Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Golden Goat-Willow

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Willow catkins just get more interesting the closer you look.   What a world—tiny, but striking—of texture, color, and sheer graphic display.

 

The "silver" of the pussies is actually a mosaic of color:  Pale green deeper down, with jazzy black dotting deeper still.  The silver silkiness that we see from a distance is just the mid-elevation excitement.  Soaring a millimeter above everything, the pollen-tipped pistils, like tiny puckered pale-yellow lips each giving a fond smacker to the new season.

 

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Pussies aren't the whole show, either.  They're just April. 

 

May brings Act II, when this Goat-Willow goes all-gold.

 

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The new foliage is so bright it has to be photographed in lower light if it's not to "scorch" the shot.  The white-gold pigment gradually gives way to regular old chlorophyll-green, that suffuses into the leaves veins-first.

 

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Growing amid a group of more muted shrubs and trees, the Gold Goat-Willow is a Spring stunner.

 

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By Summer, this bush of almost incendiary Spring brightness will have completely quieted down.  It goes into disguise as a boring green shrub.

 

 

Here's how to grow this glowing willow:

 

Latin Name

Salix caprea 'Ogon'

Common Name

Golden Goat-willow

Family

Salicaceae, the willow family.

What kind of plant is it?

Upright deciduous medium-size tree or large shrub.

Hardiness

Zones 4 - 8

Habit

Taller than wide, with branches to the ground if growing without formative pruning.  See "How To Handle", below.

Rate of Growth

Fast.

Size in ten years

If growing in rich soil with plenty of water: Fifteen to twenty feet tall and ten feet wide or more.  Less in drier or less nutritious circumstances.

Texture

Relatively small and narrow leaves create a neutral texture in the warm months.  The branching of unpruned individuals is only moderately dense or twiggy, creating an open texture when leafless in Winter and early Spring.

Grown for

colorful and somewhat larger than normal "pussies" of the male plants, yellow with pollen as they mature.  ('Aurea' is a male cultivar.  Willow plants are either male or female; the sexes are separate.  The catkins of the female Goat Willows are more green than yellow, and, of course, don't have pollen.) 

 

the bright-yellow foliage that appears following the emergence of the pussies.  For several weeks, it's as bright as any variegated foliage can be.  By hot weather it tones down to a mid-green.  The plant is not showy in Summer or Fall.

 

forage for goats, Capra aegagrus hircus, which give the species its Latin as well as common names.  The species' first appearance in print is in Hieronymus Bock's 1546 Herbal, where the plant is shown being browsed by a goat.  (Hieronymus Bosch, by the way, was another guy entirely.)

Flowering season

Early Spring; April into May here in Southern New England.

Culture

Full sun when possible; accepts part shade but pussies less.  As is typical for shrub- and tree-sized willows that have green leaves in Summer, this plant thrives in heavy or damp soil, and is especially vigorous near, by, or, seasonally and briefly, even in fresh water. 

 

(Gray-leaved willows are just as happy as the green-leaved ones about rich soil, but in my experience they demand decent Winter drainage.  I speak from sad experience of having killed several grays, of different species, in my flat, rich-soiled, and often badly-draining gardens.)

How to handle it

Because the plant grows so fast—and faster than ever in response to pruning—feel free to get out your clippers.  The pussies are very showy, and are easy to force indoors in Winter, so cut branches—even large ones—with gusto. 

 

Because the Summer foliage isn't showy, this is a good plant to prune severely in Spring after the display of pussies is done.  This limits the plant's overall size and also stimulates just the long wands of new growth that will, in the coming Winter, be particularly elegant to bring indoors for forcing.  Your Spring pruning can be down to low branch-stumps only inches high ("coppicing") or to branch-stumps at the top of a trunk ("pollarding").  In the latter, cut off any branches that sprout from the trunk or the trunk base.

 

Experiment:  Since the Spring foliage is hot-yellow, does early-Spring pruning—which removes the already-emerging Spring foliage but, at the same time, encourages the sprouting of many more brand-new stems—cut down on the Spring show of gold leaves?  In other words, are the leaves on the brand-new twigs still gold or, because they are starting into life somewhat later in the season, do they emerge in the hot-weather color, boring green?  Is the Spring-gold leaf color, then, related to being the first leaves of the season?  Or by growing in cool weather?  (If my climate didn't have hot Summer weather, would the willow stay yellow all season long?)  Or both?  I need to do some serious pruning of my Goat—and then watch what happens. 

Downsides

Willows are famously attractive to a host of diseases and bugs, some of which just disfigure the foliage but others can debilitate or even kill the entire tree.  That said, Goat Willow has been trouble-free and energetic for me.  This could be because strong-growing plants are in general more resistant to pests than struggling ones, and my Goat Willow is in just the circumstances it likes best.  Or it could just be beginner's luck:  My Gold Goat-Willow is my first Goat ever.

Variants

Several, including cultivars with regular green leaves but a strong weeping habit, plus a couple of non-weeping varieties with variegated leaves.

Availability

Specialty nurseries and on-line.

Propagation

Cuttings.

Native habitat

Europe

 
 
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