Japanese weeping willow – a beautiful addition to the garden

The weeping willow, or salix babylonica, began life in the dry north of China but quickly spread across Asia and other parts of the world via the Silk Road. These days, it is grown almost everywhere. It brings a sense of beauty and grace to any garden space, adds dense shade, and the wind whispers beautifully through the long, drooping branches.

Weeping willows are often planted near ponds or streams and there is nothing quite as beautiful as watching the currents rush against branches that have sunk in the water. It evokes a strong sense of peace and transience, making it perfect for a Japanese garden.

As a deciduous tree, the weeping willow will lose its leaves in winter, but will retain all its beauty. The lines of the branches can be fully appreciated, as is the general shape of the tree. It never loses its ornamental value in the more formal patio or garden.

With access to a water source, a willow tree will generally require little maintenance, although care must be taken because its roots can interfere with pipes and other things underground. In winter or early spring, weeping willow should be pruned regularly, cutting back branches that have grown too long or branches that have bunched up. When overcrowded, a weeping willow loses some of its appeal and becomes a green mass that covers up in spring or summer, although the extra branches do not harm the tree in any way.

One particular cultivar known as rokakudai is a type of Japanese weeping willow often grown as bonsai. Bonsai is the Japanese art of growing a tree in a small container and shaping it, often over many years, to look like a large, fully grown tree, albeit very small in size. It takes a careful hand and a lot of patience to grow a bonsai that properly resembles a full-grown tree. They are prized as contemplative objects and thoughtful projects for the grower.

Like its larger cousin, the Japanese rokakudai weeping willow is also deciduous and prized for its drooping branches and thin, spiky leaves. Unlike its cousin, it tends to be sparser in its foliage and the branches are trimmed very carefully, because they are such an important part of the beauty of the rokakudai bonsai.

Adding a Japanese willow to your garden is a surefire way to enhance the beauty of your home.

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