Trees and Shrubs forum: Pruning a Pussy Willow

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Name: Abbey
Eastern New York State (Zone 6a)
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Garden10
Apr 6, 2017 3:53 PM CST
If anyone has experience with this and can give me any help or advice, I'd very much appreciate it. I ordered two pussy willow shrubs, that's what they called them, shrubs. When I was a kid, my friend's neighbor gave us the run of their yard, and they had three or four of them in a row that must have been about five feet high, and that's what I had in mind, I loved them.

Well, it turns out what I ordered can go 20-25 ft high, to me, that's a tree, but whatever...I'm planting them in back where the roots won't screw up anything for anyone, but has anyone else ever trained them to be that size, maybe five or six feet tops, successfully? I've read it can be done, but I always feel better about anything if I've gotten an account and advice from someone who has actually done it. Smiling
"Every now and then I leave the book on the seat and go and have a refreshing potter among my flower beds from which I return greatly benefited, and with a more just conception of what is worth bothering about, and what is not." The Solitary Summer -- Elizabeth von Arnim
Name: Amanda
KC metro area, Missouri (Zone 6a)
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pepper23
Apr 6, 2017 7:56 PM CST
I gave my grandma some several years ago and she pruned them hard every year to keep them shorter and to get a good trunk on them. They are fast growers so it take a lot of pruning to keep it down that height but it's doable if you stay on top of them.
Name: Deb
Pacific NW (Zone 8b)
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Bonehead
Apr 6, 2017 10:24 PM CST
My pussy willows routinely get to 20-25 feet, and about 10 feet in diameter. Do you not have the room for them to be what they want to be? I usually find it difficult to try to 'curb' plants to something less than their natural growth pattern, and often end up with a rather bad form.
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Abbey
Eastern New York State (Zone 6a)
Bookworm Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Garden Photography Garden Art Birds Region: New York
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Garden10
Apr 7, 2017 7:38 AM CST
Thank you Amanda, that's good to know! Smiling

Deb, I don't have shrubs in the front shaped like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and I don't buy GMO, but I was sold two SHRUBS, and I'm not a gardening expert, but I've been around a lot of them, and no one has ever referred to anything 20 ft. tall as a shrub. I need to be able to maintain these myself, I don't need an added expense of having to hire someone to trim two more trees, and I'm growing them for the catkins, and how am I going to harvest them on a 20 ft. tree? I don't see anything unnatural about pruning them, pussy willows are native in my area and the NYS Department of Conservation encourages people to plant them. God may have meant them to be 25 ft. tall in the woods, but this is a domestic property, and I don't think pruning them to be a smaller size is an assault anymore than house training a dog is. Smiling
"Every now and then I leave the book on the seat and go and have a refreshing potter among my flower beds from which I return greatly benefited, and with a more just conception of what is worth bothering about, and what is not." The Solitary Summer -- Elizabeth von Arnim
Name: Deb
Pacific NW (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Deer Organic Gardener Ferns Herbs Beavers
Dragonflies Spiders! Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry Birds Fruit Growers
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Bonehead
Apr 7, 2017 8:25 AM CST
Abbey, I meant no disrespect, sorry if my comment came across that way. I do not oppose pruning nor do I think it is any sort of assault. Not sure how GMO enters the mix (?) To clarify: I think the line between a shrub and small tree is pretty fine. I have a number of shrubs that are 15-20' tall - I think the reason they are called shrubs is by their growth pattern (suckering and/or many stemmed) rather than their mature height. I don't personally have good luck trying to prune trees or shrubs into something they don't want to be - they continue to send out top shoots, often sprouting several shoots at the pruning point, and I end up with a really bad looking plant. It then becomes a battle between me and the plant, and I have found it easier to let the shrub or tree simply grow how it wants. This is just my personal experience, not meant as any sort of judgment.

Since you are wanting a smaller shrub, I wonder if there might be a dwarf form of pussy willow that would suit you better? Or perhaps one of the weeping varieties?
I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.
Name: Abbey
Eastern New York State (Zone 6a)
Bookworm Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Garden Photography Garden Art Birds Region: New York
Herbs Container Gardener Annuals Dog Lover Butterflies Plant Lover: Loves 'em all!
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Garden10
Apr 7, 2017 10:59 AM CST
No, we're good, Deb, I'm New York Italian Catholic, when we say please pass the salt, we sound like Norwegian Lutherans killing each other, so my expression can be stronger than the average bear. I spoke about GMOs to illustrate that I do buy and select with more on my mind than my convenience or ego demands.

NYS does sell the species of trees they want folks to plant, but they are in huge lots for people with acres, and they are really just a stick less than a foot high, by the time they become trees, I'll be plant food. I haven't been too impressed with the places that sell plants around here so far; it is my first season here, and I was dismayed to find that they are not only selling stuff that is frowned upon by the state, but plants way before it is safe to plant them. They get stuff that's forced in a greenhouse, and then people are supposed to take them home and plant them in March and April in zone 6a? One place that is supposed to be a proper plant place has had the same sorry forsythia outside since the beginning of February. So we'll see what happens Shrug!
"Every now and then I leave the book on the seat and go and have a refreshing potter among my flower beds from which I return greatly benefited, and with a more just conception of what is worth bothering about, and what is not." The Solitary Summer -- Elizabeth von Arnim
Name: Deb
Pacific NW (Zone 8b)
Region: Pacific Northwest Deer Organic Gardener Ferns Herbs Beavers
Dragonflies Spiders! Dog Lover Keeper of Poultry Birds Fruit Growers
Image
Bonehead
Apr 7, 2017 11:59 AM CST
I agree that nurseries should be more selective on what they offer - particularly regarding regionally invasive plants (English ivy is a real problem out here in the Pacific NW, yet easy enough to buy). Keep searching for a reputable nursery - my local gem always warns about adequately protecting plants that are still in their greenhouses, cautions about some groundcovers that can be overly aggressive, and is very pro-active about not using chemicals harmful to bees. They also go out of their way to find specific cultivars if requested. More expensive than big-box garden centers, but much higher quality plants and a much more relaxed shopping experience. Good luck.

I want to live in a world where the chicken can cross the road without its motives being questioned.

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