Weeping Willow - (salix babylonica)
Willow Bonsai Style: Weeping
I had known this tree for many years before it actually came into my possession. It used to be the star tree in a friend's large collection and I often admired it when visiting.
Grown for over twenty years from a very small cutting, it was displayed separately on a pedestal to allow its graceful branches plenty of room to weep and show itself to its best advantage. Whilst on holiday for two weeks my friend entrusted the care of his trees to his son.
The weather was hot and frequent watering ensured that the trees remained healthy. However, during the second week my friend's son realised that he'd not even noticed the willow as it was located at the other end of the garden.
The pot had been sat in a dish of water, which was now completely dry. All the leaves were dried up and brown, it was a disaster! The willow was immediately watered, but it did not appear to revive and looked very sorry for itself.
Upon my friend's return his son explained what had happened. On close inspection the majority of the branches were dying back, but being a vigorous species, there was certainly hope. The tree was moved to a shady area of the garden, where it continued to die back.
One branch remained alive and new shoots soon appeared at the end of it and at the base of the dead branches. All was not lost, but it would be several years until this tree was restored to its former glory.
Willow Bonsai History: Training
I acquired the willow six months later after its health had been restored by much tender care and regular feeding. My friend had lost enthusiasm for this tree and was happy to sell it to me.
I could not believe my good fortune in acquiring this tree, which I had always coveted. Having two other willows in my collection I was confident that it would not be long until this tree was looking as good as those, particularly as the excess growth had thickened up the trunk.
The following spring the tree was repotted. It was completely pot bound, so much so that the pot had began to crack in several places and I strengthened it by smearing car filler on the inside.
The roots were pruned heavily and all the branches were cut back. I removed the final remaining original branch, replacing it with a new more suitable smaller shoot and the tree grew strongly. In the following spring the willow was planted in a new, slightly larger, more elegant pot and pruned hard.
After just two years the willow looked glorious. I keep this tree in light shade, which certainly helps it stay healthy and very green. This weeping willow managed to survive its ordeal and as the gradual arching of the branches develops, it will certainly get better and better every year!