Sunday, February 22, 2009

Dappled Willow

Today I had some time to sit down with the Month by Month Gardening in Michigan book I mentioned a few posts ago. I studied the February sections (yes I know it’s the 22nd of the month) on bulbs, herbs & vegetables, perennials, roses, shrubs, and ornamental grasses.

I found deciduous shrubs can be pruned back after mid-month. The sap is still safely nestled down near the roots of the plant. Hoorah! I get to play outside in the garden. Well, when it warms up again I’ll do so. The plant that will be receiving my early pruning efforts will be our dappled willow (Hakura Nishiki).

A neighbor to the monster sedum mentioned earlier, this plant started out as a pretty, modest-sized resident of the alley bed. It exploded over the summer, growing very large at a swift rate. It swallowed two tulips and a hosta. (Don’t fret, the tulips retreated back into the ground and I saved/relocated the hosta.) 

Apparently, this is a trait of the species. In fact, some sites recommend trimming the plant back more than once. The National Gardening Association suggests: 

This plant can be pruned back in the spring to remove winter damage and to encourage branching and bushiness from the base. You may also need to prune periodically during the season to keep it that small. To avoid a sheared effect, trim individual older branches off near the base to thin the plant, and then trim longer tips off individually by reaching deeper inside the shrub.

Many gardeners seem to agree with this. In fact, the severity of the first pruning is often described as “vigorous” and “thorough.” Not only does it keep the shrub at a manageable size, but the best dapple-like pattern appears on new growth. The dappled willow can be trimmed back to 12" or 1/3 of the branch can be removed.

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