Make your own free website on Tripod.com
Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!

The Resurrection and The Willow - The Propagation of Pussy Willows

Flowering Pussy Willows

Propagation, Cultivation and Distribution
of Flowering Pussy Willow Branches

The willow genus, Salix, is one of the largest in the plant kingdom. There are scores of species scattered throughout the temperate and frigid zones of North America, Asia and Europe. All species of willows are dioecious, i. e. the male and female parts called catkins (kotiki) appear on separate plants. The male catkins are generally showier and the flowering branches of the males of a few of the showier species are chosed for use in the processions of Willow Sunday to herald the Resurrection. In Europe it is the species, Salix caprea, and in North America, Salix discolor, which are selected for that function. The flowers or catkins appear in late winter when most other flora has not yet risen from the dormancy of winter.

The above mentioned species of pussy willow are easily propagated by taking cuttings 1 foot long in late winter at the time when they begin to bloom (generally March), placing them in containers in 2 inches of water, and setting the containers in a bright window. Care must be taken that the tips of the buds in the branch point upward. In a few weeks the branches will begin to grow roots. When the roots are 3 - 4 inches long, the rooted branches should be planted in good soil in gallon size plastic containers (available from the recycling bins of many garden centers) and placed in a bright window until danger of frost has passed. At that time the branches will begin to show green growth. After danger of frost has passed, the plants should be moved outside, placed in the sun, and kept well watered throughout the summer. Occasionally a light application of liquid fertilizer may be made to promote growth. (An alternative to the above which is usually less successful is to plant the rooted branches after the last frost directly in the permanent location). In October the potted plants should be set out in their permanent location at least 10 feet apart from each other. In selecting a permanent location, care must be taken to select a site which is sunny and damp, optimally near streams or drainage areas, but not near septic tanks because the roots of willows will invade the drain field. During the first winter in the ground the willow's roots will move into the adjacent soil. During the first summer in the ground the plants should be watered frequently to assist in the roots' penetration into the soil. In March and May light applications of 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 fertilizer should be applied around the plants, but not near the stems, to encourage growth and the formation of catkin buds. In areas with rabbits, the stems or trunks of the plants viz. small trees should be surrounded by 1-inch mesh chicken wire 36 inches tall availably in hardwares to discourage rabbits' foraging on the lower branches. Once in the ground pussy willows grow quickly, particularly if well watered and fertilized occasionally. Toward the end of the first or second winter in the ground one will notice the formation of large buds on the branches of the current summer's growth. These buds contain the catkins. When the catkins have broken half way out of their buds at the end of the following winter, it is time to begin harvesting. Because the Easter cycle varies so much, one cannot be sure that the catkins in their prime will match the ecclesiatical calendar. Usually the catkins are in their prime before, sometimes weeks before Willow Sunday, particularly in the South. Gathering the flowering branches in their prime and holding them in good condition require that they be cut into 12 to 15 inch segments and stored in a cool place until the day before Willow Sunday. To maintain pussy willows in prime production of catkin bearing branches, they must also be pruned radically (no higher than 5 feet) at the time of each harvest to keep them low and easily accessible and to promote new young growth upon which the catkins appear. In Europe the bushes are cut down every few years and heavily fertilized to promote the growth of numerous new branches which are cut for the florist trade.

Many churches and monasteries which possess suitable land and parishioners willing to undertake the project, might consider the cultivation of pussy willows, not only for their own use, but also for distribution or sale to other churches which have neither land nor inclination to grow their own, as a source of additional funds for church use. In this manner they not only serve to keep a valuable tradition from expiring from non-use, but also generate funds to supplement church income. Willow branches may be placed in a plastic bag in a cardboard tube available from office supply stores and sent everywhere by UPS or priority mail.

INTERESTED PARISHIONERS OF ORTHODOX AND GREEK-CATHOLIC CHURCHES OF THE BYZANTINE-SLAVONIC LITURGICAL TRADITION IN THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA ARE INVITED TO REQUEST CUTTINGS OF BRANCHES FOR PROPAGATION PURPOSES. ALL SUCH REQUESTS MUST BE SUBMITTED BEFORE FEBRUARY 28 BY E-MAIL TO: rlschwind@aol.com. PLEASE INCLUDE YOU NAME AND POSTAL ADDRESS. OTHERS MAY PURCHASE PLANTS OF THE EUROPEAN AND JAPANESE SPECIES OF PUSSY WILLOW AT FORESTFARM NURSERY (www.forestfarm.com) IN WILLIAMS, OR. FORESTFARM ALSO SELLS A BEAUTIFUL VARIANT OF THE JAPANESE PUSSY WILLOW, SALIX CHAENOMELOIDES, CALLED "MT. ASO" WHICH BEARS LARGE RED CATKINS.

Resurrection Troparion in Old Slavonic

Christos voskrese iz mertvikh,
Smertiyu smert poprav,
I sushim vo grobikh,
Zhivot darovav.

Pussy Willows in cultivation

Pussy Willows in cultivation

Salix caprea - European Pussy Willow

Salix caprea
European Pussy Willow

Salix discolor - American Pussy Willow

Salix discolor
American Pussy Willow

Salix chaenomeloides - Japanese Pussy Willow

Salix chaenomeloides
Japanese Pussy Willow

Garden of Our Lady of the Willow

Garden of Our Lady of the Willow

 

Willows (pruned) Willows (pruned)

Willows after Pruning

Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen!

Return to Index.
Copyright 2001-2003 by Robert L. Schwind. All rights reserved.