Weeping Willow

(image from here)

Like many people, I've always loved willow trees.  Not only are they incredibly beautiful, but there's just something mysterious and soulful about them.  I have very early memories of them as a child and they certainly made a lasting impression on me.  I was born in Illinois, and with so many lakes, there are weeping willow trees everywhere.  My mom & I moved to Virginia when I was 4 years old, but since then I've been visiting my dad every summer & during holidays, and I always love seeing the willow trees dotting the roads and the lakes.


When we moved to Virginia, I used to have this dream about a beautiful lake surrounded by willows near where my mom and I had lived back in IL.  I never really knew if it was a dream or a memory because I was so young...    


Photo by Lloyd Snook

But what's really got me thinking of willows lately, is our water-logged swamp-of-a-yard.  With all of the snow and rain, it's pretty much a bog.  Our property backs to a creek and most likely has underground springs beneath it.  Our yard barely dried last year and we had to wear rainboots on many occassions well-into the Summer.  We recently learned from a neighbor that our whole subdivision used to be a farm and guess what our propery was???  Oh yes, the pigs' wallow:


awesome.  So, we have a bit of a water problem.  (never dull here, right?)  We've been told by numerous water people/experts/ etc that french drains won't be enough to fix this mess.   The pine trees that line the back of our property are struggling.  A landscaper recently confirmed for us that they just can't take this much water & need to be removed. 


He recommended replacing them with river birch and/ or... weeping willows to suck up the water!  I was so excited.  wahooooooo!  "WILLOW!!"  (And yes, I'm saying that in the creepy goat-voice from the movie Willow.)
  
 

I can't wait!! I have always been thinking of putting a willow tree in.  But he said 6!!  He also said we'd need to watch out for the creepers from the willows but that doesn't bother me since I'd much rather cut back massive growth than sit back patiently & wait.  (However "wrong" this may be, I love plants that attack: mint, wisteria, honeysuckle, wild roses and yes, willow too!  I have a very black thumb and have even managed to plant mint only to have it not spread a lick so I need all the help I can get. ;)

 Image from Wyuka Cemetary from here.

The willow tree has been contemplated for centuries.  Below, the willow is depicted in this 12th Century Chinese drawing:


And Monet's willows by the bridge at Giverny...


... inspired many of his paintings:





(photo from Budgettravel.com)



The willow tree also has medicinal properties.  According to wikipedia, "the leaves and bark of the willow tree have been mentioned in ancient texts from Assyria, Sumer and Egypt as a remedy for aches and fever, and the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates wrote about its medicinal properties in the 5th century BC. Native Americans across the American continent relied on it as a staple of their medical treatments. This is because it contains salicylic acid, the precursor to aspirin."




"Willow bark contains auxins (plant growth hormones), especially those used for rooting new cuttings. The bark can even be used to make a simple extract that will promote cutting growth."  How cool is that?  I have to try it out when we have the trees.

"In English folklore, a willow tree is believed to be quite sinister, capable of uprooting itself and stalking travellers."


According to  this source, "Though the Weeping Willow is commonly planted in burial grounds both in China and in Turkey, its tearful symbolism has been mainly recognized in modern times, and among Christian peoples. As has been well said: "The Cypress was long considered as the appropriate ornament of the cemetery; but its gloomy shade among the tombs, and its thick, heavy foliage of the darkest green, inspire only depressing thoughts, and present death under its most appalling image, whilst the Weeping Willow, on the contrary, rather conveys a picture of the grief felt for the loss of the departed than of the darkness of the grave. Its light and elegant foliage flows like the disheveled hair and graceful drapery of a sculptured mourner over a sepulchral urn, and conveys those soothing, though melancholy reflections that made the poet write--


"'Tis better to have lov'd and lost,
Than never to have lov'd at all.'"

Photo  by Donna Hollinger

Photo by Margaret Clough

Many of the gravestones of Victorian times were adorned with willow tree carvings. (Image below from here )
 
 Shakespeare's Ophelia was said to be picking flowers from a willow tree when she slipped into the river & drowned.

(Paing by John William Waterhouse)




 When I was a kid, I used to have a willow tree that I'd climb and hang out in for hours in my dad's old neighborhood. It was massive and on someone else's pre-construction land. Sadly I think the land's been buiilt on and the tree's been cut down since. It was so cool though, because it was such a private place for the older kids of the neighborhood to hide from younger siblings. (Sorry if you're a younger sibling but sometimes us older ones just need to escape you! ;) The boughs and leaves provide almost a solid wall to hide behind:



I cannot wait to plant some in our yard.  They're pretty inexpensive and grow insanely fast:  7-10 feet a year I've heard/ read.  (Seriously??)


I can't wait to walk under the willows with my little ones and see the branches blowing...

 

...  And at the very least Christian will have a nice hiding spot...
 

 ...poor Justin! ;)  

We have 7 scraggly pines that need to come down, so that's the first order of business, but I'll let you know as soon as our willow arrive.
xoxo,
lauren

ps-  I'm under no illusions that our soggy yard will dry up when we put in the bad boys but they'll hopefully make it a little better.  With the Springs underground we're pretty much stuck. :(

46 comments:

Virginia @ Where You Hang Your Hat said...

I'm so excited for you! I love, love, love weeping willows! And 6! Yay!

The Farmer's Wife said...

That's a nice change of pace! All I get to look for is drought tolerant. You lucky girl!

Living It At Home said...

I too love Weeping Willows. There are some here in Boston, but not enough to keep me happy!

Our yard is a soggy mess too from all the rain. Our basement even flooded! What a mushy mess! I feel kind of betrayed by my home! Crazy! I was actually just starting to design my basement, now it is water logged.

I hope your Willows grow really fast for you! You will get a chance to relive your childhood! Can't wait to see. You are going to have to get a nice bench for under one of them...for sure!

Enjoy and wonderful post : )
~jamilyn

Jennifer said...

so fun! I can't say that I've many willow trees in my life, but there is definitely something romantic/mysterious about them. and that first image immediately made me think of your living room for some reason -- you must be made for willows! ha.

michiganhome said...

Hi Lauren,
I, too, grew up in Illinois, and share your love of willows, so I completely "get" your delight at the thought of having some in your yard. I live in Michigan now,( obviously), and planted one in our yard when we first moved in ten years ago. They get big in no time, it seems, and our beloved tree has been a place of inspiration and imagination for both my children. Ciao! - L

Velvet and Linen said...

Not only is this post beautiful, but it is so informative. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Willows. Who knew?
Here in California we have the opposite problem: not enough water. Many of my neighbors are putting in drought tolerant plants, but I just don't have the heart to give up all of my thirsty hydrangeas!
Can't wait to see your Willows in place.

xo
Brooke

Paloma {La Dolce Vita} said...

They are so gorgeous! I would love to have a weeping willow.

You sound like me. Everywhere I go, I notice the trees! Here in Houston, I am obsessed with old live oaks. In London, I kept noticing the birch trees, in Rome the Umbrella Pines, in Kansas the Christmas trees that were in everyone's yards. It's a funny thing to obsess about, but I can't help it!

Ginger@cottageonrosewood said...

Being born and raised in Illinois myself, I can appreciate your love of those glorious old trees. They always take me back to my childhood too. Something about them, so peaceful and serene. They even seem wise to me. My favorite tree...hands down! I didn't realize they grew so fast. I may have to look into adding a couple or so. Thanks for the info.

Isabella & Max Rooms said...

Weeping Willows, oh wonderful! Make sure to add a wire swing at some point...my grandfather had a tire swing from the weeping willow in his front yard. Loved that tree, the swing and the memories. The yard will be beautiful! Janell

Cottage Dreamers said...

That's very interesting. I love weeping willows and we have an area on our property that's a bit soggy so I'll have to mention this to my husband to see if I can get him to plant a couple for us!
☺ Celeste

EAC said...

Love willows- and with all the natural moisture in your yard they will probably not attack your pipes (as they are wont to do). The foliage does make a magical room underneath that children love. Parents, however, tire of calling roto-rooter- make sure they are far enough away from your house!

Greet said...

Hi Lauren,
Oh I so love Willow trees! I hope that the willows will grow!
In our garden it is so wet from all the rain we got the last months! Terrible!
The pictures of the willows are wonderful!
xx
Hreet

Traci Giles said...

Your excitement is infectious and I'm happy for you that you get to plant SIX willows! They really are beautiful. . . imagine your children growing up with them. :)

Leah Moss said...

oh my gosh Lauren, I just forwarded this to my husband. We have a very similar water problem, and I adore weeping willows. We planted a couple of weeping cherries last year, but with all the snow, I'm not sure the poor little things made it. Can't wait to see yours!

Unique Unique Design said...

I've always loved weeping willows. I sure hope they do the trick for your water problem. It's great the best solution is something you have such fond memories of. BTW, loved reading your very informative post about willows.
marcie

Erin said...

I wish I had your water problem! :) adore weeping willows, but our yard is usually dry (it's boggy right now because of snow melt, but won't stay that way!) so I don't know how a weeping willow will do. Plus, the yard is so tiny, I don't think we'd have room. But it's something I'm keeping on my wish list for our next place. Lucky you!

40daysof said...

I love willow trees. Just remember, the faster a tree grows, the weaker it is. Because of the crazy weather we have here, I will never get to plant one.

The Bed Lady said...

Boy, talking about bringing back memories. I'm from PA and we had a big Weeping Willow tree in our back yard, I also climbed it with my siblings and we would set up our tent and would sleep out side in the summer nights and would be completely hidden by the tree. Those were the good old days! Parents didn't worry about sex offenders back then. (55 years ago) Thanks for the memories and I can't wait to see pictures in years to come.
Cathy @ The Trendy Home

Riviera Boardwalk said...

What is the earth like under the tree? I always wondered if grass could grow under them? If it is just mushy underneath then how can the boys play there? They are beautiful. Thank you for sharing all the beautiful pics and info.!
love you bunches,
nancy

Stephanie Sabbe said...

I love weeping willows. I have a childhood diary and having one in my yard was a must in my "one day house"

My Yellow House said...

I really enjoyed this post-all your pictures were just lovely and the history of the weeping willow was so interesting. loved it.
We had one in VA when I was little and my father built us a platform bed underneath and my sister and I would stay there for hours. Thanks for bringing back that memory!
:) Sarah

Jimena said...

We had a weeping willow in our backyard when I was little, and LOVED it. I hadn`t thought about in years, thanks for bringing back the memories.
Im so happy for you!

Anuradha Varma said...

weeping willows are simply lovely and this post is very interesting.

Haven and Home said...

Very exciting!!!! I have been wanting to plant some trees. A willow would not work in our yard but I love them.

my favorite and my best said...

lauren i was born in iowa! and i grew up in missouri. moved to the south (which btw has it's own type of trees that are also pretty spectacular) when i was 15. but anyway, my grandparents had a weeping willow in their backyard and damned if this post didn't take me right back there.
thank you.

Anne said...

I, too, love weeping willows. When I was a child, I used to go down five houses from where I lived in order to play under our neighbor's weeping willow tree. I think, as a child, a willow tree is like a safe haven/tent to be in. Also love weeping cherry trees. But willows are my favorite. So graceful and elegant, and the memory of my times playing beneath my willow always comes back each time I see a lovely willow. Oh, how you will love your weeping willows in your yard. Yay for you!!! : )

simply seleta said...

What a heartfelt yet informative post. Love it! It appears Willows are destined to be a continual part of your life!

The Gimlet Eye said...

What an informative post! This was so interesting and thoughtful.

Kerry said...

It was so good to read all that fantastic information about willows. They are truly beautiful but all we seem to hear about is how invasive they are. Imagine being told you have to plant them. Lucky you, and lucky kids!

Dale said...

Try a corkscrew willow. They have the neatest branches. Diamond willows are preety fun, too. The branches from either would look great in your Christmas tree.

pve design said...

We have a row here in our local park, and each Spring they are the first to show such a lovely shade of green....color!
pve

Windlost said...

Willows were my favorite tree as a child and there were lots around where we live. I think I noticed them as they were so distinctive and romantic. Hey, I read a lot of Country Living in those days (when I was 15, it was the only decor magazine I could buy in my town). A lot of people with pretty country cottages seemed to have willows, but I think they are beautiful on any property and great for swampy plots like yours. I heard they grow fast too. I also love the Laurel Leaf willow, but not sure if it is the same species. Just another option maybe. Yes, they put out runners terribly, but just need pruning.

Lovely for a bench under...
xo Terri

P/F said...

Weeping Willows are beautiful, but more importantly this was a great entry. It was really well written and cute. Thanks for sharing it with all of us. I hope that you'll be given more opportunity to turn your words into a paying gig (are you hearing me shelter magazines?!). Love your blog.

-amy

Tracy @ ComfortandLuxury said...

No Weeping Willows here! Succulents and Scrub Oak and anything that doesn't require even the slightest hint of humidity. Gardening in what's basically a desert is probably just as challenging as gardening in a bog. So I completely appreciate that you've found a plant you love that suits your place. Do you know what Astilbe's are? Bog-loving flowers I will never have but am completely in love with. Maybe they're for you. :)

Tracy F. said...

One of my first and best memories is of the enormous old weeping willow tree in my g-parents' yard, in Michigan. We couldn't wait to get there every summer and climb it. The year we arrived and they had had to have it cut down was very sad. We have them planted in a boggy area of our yard in Atlanta, as well as one at our beach house, and they're still my favorite trees.Good luck with yours.

Jenna said...

In East of Eden two of the characters meet and play house in the protection and walls of the willow tree.

nestegg said...

HA! I laughed out loud at the Willow movie reference. It's more like "WILLUH!!"... oh gosh, that character..

Creepy goats aside, love the images! And love the trees as well.
xoRH

Karena said...

Lauren, I love weeping willows, and we had them when I was a little girl, they were so ethereal and great for playing our imaginary games!!

Karena
Art by Karena

The Spirit of Abundance said...

I A B S O L U T E L Y L O V E weeping willows!!!

There's something so serene, romantic and magical about them I think ..... I especially love the first picture in your posting!

Take care,
Nona

Kerri said...

Just lovely Lauren. And what a great solution to an abundance of water, unfortunately that's not a problem for us here in Australia!
Kerri x

Julia @ Hooked on Houses said...

We had a huge weeping willow in our backyard when I was growing up and I loved playing underneath it. It was like a giant tent for us that we could hide inside. :-)

Maria Killam said...

What a fun post!! I love your blog Lauren!

nkp said...

Wonderful, wonderful post. I have a love affair with willows as well. We planted one just a couple of years ago in our backyard and I love the long wispy branches. But my favorite is a curly willow we have next to our house. My husband actually gave me a bouquet of flowers years ago and it contained a curly willow branch. When the flowers had expired, I noticed the branch had sent out roots. My grandmother, who had an amazing green thumb, took it home, plopped it in a pot, and kept in her basement over the winter. In the spring we planted it-just a skinny twig, maybe two feet long. Now, pobably five or so years later it is a wild and full tree as tall as our three story house. Amazing. I think I can never move because it would break my heart to leave this tree behind. Really.

The Muddy Dog said...

Those muddy pigs remind me of our dogs in the spring!

Lisa said...

I'm also from Illinois and have grown to love willow trees. I would LOVE to have one in my backyard, but I don't think we have enough water here. Is it weird that I've always wanted to hang from one of the long vines? : )

Danielle said...

A weeping willow...how great is that! I am comforted to hear that you along with others have water issues as well. My backyard is a swamp in the Spring, so now I am off to get a weeping willow or a River Birch. I love River Birches as well...the trunk has got such great texture. I am not sure my vegetable beds are going to be happy with my new purchase, but alas I can move them :)...