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Willows 101

The Martha Stewart Show, Episode 5128

Willows are a family of trees and shrubs with distinctive branches that are both pretty and practical. Their flexibility and hardiness make them versatile as both decorative living plants and malleable dried materials.

As plants that have survived for thousands of years -- they were one of the first flowers after the last Ice Age -- willows have developed remarkable durability. They self-root: stick a willow in the ground, and it will grow. They have the ability to self-graft, which makes them stronger. And the branches are flexible, which makes them an ideal material for creative, one-of-kind objects.

Bonnie Gale, owner of English Basketry Willows, has made a career of growing and manipulating willows into beautiful baskets, furniture, and other structures. She shares a few of her favorite willow varieties.

Types of Willow
Giant willow: This is the willow with which most people are familiar -- they're glorious in the spring.

Japanese fantail willow: These plants feature fascinated stems (twisted pussies growing out from flat stems) and are an ornamental favorite of florists.

Contorted willow: This is a very rigorous willow -- you can see green leaves coming out of it. It's often used for artistic purposes.

Pendulous willow tree: These trees features two willows grafted together to achieve a pendulous effect. They're generally sold during the spring.

Learn how to make a living willow fence.

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