Whomping willow

Credit: Carolyn Herriot


For seven years I have been pruning the weeping willow, Salix babylonica from the centre outwards and upwards, so that we could sit under the shade of its branches. Mission accomplished and all was well until last winter, when a sudden snow dump on the outstretched branches split a main trunk down the centre.

Being a feature tree in the middle of the garden, I was loath to lose it.

john chainsawing tree
In March we watched with alarm as a friend, John, proceeded to reduce the once whomping willow to a shadow of its former self, leaving only the main trunk and four branch stubs.

pollarded willow

(John was handy climbing the tree swinging a running chainsaw – but don’t try this at home, hire a licensed professional!)

slow return of the willow
It took two months for any sign of life to return, which it did in the form of lots of shoots emerging from the main trunk. These shoots quickly developed into long whips. In September we pruned off the lower whips to reveal the main trunk of the tree. Instantly our whomping willow looked fantastic, because the branches were now weeping, as they should!

I have now come to the conclusion that to get the best effect from a weeping willow they need to be ‘pollarded’ in this fashion.

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