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Here's How to Decorate with Pussy Willows, Martha's Favorite Sign of Spring

It can be used in wreaths, baskets, décor, and so much more.

Digital Editor
painted egg centerpiece
Photography by: Johnny Miller

While the ground thaws and winter snow melts away, there's one thing Martha is watching for as a welcome sign of spring: pussy willows. "I love pussy willows," Martha says in the March issue of Living, "and grow several varieties on my farm, including Purple Heirloom and the giant Salix chaenomeloides. As winter ends, I'll cut some branches to bring indoors for arrangements."

 

Appearing early in the spring, pussy willow is one of nature's earliest reminders that the garden will flourish again. Spring's pussy willow is famous for its catkins, each one a cluster of hundreds of flowers without petals. These branches can be cut when still only in bud and forced indoors, but you can gather branches that are already showing catkins and place them in a vase filled with tepid water. Linear branches need little arranging; they will naturally fan out to fill the vase. Simply cross-cut the woody stems at the base to help them take up water.

 

RELATED: Spring Decorating Ideas

 

They've been a part of Martha's spring celebrations for years, as she recalls them in her childhood in this penned column for the April 2003 issue of Living: "We also searched for the first soft pussy willows, which appeared at about the same time in our backyard in Nutley, New Jersey. I would take a snippet of branch with its velvety gray catkins and run it across my cheeks, imagining that the catkins were indeed the soft paws of a kitten. We made arrangements of pussy willows, and fashioned baskets and hoops and little huts from the flexible and furry branches."

 

Like Martha, you too can use pussy willow cuttings indoors for natural arrangements and crafts. Light, supple, and strong, the stems of these shrubs can be easily woven into baskets or bent into frames for other useful objects. Artfully adorn a glass vase with pussy willows or make charming baskets for Easter gifts and other tabletop decorations. On the front door, the velvety catskins make for a beautiful natural wreath; when attached to a wire wreath form, the branches spray out their downy tips. For a natural-looking objet d'art, craft a woven nest out of downy, gray catkins of pussy willow branches to nestle speckled eggs. You can do this on a grand scale, too, for a magnificent spring centerpiece, as pictured here, and fill it with dozens of decorated eggs. There are so many projects (many of which are Martha's favorites) that are just waiting for your creativity. If you're feeling the winter blues, why not trek into the outdoors and make your own spring awakening?