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I often get asked what willow varieties I grow and how I get to use so many colours in my baskets. The answer is I grow a wide range of willow varieties, selected over many years for growth habits, flexibility, shade of the bark and how this changes as the rod dries.

Here are some of my very favourite varieties I use all of the time. Some are good staple varieties that give me perfect rods for each stage of the baskets. Others I love for their unusual bark colours and I put up with their less attractive growth habits.

Keep in mind though that I have selected them to grow for the soil and climate conditions I live in. They might not work for you. But there are hundreds of good varieties. The best way to go about finding your favorite varieties is to try many varieties out and learn from trial and error.

It is important to note that the bark of the willow rods change colour as they dry out. All rods will start out looking very similar when very small, in spring, but show their true colours when they mature. Once they are harvested they change colour again for example the bright yellow Vittelina dries to a redish brown.

Another thing to be mindful of is to have a wide range of variety species and hybrids. Most pests are variety specific so you never lose the entire plot.

I am constantly in awe of the willow plant for giving us so much beauty, for teaching me to bend and sway in the winds of life, to adapt and go with the flow, but to be strong and rooted too.

Irish Black
This is a bright green variety but I don’t know the exact variety name. It came to me from Future Forests in Bantry, Ireland, where it has grown for many years. At first it would grow branchy and it looked quite a rough rod with it’s pronounced catkins, which look black just before popping open (hence the name I think?) But once I wove with it I was surprised by it’s flexibility and the ability to retains its bright green colour once dry and soaked. It can grow too big easily when planted in fertile soil. For this reason it is a good idea to plant rods quite close together. This is a staple rod for all my larger skibs. I would never want to be without it.
Irish Black | Hanna Van Aelst | www.hannavanaelst.com | Willow CuttingsIrish Black | Hanna Van Aelst | www.hannavanaelst.com | Willow Cuttings

Salix Purpurea Brittany Blue
A blue drying rod, very flexible. Very similar to Brittany Green. But this one has a reddish tint to the rods when growing and dries to a darker colour that can be vibrant blue. But in my soil it stays more muted, and dries to a dark green/grey.

Salix Purpurea Brittany Green
Soft green rods drying pale brown. Very flexible long and skinny rods. They often have a little twist going through the rod, a defined change of growing direction during summer. Or do they turn with the sun?
Salix Alba Vittelina
The rods are bright yellow when growing, and for this reason popular in gardens to add winter colour. But once cut and dry they turn to a red-brown colour very similar to Flanders Red.

Vittelina | Hanna Van Aelst | www.hannavanaelst.com | Willow CuttingsVittelina | Hanna Van Aelst | www.hannavanaelst.com | Willow CuttingsVittelina | Hanna Van Aelst | www.hannavanaelst.com | Willow Cuttings

Salix Purpurea Green Dicks
Lovely skinny green rods that dry to a greeny brown. It is very productive sending lots of perfect straight rods up each year.

Dicky Meadows | Hanna Van Aelst | www.hannavanaelst.com | Willow CuttingsBrittany Green | Hanna Van Aelst | www.hannavanaelst.com | Willow Cuttings

Flanders Red
I love this variety as a good all rounder. It grows green rods that have red tips and they dry to a reddish-brown. It can grow too tall and branchy in fertile soil. I have planted mine in semi-shade and it sends up lovely thin rods every year.

Flanders Red | Hanna Van Aelst | www.hannavanaelst.com | Willow CuttingsFlanders Red | Hanna Van Aelst | www.hannavanaelst.com | Willow Cuttings

Salix Viminalis Golden Rod
Viminalis has many varieties but this is a yellow variety that dries yellow too. The stems of all viminalis rods have a lot of pith, soft texture on the inside of the rod, leaving the rods a little soft. This means they kink easily and don’t hold the shape of a basket very well. I only use this sparingly to add colour, never for the structure of a basket like the uprights or base stakes. It grows vigorously. This is also the variety I love most for outside living willow structures.

Viminalis | Hanna Van Aelst | www.hannavanaelst.com | Willow CuttingsViminalis | Hanna Van Aelst | www.hannavanaelst.com | Willow Cuttings

Salix Daphnoides
This is a bright purple variety with a soft white bloom when it dries that I can’t be without. It grows too large most of the time but I so love the colour that all is forgiven.

Daphnoides | Hanna Van Aelst | www.hannavanaelst.com | Willow CuttingsDaphnoides | Hanna Van Aelst | www.hannavanaelst.com | Willow Cuttings

Salix Alba Britzensis
This one is a handful with bright orange stems that grow very fast and a little too brancy.cBut the bark colour stays after drying. The only bright orange/red colour I have.

Britzensis | Hanna Van Aelst | www.hannavanaelst.com | Willow CuttingsBritzensis | Hanna Van Aelst | www.hannavanaelst.com | Willow Cuttings

Salix Decipiens Welsh White
I can see this pale, waxy rod from my window in the sitting room. It grows a little shorter and more stumpy then most rods of a lovely soft pale peach colour. The difficulty this one throws up is it’s very hard skin. Once dry it does not become fully flexible again leaving cracks when weaving. The rod also loses most of it’s peach colour after soaking. For this reason I only use it semi green.

Welsh White | Hanna Van Aelst | www.hannavanaelst.com | Willow CuttingsWelsh White | Hanna Van Aelst | www.hannavanaelst.com | Willow Cuttings


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