Weeping willow

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Weeping willow

Post  Nightshade76 on Wed Aug 17, 2011 5:10 am

Hello all.

I am a new guy here, have been scrolling through the pages, and some learning some interesting things I have never known before. I was just curious, if anyone had ever tried using a weeping willow as a bonsai? I have an idea for one, and I was just curious how hard it would be to do. I have a cutting that has rooted nicely, and is very healthy. I would appreciate any help, thank you in advance!
-Josh

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  AdamG on Wed Aug 17, 2011 5:45 am

I've been thinking the same thing. From what I've read/heard is that cuttings are relatively simple to root. The branches will only begin to "weep" at a very long length though, so they will have to be wired into position.

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  Nightshade76 on Wed Aug 17, 2011 7:11 am

The cutting was very easy to root. I have a few more just sitting there waiting for something to do with them. I am using them mainly to help root other cuttings of things. I had read that somewhere as well, about the branches needing to be wired into the weeping position. I don't mind that, honestly. I would want it sort of tall anyways. As it sits in an gallon flower pot it is tall enough that the smaller branches are in a weeping style now. I have this pot I picked up a few months ago, I just saw it and said I want to put a weeping willow in that. That was the main reason for really getting serious about bonsai. I have cuttings of an old ficus or three that have since given up the ghost that are just sort of kicking it, and it is time that I stopped thinking about it and did it. Smile I am glad though that there are other people thinking about weeping willows as well! Smile
-Josh

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  David D on Wed Aug 17, 2011 6:43 pm

I once had a bonsai weeping willow. (It's death is another story) It easily rooted in a bucket of rain water from a branch almost 1 1/2 inches in diameter. You can not drown these things and in hot dry weather I left mine in standing water. The roots grow fast and you need to repot frequently...twice a year was my experience. I am going to get another started next spring. I found it quite a fun tree. Good luck.

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  Ryan on Wed Aug 17, 2011 6:57 pm

I rooted a larger sized Weeping Willow cutting last spring. It grew way too fast for me to handle. I tried wiring branches but nothing worked. It just grew too fast. From what I've read even if you wire the branches down they will still try and grow upwards. I gave up on mine.

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  drgonzo on Wed Aug 17, 2011 7:25 pm

They are one of my favorite trees when done up correctly and I'm currently on year 3 of field growing a cutting that came off the Wisconsin weeping willow in my front yard. By next year (year 4) I should have nice mature bark by then she'll be about 4 inches thick, I keep its main trunk to about 2 feet high and let EVERYTHING else go hog wild to thicken it.

A few things I've noticed is that they heal scars exceptionally fast, even monster wounds, and the callous tissue looks really cool.
One trick I read was using split shot (as in fishing tackle) crimped gently around the tips of the new growth to help weigh them into a weeping style.
Another is that every spring you basically cut every branch back to say two nodes from the trunk that way the new growth is finer and more easily bent.

You can root cuttings up to 6 inches thick in a bucket of water and I've seen stuff even bigger than that root out no problem AMAZING! So conceivably you could do some monster trees from willow.

Style wise you'll need to get some height to your trunk in order to allow for the down training of branches, usually these trees are displayed on narrow pedestals to allow them to "let their hair down"

Search around for some pics of finished weeping willow bonsai for styling Ideas In my opinion they are wonderful trees. Tough resilient elegant they just have their own stylistic and horticultural foibles as so many species do.

And don't forget Black willow which has a slower growth rate, bark thats just as cool, and could possibly be styled in a more compact form with actual branch ramification, and of course pussy willow that will give you a mega trunk when field grown for only a few years and kept well watered.

excellent species over-all! In fact now that I think about it a lot of my grow field are various willow cuttings from around the house. Black, pussy and white.



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Re: Weeping willow

Post  AdamG on Wed Aug 17, 2011 9:03 pm

Hey, the split shot weights are a great idea.

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  Nightshade76 on Wed Aug 17, 2011 10:19 pm

Ryan... yeah I have noticed that they grow amazingly quick!! I am sorry that you gave up on yours. Do you still have the tree itself?? I am sure you were doing a great job at it though! Smile

Drgonzo... 3 years? I would love to see it, even if it isn't styled or what have you. I really am new to this. I have ideas, but getting from idea form to actual tree, quite intimidating. Thank you for the tips about cutting it back in the spring though! I was wondering if I should do that then or not and how far. I will take a photo later and post it hopefully. I would have never thought to put those fishing lure weights to help weigh them down! Very clever! As it is right now from the top of the soil to the top of the tree it is about 3 1/2 feet tall, but it bends quite heavily, which is okay because I was planning on having a curved trunk anyway. I took it from my sisters tree about the beginning of summer and it shot off pretty quickly. Thank you for your response and advice!! Appreciate it!


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Re: Weeping willow

Post  drgonzo on Wed Aug 17, 2011 11:37 pm

Hi Nightshade

I wish I could take personal credit for the tips but They're all from various sources I have read while pursuing my own work with willows and how you go about getting that "willowy" effect. I love fishing so I thought the split shot was brilliant!

I can't post outside links yet but will be able to in a few days, she's not much more than a bush about chest high anyway, But what I did, and I found this worked, was allowing it to get maybe 7 feet (one good seasons worth of growth) then cutting it next spring at 2 feet then another whip grew out and a ton of side branches popped. All the side branches are left in place to thicken the trunk, and I just keep it in check leader wise at about 3 feet. I found if you let the leader get too long and you have side branches growing at the same time, you will get a mighty loss of taper where that leader meets the main trunk so I keep the central leader in check after year two and let my side branches do all the trunk fattening work.

Its just on the verge of mature bark this year and by next spring It may get dug up and put in its training box, I let the bark quality determine timing. Took about 3 seasons to begin to transition from the smooth green bark of youth to the beginnings of the fissured bark of adulthood. Thats very fast as Bonsai go!

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Weeping Willow

Post  bonsaisr on Thu Aug 18, 2011 1:41 am

I suppose it can be done, but I don't think they live very long. I tried 'Rokkakudo,' the compact weeping willow, several times. They are very susceptible to winter die-back and rotting, at least under my conditions.
Iris

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  drgonzo on Thu Aug 18, 2011 2:02 am

with a quick look 35-40 years seems about the lifespan of a weeping willow 70-100 being an honored elder, only a blip compared to a juniper or pine BUT still long enough to give me a good time well into my "supposed" retirement. So far I've never had a die back issue with any of my willows on the property and seeing as Bonsai culture for these species requires a prune nearly back to the trunk line every year anyway it may not be too much of an issue. As far as rotting I almost couldn't believe you had that issue Iris. Of all the rot resistant species I would think willow would be among the leaders. But who knows. Again I've never had that issue but that might have been something more specific to that cultivar. Which I've never heard of but am going to have fun looking up!

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  drgonzo on Thu Aug 18, 2011 3:33 am

I just looked up that Rokkakudo; boy is that ever cool, A rare one indeed its a shame you lost it Iris.

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  jonkatzmail on Thu Aug 18, 2011 4:34 am

When I went to the Dawes Arboretum in Ohio there was a Weeping Willow with circularly curled leaves called a Ring-leaved Weeping Willow that looked interesting. The sign said it is the most beautiful kind but also the least hardy, or the most delicate, or something like that. It might make an interesting bonsai.

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  Nightshade76 on Thu Aug 18, 2011 6:07 am

Hey Drgonzo,

Thank you again for the information, No matter where it comes from it is appreciated! I have not found much info on weeping willows actually aside from where to buy them, or how to care for a very tall one. I will definitely give that a go this spring. I was going to cut it back to see if the trunk would get any thicker, as it is now it isn't very thick at all. I was going to chop it down about a foot or so, and use one of the branches that was left on there as the new leader. So this way I know it can be done, awesome and thank you! I wish I had a spot to plant it in the ground, but we live in an apt so it is a pretty deep pot. I really do appreciate the information! Smile

Hello Iris,

I am sorry that your willow didn't make it. That has really got to be frustrating! I have searched on google for images of the Rokkakudo willow. It is very lovely. Shame it didn't live. :/

Hope you all had a good night!

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  Nightshade76 on Thu Aug 18, 2011 6:59 am

jonkatzmail

I wonder if it was just at type of weeping willow, or all in general. I suppose I will find out eventually! Laughing

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  RKatzin on Thu Aug 18, 2011 3:13 pm

The big willows are fun to play with and good practice trees, but not a good one for bonsai. There are some types of willow much more adaptable to the art and one of my favorites is Salix purpura 'nana', Dwarf Purple Willow. This tree will do what you want, can be trained to a weeping form or almost any style you like without the big leaf size and explosive growth habit of the bigger willows.

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  drgonzo on Thu Aug 18, 2011 3:21 pm

Hi Nightshade

If your growing it in a big pot, find a bigger pot. Just playing, well not really. But I'll tell you this my Willow in the ground now started of in a 5 gallon pot and filled it in one season. The growth slowed down and I was stuck. So next year into the ground she went. If you really want to get some growth on that guy you might literally have to put it in one of those big BIG pots they sell for ornamental trees. I think they might be 30 gallon, OR The other option is to repot it in the spring as buds extend, take half the roots off and freshen the soil allow EVERYTHING full growth extension. The Pot will naturally keep things from getting Too out of control. I didn't know you had it in a container. You may have to repot again in the summer, just keep it soaked and It will regrow roots no problem.

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  drgonzo on Thu Aug 18, 2011 3:23 pm

Indeed they are excellent practice trees both for root pruning and controlling taper. I have a almost religious connection to willows so I grow them wether I can bonsai them or not so I'll admit I have a Major bias towards them.

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  Nightshade76 on Thu Aug 18, 2011 4:37 pm

RKatzin,

Hello! Thank you for the information! I could use all the practice I can get. I have never styled a bonsai before so since the willows grow quickly I will have all the hands on I can get each year! Dwarf purple willows? I have never seen/heard of those before. I am sure it is a great tree! Thank you again for the heads up! I will definitely look for them!



Drgonzo,

Every time I pass my willow in its pot I think to myself, I REALLY need to get a bigger pot for that tree. I will eventually. I figure if I cut it back in the spring it should be ok until I can find something bigger that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. -Why is that by the way? I mean they are just plastic pots, you'd think by the cost they'd be made of gold!- If I can talk my parents into letting me stick it in their yard I will do so, but I have been wanting a weeping willow since I can remember and was told "No!" because of their being very thirsty and liking water pipes and such. So I am thinking that I will troll the stores looking for some big pots on the cheap and do the cutting in the early spring. I couldn't agree more with the major bias towards these trees. For some reason ever since I can remember I've always just loved them, wanted one, love looking at them. It should be an interesting journey!

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  RKatzin on Thu Aug 18, 2011 5:25 pm

Hi drgonzo, I certainly share your affection for the willows, their beauty as well as their many uses in medicine and utility. Some of my first projects were willow and I have many willows in the works. I say the large standard weeping willow is fun to play with and to learn with, but as bonsai subjects are problematic and will after a period of years of struggling expire. As you say, five to thirty gallon pots will keep them fine, but the smaller you go with the pot the more problems will arise, primerily sudden die back, abandoning whole branches or one side of the tree. If you watch willows in nature you will see that this is how they live, die and regenerate. I would not dissuade anyone from growing willows, just to not trying to do a shohin size weeper from one of those big leafed ones from down by the pond. There are several small leafed varieties that are much more adaptable to container culture. There are also many other species that can be trained into a very convincing weeping form. I have a Threadleaf Aborvitae (Thuja) that grows in long tendrels, I know it's not a willow, if you're a purist, but it's an avenue to explore if you're looking for trees that you can train to that style. I'm by no means stating that you can't do the big willows if your heart is set on it, go big and keep the styling open and free form and roll with the changes as they come. In nature, without mans assisstance, they are weak wooded, unstable trees, prone to wind damage and snow loads, compansated by the formation of massive root systems generated by the fact that any part of the tree that touches the ground will quickly root in and start a new tree. The soft wood is highly sussectable to rot and most will develop heart rot and then fall over. Then all the top branches will root in and a thicket develops and a few trees will rise up out of the thicket to start the process all over. Here they are pioneer trees, being some of the first to emerge after a fire or natural disaster, providing nutrients and shade for the conifers. Well, I got a little carried away, but that's the growth habit you most contend with when growing the bigger willows. Oh, the pot thing, no they're not made of gold, they're made from oil, yeah they're spendy!

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  Nightshade76 on Thu Aug 18, 2011 5:45 pm

Wow, I didn't know that willows could have so many issues. Everyone I have ever seen has been a big healthy beast of a tree! I will definitely take that into consideration. Thank you RKatzin! I am planning on keep the willow in a bigger pot, as I wanted the tree itself to be a bit big and bold.

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  drgonzo on Fri Aug 19, 2011 1:25 am

I plan on keeping mine in a large bowl type pot good and deep and wide. My goal is to style it more as a good representation of a weeping willow rather than going more toward true Bonsai aesthetics. And the first step will be a nice BIG DEEP pot.

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  Brett Summers on Fri Aug 19, 2011 4:42 am

Bonsai Focus has a VERY good article on growing weeping willow as Bonsai. Apparently using a continual gravity fed watering system and LOTS of fertiliser will avoid the health issues many face when growing in bonsai containers.
I will find the article and post the issue date as anyone that is interested in growing weeping willow should read it. It shows a great improvement in the tree since using this method.
I got slack with my willow last year and almost killed it by putting in a tub of water that I got stagnant with too much organic fert. (My gravity fed system kept clogging Mad ) I will keep trying with a better setup this growing season.

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  Nightshade76 on Fri Aug 19, 2011 7:14 am

Hello Brett...

Would love to read the article if you have a link handy! Thank you for commenting and letting us know about it. How long have you had your Willow? A gravity fed watering system sounds pretty interesting! Would love to see how that would work!
-Thanks again!


Last edited by Nightshade76 on Fri Aug 19, 2011 7:16 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : hit send to quick. :/)

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Re: Weeping willow

Post  drgonzo on Fri Aug 19, 2011 4:02 pm

I would like to read that article too Brett thanks for mentioning it.

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Re: Weeping willow

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