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Weekend Life

Learning to Grow: A love-hate relationship with a weeping willow

A Weeping Willow planted 25 years ago in the Stoll family’s yard has played a  part in many family memories.
A Weeping Willow planted 25 years ago in the Stoll family’s yard has played a part in many family memories.

I threaten to cut down our weeping willow after every storm while we’re out picking up all the branches it dropped. I threaten to cut it down when my husband is risking life and limb to prune out the dead wood that occurs all too often. I threaten to cut it down every fall when it finally drops its leaves after we have put away the bagging lawnmower for the winter. I just hate that tree!

When we planted that weeping willow 25 years ago, it held the promise of all of its attributes. It could thrive in the spot in our front yard that drains poorly and stays wet longer in spring and after hard rains. It would grow quickly – up to 10 feet each year – so the lot devoid of trees when we built our house would have a large tree within a few years and give us some badly needed shade. And, most importantly, its graceful rounded stature would add character to our landscape.

The juvenile 6-foot tall weeping willow was planted with love and the help of our three young daughters.
As the tree grew, its lovely sweeping branches created the green walls of a playhouse where the girls hosted teddy bear tea parties and put on plays.

Later, they climbed in its branches. Years passed and the pretty green foliage provided a beautiful backdrop for prom pictures.

After our daughters grew up and moved to their own gardens, I planted a lovely shade garden full of hostas, ferns and other shade-loving perennials under its large canopy. It stands guard over the plants letting just enough filtered light through to help them thrive.

In spring as its long, thin leaves appear, I admire its majesty – a gentle, weeping giant.

In fall, it is just as lovely when its leaves turn yellow. It is a beautiful tree that has grown with our family.
As I grudgingly pick up branches that fell with the last storm, I wonder. If I could be transported back twenty-five years ago and do it all again, would I plant that weeping willow?

Of course I would. It thrives in a poorly draining spot; it provides shade for my hostas; at 75 feet tall, it adds beauty and grace to our landscape; and it holds the memories of a lifetime.

I love that weeping willow!

• Diana Stoll is a University of Illinois Extension Master Gardener for Kane County. Call the extension office at 630-584-6166 for information.

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