December plant of the month

With a warm glow on a winter’s day, the golden willow ‘Yelverton’ – is a stand out plant for December

golden willow 'Yelverton'At Wisley, we have run the Winter Walk for the last five years, and for 2018–19 golden willow ‘Yelverton’, Salix alba  var.  vitellina ‘Yelverton’ AGM is our number one stop. We call it the ‘photographer’s favourite’ because its reddish-orange and yellow-orange stems attract the attention of everyone, with a camera or not! It makes a glowing focal point – bright on a dull day, radiant in sunshine.

To keep the stems at their colourful best we prune them at the end of the winter (or the early spring). Some are pollarded, meaning they intentionally grow on a low trunk, a technique carried out every three years or so. Cutting back (coppicing or stooling) promotes the growth of new stems and it is these young stems that produce the bright, fresh colours that we admire during the winter months. 

On the Winter Walk, this golden willow grows on the shores of the Round Pond, beside the pure white bark of the multi-stemmed birch tree Betula utilis var. jacquemontii ‘Doorenbos’, drooping blue cedars, a carpet of white heather and a ghostly bramble, Rubus thibetanus. It would be in great company among other Salix and Cornus  too. Indeed, further around the Winter Walk, you’ll find such a mass planting of winter stem colour at Stop 7. These SalixCornusRubus and Acer mass plantings will be looking wonderful until around March when some of them get trimmed back. 

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.