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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


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Plant Profiles

Dappled Willow in Winter



Burgundy in Winter?  In this season, we'll take all the color we can get.  These are the cold-weather twigs of dappled willow, normally grown just for its remarkable pink-and-white foliage in Spring and Summer.  With burgundy twigs, too, the shrub is an asset all Winter long.


But dappled willow doesn't grow those burgundy twigs without your help.  They're grown because you've cut all the old twigs down to stubs each Spring.  This dappled willow wasn't pruned, and look at how boring its twigs are. 




Only first-year twigs are colorful; by their second Winter the bark is the same light gray of older growth. 


Nothing worth looking at in the picture below; this free-range dappled willow brings no interest to the garden in Winter, either.




My dappled willows are grafted atop trunks, probably of goat willow, Salix caprea.  Golly, does a goat-willow trunk sucker!  Even more maddening, the Winter bark of the goat-willow suckers is much more colorful than that of the twigs of the dappled willow grafted atop it. 




Read on for strategies to keep the focus on the dappled willow itself year-round.



Here's how to grow the willow that can be—with your help—colorful year-round:

Latin Name

Salix integra  'Hakuro-nishiki'

Common Name

Dappled willow, grown as a standard


Salicaceae, the Willow family.

What kind of plant is it?

Deciduous shrub.


Zones 5 - 7.


A round head of innumerable wand-like branches arising from the base of the portions of 'Hakuro-nishiki' that were grafted at the top of the trunk of another willow species, probably Salix caprea.  Unfortunately, shoots will emerge from the trunk as well as at the base of the trunk; they aren't 'Hakuro-nishiki' at all, and should be clipped off relentlessly.

Rate of Growth


Size in ten years

'Hakuro-nishiki' is a shrub, not a tree.  Unpruned, it can form an arching mound ten to fifteen feet tall and wide, but because the bright pink and white new foliage is only prominent on stems produced as a result of stern pruning, free-range shrubs are rarely seen.  Shrubs that are cut down to a foot or less every Spring could still grow to five feet tall and eight feet wide by September.  Standards of 'Hakuro-nishiki' are pollarded each Spring, and the resultant new stems can grow just as long, forming a head every bit as large.



Grown for

the young foliage of stems that grow in response to pruning, which emerges pink and white.  Only the newest foliage is pink; it soon "fades" to bright white, flecked by green.  The white diminishes with the heat of Summer; by August the leaves are boring green.  See "How to handle it" below for an option to prolong the display.


the Winter bark on the twigs that grow in response to Spring pruning.  Cold weather causes it to darken to a respectable burgundy.  The color is muted—conservative colorists might call it tasteful—compared to the brilliant yellow, orange, and red twigs of some other willow species and cultivars, such as Salix alba 'Cardinalis'


the habit of the shrub when grown as a standard.  With a couple of "cuts" a season, the head can become a dense but fluffy sphere of foliage atop a straight trunk—almost the shrubby equivalent, in color as well as artifice, of an obsessively-groomed poodle.

Flowering season

Early Spring, before new leaves expand.  The flowers are typical pussy-willow catkins.  They are showy but not more so than those of other willows.  I always forego them in favor of completing the early-season pollarding in late Winter, befor the tidal wave of other Spring tasks and thrills swamps me.  See "How to handle it" below.

Color combinations

Dappled willow is one of the rare hardy "woodies" whose foliage is truly pink, even if only transitorily.  The shrub needs to be protected from close association with many other colors that in Spring are easy to indulge in:  the yellow of forsythia and daffodils, the deep red of 'Nova Zembla' rhododendrons, the vermillion of "red" tulips.  Instead, combine 'Hakuro-nishiki' with lilac (why not of actual lilacs?), white, pink, blue, and deep burgundy.

Partner Plants

Plants that are pink-friendly the same time that the new growth of 'Hakuro-nishiki' is forming including lilacs and wisteria; the pink, white, rose, and purple cultivars of rhododendrons and azaleas; the (few) other shrubs and trees that also have new foliage that's pink:  the 'Flamingo' cultivars of both Acer negundo and Toona sinensis, plus the pink cultivars of Acer palmatum, such as 'Butterfy'; blue, pink, white, or burgundy iris and Spring bulbs; almost any peonies; and any plant with burgundy foliage, such as smoke bushes, purple ninebark, Japanese maple, weigela, and in milder gardens, phormium.


Plants that partner standards best create a solid and simple base that provides visual support for the standard's height, simple vertical trunk, and spherical head.  Pink-neutral colors (white, blue, green, burgundy) are secondary to harmony of texture, size, and form.  The foliage of 'Hakuro-nishiki' is comparatively small, so larger leaves are preferable.  Possibilities include "yak" rhododendrons: cultivars of R. yakushimanum, which are dense and full to the ground and bloom (but only coincidentally) in compatible shades of white and pink; blue-leaved hostas such as 'Big Daddy'. 


It would be too much of a good thing to partner with underplantings that, ideally, also needed the same attentive pruning that, in turn, produced a tight and tidy mound of foliage.  This rules out Japanese and "blue" hollies, as well as boxwood and mounding forms of American holly, such as 'Maryland Dwarf', which all have too much yellow in even their healthy foliage.  Purple-budded Pieris 'Dorothy Wycoff' could be lovely although it would eventually need informal pruning to stay low enough. 

Where to use it in your garden

If you keep up with the pruning, standards of 'Hakuro-nishiki' are attractive year-round.  What about a pair flanking a sunny entrance?  Three or more spaced regularly but very widely down a long border?  The only challenge to placement is making sure that clashing colors are far enough away.  Is one entire side of your property pink-friendly as well as free of red, orange, and yellow?  The limitation to use of 'Kauro-nishiki' is usually providing enough sympathetic or at least neutral  context. 


Full sun and any decent soil.  Growth is quickest when there's plenty of water available.  Salix integra will grow by fresh water, and tolerates seasonal flooding, too.  Gardens with heavy soil are great for willows, because that soil usually has difficulty draining.  

How to handle it:  The Basics

The display of the Winter twigs may be secondary to that of the pink-and-white foliage that begins in Spring, but you do the same thing to encourage the best of both: Cut all the stems down to nubs—truly, as short as you can without cutting the entire graft of 'Hakuro-nishiki' from the trunk—early in the new season.  If you're interested in the display of pussy willows, wait until after they're done, and so prune in mid-Spring.  If not, prune anytime in late Winter or Spring that's convenient.  Your pruning will encourage the maximum number of new shoots, which have both the best pink and white foliage that same Spring and Summer, and the best burgundy bark the following Winter.

The new growth formed in response to such pruning can be much longer than that formed by an unpruned shrub.  Instead of being just a foot or two long, these new twigs could be four, six, or even eight feet long.  Alas, the display of white in the new foliage is lost by the time the new wands are this long.  The dense bushiness of the entire head of foliage is dissipated as well.  By high Summer, the wands of a standard that has been growing free-range since Spring look more like the fast-fading trails of fireworks, not the vibrant arms of those fireworks as they first exploded. 


The answer, of course, is to prune again—and again.  The striking pink-and-white color of young foliage is probably the result of three different causes.  The freedom of pruning, which cuts off stem tips that, like all stem tips, were secreting a hormone that surpresses the growth of other would-be stem tips farther down that stem; the chill of Spring; and the youth of that new foliage.  The initial pruning in March or April brings into play all three factors—pruning, cool weather, and young foliage—but pruning in June (and July, and August) still brings into play two of them: pruning and young foliage.


So prune the first time of the season in March or April.  And prune again when the pink blush of the new foliage has faded.  Late May?  Mid-June?  Don't cut the new wands down to nubs; just cut them back by half.  If the weather has been dry, water the shrub lavishly the week before this second cut, and once a week after it:  You want to encourage all possible resprouting.  If your energy hasn't flagged, do a third cut in high Summer; as before, only remove half of the new growth that the previous cut had engendered.   


With these regular interventions, the head of the standard should stay pink and white (or at least white) almost the whole Summer.  And no matter whatever color it is (or isn't) the shape of the head will remain spherical not "expoded," and not too wide.  And its density will have never been better. 

How to handle it: Another option—or two?

Standards of 'Hakuro-nishiki' are never content just to produce pink-and-white growth.  Plain-green shoots arise from the trunk and, more seriously, from the soil right around the trunk.  These can be so numerous as well as vigorous as to make a mockery of the tidy sphere of growth of 'Hakuro-nishiki' itself.  Even more frustrating, the regular pruning of the 'Hakuro-nishiki' growth, which temporarily eliminates production of that growth-inhibiting hormone from the (now-removed) tips of its stems, also releases those green shoots from lower down from their inhibition, too.  Standards of 'Hakuro-nishiki' that are the most well-trained at the top are, therefore, likely to be the most challenging to keep well-trained below.  (There's some parallel here with children.  Parents:  Your thoughts?)


The only course (as with parenting itself) is to slog through while doing your best.  Cut off green shoots—wherever they appear—promptly.  My 'Hakuro-nishiki' standards are reason enough never to go out into the garden without pruners in hand.  Either it's time to prune the heads, or it's time to prune off green sprouts below the heads. 

Quirks or special cases



Like all willows, Salix integra can be slain by any number of pests; there are bacterial as well as fungal infections that can be fatal, and plenty of insects that, potentially, can show interest in every part of the tree, from foliage to roots.  It would be foolish, then, to rely on Salix integra to be one of your garden's principle shrubs, or even to be a main feature as a coppice or pollard.  Yet another advantage of a coppice or pollard is that the tree is kept much smaller; if it does die, it's a smaller loss, and much less dead wood to remove.   


Salix integra itself is almost never seen, and currently, there are no cultivars other than 'Hakuro-nishiki' that are in circulation. 


On-line and, occasionally, at retailers.


By cuttings.  Willow seed is viable only briefly, which is why it doesn't show up in seed catalogues.

Native habitat

Salix integra is native to northeastern China, adjacent southeastern Russia, Korea, and Japan.  'Hakuro-nishiki' was identified in Japan.  

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