THANKS FOR NOTHING MONTH January 20, 2012 7:20 AM
61 F indoors 6 F outdoors
Bitter cold and more on the way – 2” snow on the ground
TODAY’S HAPPINESS FACTOR: 8 out 10
It’s already spring in my brain…the pussy willows have set their little catkins, and some of them are slowly bursting out of their shells. Bliss on a stem – spring will be here once again.
The first time I saw a pussy willow I must have been in grade school. Those little white puffballs caused me to fall instantly in love – in love with something so alive yet the snow and cold were still holding onto the earth outside.
When we moved from Europe to live at Blue Rock Station I wanted to make an outdoor room like the one my Hadleigh England neighbor, Sabrina Bloomfield had in her garden. I loved the space she created with plants and bushes. We often ate lunch, or had a snack in that out door room – some times even sitting with blankets on our laps so we could enjoy being outdoors before the long dreary winter of England near the North Sea took a hold of us. One time we even ate out there in the snow – Sabrina was German so any excuse to be outside seemed good to her.
When we first bought this acreage I ordered two pussy willow trees. Some of the guys who worked for me thought I was silly. They told me that I should wait until I lived in Ohio to grow a tree. Trees take time so I wanted to have nice trees – scarlet maples, pussy willows and crabapple trees that would bring life in the earliest part of spring and the latest part of fall. They thought I was crazy. Today those trees are magnificent – giant trees at the entrance gate.
The more I learned about pussy willows, and gardens and beneficial insects the more thrilled I was at the idea of using them as giant bug hotels hosting more than 100 beneficial insects. They also bloom so early in the spring that they provide the first big feast for all of those loaner pollinators and honey bees that are looking for a one-stop buffet. They can be a bush, a tree or something in between. What’s not to love?
Today the willows create a hotel in a very wet spot right next to the garden.
In 2005 I took some cuttings from the large willow trees at the entrance and shoved them into the ground where I wanted to form the outdoor room. Each winter since then I’ve cut back each of those small trees into bushes (5’ tall after pruning). Some of those cuttings have gone to the local florist shop. Some have been sold as whips so other people can start their own willow patch.
Honestly I don’t know which is better – the job those willows do for my garden by hosting all of those great insects, or the fact that I have to get outside during the winter to cut them back.
As I shape the trees into bushes, deciding which limbs will be good for forcing the catkins for bouquets, and which ones can be used for starting more plants, I am dreaming of spring. It’s hard work cutting above my head, so I don’t get cold, which helps me dream even more about the smells and sights of March and April and May.
Elyse Perruchon wrote yesterday to say she’s dreaming of her garden – planning what she’ll grow. For me, that’s the next step into spring. Today I’m dreaming of catkins and pussy willows.