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.