All that translates into disappointing instabilty as bonsai. You prune too hard or stress the plant a bit and it decides it's not worth continuing growth on that particular branch (or complete side of the tree, or root) and simply stops supplying it with nutrients in favor of new growth from the root crown or lower trunk. The branch dies. The plant finds it easier to start over again in a new spot on the trunk than fight whatever is prventing growth on the established branch.

If you want to do willow bonsai, do it with the thought that you will be forever fighting an uphill battle and dealing with disappointment (or to be more politically correct) 'facing new challenges." Branching that you may have spent five or ten years developing may one day all be dead and replaced with new shoots all springing up from the trunk base. Five years is not really all that long. Get ten years into it and see if your design doesn't change --drastically.
 
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Alex DeRuiter

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Dang...well I guess that pretty much sums it up. lol -- thank you for the info, Rockm. And yes, "unstable as bonsai" was the phrase I was looking for instead of "finicky." ;-p

I suppose it'll still make for good material to test stuff like carving on...but with that explanation I don't believe I'll be using my willows with the intention of bonsai.
 

rockm

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You can carve them, but the wood rots extremely quickly, similar to wisteria wood. It will not hold onto carving for longer than a couple of years...

Don't get me wrong. They can still make striking, if only temporary, bonsai - if you have the time:D. The people that have had good success with them have specialized techniques to get all the shoots to "weep" in convincing manner. Since new growth on willow emerges stiffly upright from the trunk, the technique entails repeated, painstaking wiring of ALL the shoots in the spring and several times in the summer--between repottings :rolleyes:
 
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