a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Willows in the winter


One of my better ideas in the garden are my willows which provide a welcome touch of orange and red at this time of year (November 2017).

We planted 5 Salix alba “Chermesina) in January of 2014 to encircle a favourite sitting spot.  A large fir tree had been taken down just behind them and the area felt rather naked.  We also planted a little Mahonia and quite a few spring bulbs.

Despite their stick-like beginning the willows had already taken on form by July of 2015


By July of 2016 they had made a very respectable screen but the bulbs had lost the battle along the way.  2017 tested their drought tolerance and it is important for us that they can survive dry summers.

The Mahonia that I had chosen is Mahonia eurybracteata “Soft Caress”.  It was “Plant of the Year” at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2013.  I’m afraid that I was not very kind to it, planting it at the foot of such vigorous willows.  The idea was that the willows would shelter it from the strong sunshine but I think I misjudged the space it would need.  I find space very difficult to judge when you are planting small plants and not too sure of their growth patterns.  As the photo shows the flowers are not too impressive so I have decided to move it this year once we get some rain.

We will be cutting the willows back severely at the end of winter, as we have done each year, so that they produce the fine branches from the base.  They shoot up four metres high branches over the year.

It is good when at least some things go the way you intend them in the garden.

Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

34 thoughts on “Willows in the winter

  1. The main problem with these and other willows with colored bark is that they do not get cut back at the end of winter. I prefer to pollard them a few feet above the ground (on a single straight trunk) instead of coppicing them to the ground, just because they are easier to prune that way. However, such a bare knob might be unsightly in such a nice garden.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Willow does look so beautiful. If only I had the space…. still, I have some branches from a friend’s last winter in a vase and I’m pleased that they seem to have kept their colour.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a good idea and I was immediately reminded of the Winter Walk at Anglesey Abbey (National Trust) where the Dogwood, Fir and Silver Birches are so beautiful in Winter https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/anglesey-abbey-gardens-and-lode-mill/features/anglesey-abbeys-winter-garden

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know this Winter Walk but it does look stunning and shows just what you can do to have colour in the winter. I am more familiar with the Saville Gardens in winter and their display of Dogwoods is superb. Unfortunately, I am not as successful with the Dogwoods, perhaps the ground is too dry. Amelia


  4. The willows look lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. They’re beautiful. One of my desires if and when we ever get our country home is to grow willow for wattle and other constructions.


    • I have seen lovely garden buildings made out of willow and I think they are beautiful. It would be lovely to be able to make one for one’s own garden. It is a bit beyond my capabilities although I have always fancied learning how to make willow baskets. Amelia


  6. Hello Amelia, We too find willow stems brilliant at this time of the year – particularly under your seemingly endless blue skies! I’m not familiar with your Mahonia, but the foliage looks really attractive. How big might it grow eventually?
    Best wishes

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I used to tell clients to visit public parks, gardens and arboretums whenever they had a chance so they could see what the trees and shrubs they were interested in would look like when they were fully grown. It’s a good way to see into the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Any colour in winter is welcome and these do look lovely with the sun shining on them. They are an excellent idea for screening too, which I hadn’t thought of before.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Amelia, weave with those beautiful pruned willow branches! Even if you make live branch baskets that die over the year I bet you have birds that would love a willowy home!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I first saw coloured willows on a sunny winters day planted along one edge of a pool, perfectly positioned to reflect in the water. A semi circle like yours around a seating area is a lovely idea Amelia.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Your willows look fabulous in the sunshine. Have you ever considered weaving them together to make a living arbor?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve seen some beautiful examples showing photographs of the living arbors but I think it is a step too far for me. It is enough for me to remember to get them cut down at the correct time 🙂 Amelia


  12. Do you get the sallow-loving bees on the flowers?


  13. I have been checking them out but they are not great for the bees. Our best willows are our goat willows. Last year Kourosh took quite a few cuttings. We will replant a couple to make sure of continuity in the garden and give the rest to bee-keeping friends. Amelia


  14. I love willows but don’t think our garden is big enough for them. You’re so right that gardening is a matter of trial and error. In October after we finished weeding I moved many of the plants to that I planted in our first year to different locations. It is so much fun planning every year and watching the garden grow. Emma


  15. Willows look like nature’s fireworks in your garden. I am hoping to pick up gardening tips from you as I now have a proper garden of my own for the first time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am not a real gardener but the garden gives me a lot of pleasure. I think you will be like me when you choose plants, first you will think, “Will this be good for the bees and other pollinators and the birds?” It is surprising that given a little consideration a more suitable plant can be obtained without any sacrifice to care, perfume or utility. Amelia


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s