December is always a busy month of holiday preparations, gift buying, decorating, visiting, concerts, and parties. I often try to retain some connection with gardening by creating bouquets for the house and for friends by using store-bought cutting flowers and greenery from my garden. Boxwood cuttings add tried-and-true support to many of my bouquets. I love Magnolia leaves and use them in larger, heavier containers that can hold up their bulky leaves. Add some White Roses and Baby’s Breath and you’ve got a very wintery accent for any room.
In the garden I have a Pussy Willow (Salix) that came with our house a number of years ago. It has been moved and regenerated (to borrow a trick from Dr. Who) several times and is still often too large to keep anywhere. To regenerate a willow of any kind just cut a few branches and put them in a vase of water inside. You should see new roots beginning to grow very quickly. Once the roots are 5 or 6 inches long, pot the willow branches in planters with potting soil. Keep them well watered and start looking for a sunny spot in your yard to accommodate this fun plant. If you plan on taking cuttings for wreaths and bouquets from your willows you might want to put them in an out-of–the-way place as they will become rather unsightly and unnatural in shape over time. If they get too big they can be regenerated again into a more pleasing and usable form. These plants also attract Japanese Beetles by the bundle so the leaves will look ratty very quickly.
The best attribute of my Pussy Willow is the winter stems that hold buds which turn orange-red once we have a few frosty nights. They hold their color throughout the cold weather and look fantastic in wreaths and swags – especially with a matching bow. They can be added to containers that have been left in the garden or to window boxes to fill in around pansies and ornamental cabbage. Just cut them to the length you want and stick them in the soil. They might even take root out there in the cold!
When choosing plants for your garden remember to weigh the benefits and the drawbacks with care. These willows are too big for most garden settings and attract bugs, but the beauty they add to bouquets and decorations in the winter outweighs these problems for me. With so very many plants out there in the gardening world, you may find something even better!