The coyote willow


by James Alexander-Sinclair

The shoots are the runners of one of my favourite plants, Salix exigua, or the coyote willow.


Image of Salix exigua growing through james Alexander-Sinclair's lawn.My daughter has just wandered into my office to ask "what is all that stuff growing in the lawn?". While not exactly a perfectly worded horticultural query it is a very interesting point. At the moment the grass is spattered with silver-leaved shoots. They pop up all over the place and grow faster than the grass, so it's obvious when the lawn needs mowing.

The shoots are the runners of one of my favourite plants, Salix exigua, or the coyote willow. This is about the tallest plant I have and it provides a wonderful backdrop to the rest of the garden. It has long, thin silver leaves as elegant as a dancer's fingers. It also grows as a sort of multi-stemmed thicket that can easily be thinned out to prevent it becoming too dense.

However, it does have the minor disadvantage that it runs about enthusiastically underground, popping up shoots whenever it feels the urge. It's extraordinary to think how widespread the root system is - although it's nothing compared to aspen, Populus tremuloides. There's a grove of Aspen clones in Utah - called Pando - that covers 106 acres and is estimated to weigh about 6000 tonnes (although why anybody would want to weigh the darned thing I have no idea).

Don't let the profligacy of the coyote willow put you off. It's an unbelievably lovely tree/shrub that's not as fussy about growing in wet conditions as many of its cousins. It makes a good thick, informal hedge, which looks beautiful set against stronger colours that contrast its silvery leaves. Shame about the suckers, but I suppose I'll just have to keep mowing.



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Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:39

I don't grow Lilac anymoe because of suckers, Quince is another culprit, and Roses, but I still grow Roses for their wonderful perfume and colour,I do have a miniture Lilac in a pot, and still grow quince but nothing else with suckers.