Sunday, 6 February 2011


Today was sunny and mild and I had a tranquil morning cutting my willow whips which form a fedge* along one edge of my allotment.  Some of the stems were eight or nine foot high (3 metres) and had  grown straight skyward others have branched out at ground level, some at chest high.  The willow  is unusual  in that cuttings can be placed in the ground even upside down and they will grow. The colours of the new growth are a beautiful fresh yellow, green or lovely copper brown and the buds are swelling ready to burst into flower and leaf. 

honey bee on a willow flower
The willows catkins appear early in spring before the leaves buds begin to unfold.  The nectar and pollen of the flowers attract the bees as they rouse from winter hibernation. On a sunny days the buzz of hungry bees create a lovely harmony as they begin collecting pollen to prepare for new broods of grubs.  It is one of the reason I planted willow whips.
I love the gentle buzzing of bees in the spring and summer and the glimpse of their bright stripped bottoms as the forage deep inside a flower.  Some species of these beautiful creatures are threatened by extinction including one of the most charming  the bumble bees.

The willow has many medicinal properties.The Ovates of the Druids in ancient times knew willow as a healer of great power. Even today Its bark is a source of salycic acid, which is the main ingredient in aspirin. A cup of willow-bark tea helps ease pain, fever, rheumatism.  An infusion of the leaves can be used as a digestive tonic and treatment for diarrhoea and dysentery. By making a split in the bark "water" gathered from flowering willows is:
 "good for dimness of sight or films that grow over the eyes."
Culpeppers' Herbal
Another reason for choosing to plant willows is because of the use willow in magic mystery. Through the ages Druids have used willow wands in rituals and ceremonies.  Willows can facilitate meditation and is thought to bring a sense of deep connection with the divine.  It is believed that Willow will assist clairvoyance, intuition, and journeying.   I like the idea that you  can tell you secrets to willow and it will keep them safe.

My willow is Salix Viminalis.  I planted two rows  in January 2010.  The whips are very beautiful full of movement.  In the breeze they create a delightful whispering and rustling.  They are always full of insects and birds.  My hope is that this summer I will see a willow warbler perched on one of the whips. 

My living fence has beauty, mystery and is wonderful habitat for many varied  insects and birds.  In the week  of Imbolc,or Candlemas the herald of spring  and hope what better way to spend time than working with and thinking about willow.

*fedge is a living fence

With blessing 

The Merry Rambler

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