I love the weeping willow. Despite the fact that many people hate the sometimes messy tree, I took a photo today of a willow I know well, and now I share it with you.
Its shape is a bit peculiar, I admit. I have passed it almost daily over the years, but not until this time of year, when the colors of all the other deciduous trees have disappeared from view, do I fully see its glory.
The willow holds its golden colors back until the last, and then it reminds me of a showgirl... a solo performer dancing under blue skies and sunshine, as well as in dark clouds and rain. In these days and weeks of the cold pre-winter, I always smile to see this willow looking like a long-haired blonde whose hair is being buffeted in all directions by the winds.
For sure, the willow is a NIMBY tree... Not In My Back Yard (or front yard or side yard or anywhere within at least 200 feet of the nearest septic field, water line, sewer line)... It's water-craving roots will move a great distance to invade such areas. Not good!
And certainly the willow does not belong in a residential yard or anywhere you're trying to grow a lawn. Willows, after all, are self-pruners. More accurately, Mother Nature is the pruner, in tandem with her storms, preserving the main frame by cutting out the weakest branches of the willow tree itself. But what a mess that pruning process can be; small branches and twigs all over the place; and the tiny leaves, wherever they fall, will thin your grass considerably and are all but impossible to rake out.
If you have acreage, however---and especially if that acreage has a creek, river, a lake, drainage basin, or slump that holds a lot of water---the willow can be beautiful and beneficial too. It can help prevent erosion of the shorelines; and when given all that space in which to spread, the willow tree can be magnificent.
Or... you can enjoy the tree on someone else's land, as I do, or in the wild. In parkland or in rural countryside this time of year in my northeast Ohio, you can spot a willow without trying. It's the golden blaze of its leafery that says goodbye when all the other autumn colors have long since given up the ghost.
And later as the dying winter melts toward a brand new season, the same trees will be a harbinger of the coming springtime. If the willow is the last deciduous tree of autumn to share its colors with you, the bark of its branches and twigs will also be the first to salute you with that same fine golden color when spring is in the wings.
The willow tree awakens early, giving hope to winter-worry humans who know enough to look for the brightness of its signal.
AFTER NOTE-3/23/2012---I passed this land today. Amidst an early spring with every tree in bloom, I was startled to see the willow---and every other tree on the property---lay cut in pieces on the green spring grass! For whatever reason that was done, practical or otherwise, this passer-by was sad.