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Four years ago I gave my cousin a weeping 'pussy willow' and for two years it was lovely. Then the weeping branches began to grow too long for the trunk so that they reached the ground and grew outwards over the grass. My cousin trimmed them back but they did the same the following year. Can you tell me what we should have done at this point? I went over this week and to my horror she has given the poor tree a number 2 haircut and the branches are turning upward. Is a rescue possible??



If you are talking about the grafted Kilmarnock Willow this is its normal behaviour... from the grated crown it grows branches back down towards the ground and unless pruned will continue to grow those branches across grass, soil or a solid surface. We prune ours only to keep it from rampaging all over the road! Tour cousin could have been a lot gentler with her willow but it should grow again.

11 May, 2012


As long as she hasn't cut beyond the graft at the top of the stem, the branches will start to turn downwards as they get longer and in a couple of years, it'll be trailing on the ground again. Just a yearly job, shearing it back after its flowered to a foot above ground level (unless its a very short standard).

12 May, 2012


Thank you both very much! She hasn't cut beyond the graft. I think she is about to discard it altogether so I'll try to rescue it for my own garden! I think she thought the trunk would grow in proportion to the branches, but clearly, that is not the case.

12 May, 2012


A Kilmarnock willow will grow taller but it takes a while and it is the weeping branches that grown not the trunk.

12 May, 2012


Penny, she might want to cut half of the branches that grow this year back again next spring, then the remaining half in spring of 2014, then the first half, etc. Done carefully, that could maintain a near natural form, with branches just down to ground level. I would try not to leave "stubble", though, just cutting to the point of origin, or to a shorter side branch. Thinning the new sprouts carefully may also be useful.

13 May, 2012


Thanks Tug. If it is tossed in my direction I will certainly prune as you describe. It was a relief to find out today that it has not been dug out yet! I told my cousin what you all have said but I'm not sure she's going to persevere with it. However, I don't think she will throw it on the bonfire now!

15 May, 2012


I suspect that after four years it is going to be a challenge to remove without damaging the roots... Best to wait until autumn if you actually want to transplant the tree.

15 May, 2012


Ok MG. I suppose it might not be worth the effort. However, I'm hoping my cousin will keep it now--will have to wait and see.

16 May, 2012


Good luck PennyF.

16 May, 2012

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