In a Vase on Monday. Black Clouds

Last week I featured a pink Pussy Willow in my vase. The garden was full of blooms and looked springlike and I was keen to celebrate it. Today, the garden is still wearing its spring party dress but it’s forgotten its coat and so it’s shivering under constant downpours and howling winds. My plants and I are under a black cloud.  I have projects to get on with which can’t be done in sludge. Daffodils have collapsed, nose first into the mud.  A golden stemmed bamboo has heaved itself out of the ground and looks as if it is about to sprint off in search of a balmier climate.  I don’t blame it.

So it was the my black pussy willow which I was seeking out today. It is called Salix gracilistyla ‘Melanostachys’ and it comes from Japan.

Instead of adorable fluffy pink pussy willow, today my vase looks a bit sinister. I read somewhere that that the catkins of this shrub look like dancing black bears. They remind me of cat’s claws and I don’t mean adorable fluffy kittens. They have vicious-looking claws. These are the bud scales which drop off eventually.
I arranged them in my Victorian mourning vase to match their austere and slightly sinister mood.

I know this black pussy willow isn’t to everyone’s taste but I think it looks dramatic in a vase and if we can’t have sunshine and woolly baa lambs frolicking amongst the daisies yet, then why not a bit of drama.?

As the catkins mature they discard the claws and  the anthers become reddish in colour.

The final stage is when the stamens become covered in yellow pollen and then they will have to go outside. In the meantime the stems will probably root and I can have a forest of them if I like. But one is enough. It grows to about 6 to 10 ft but every couple of years I cut it right back when the catkins finish. It is not very interesting for the rest of the year but I wouldn’t be without it because now and then a bit of drama in your vase is good. I resisted my usual urge to cram lots of other flowers into the vase, this is a stand alone plant.

Willows need a damp position in the sun They are all dioecious which is a word with too many vowels which I can never remember how to spell or pronounce. It means the masculine and feminine flowers appear on separate plants.

Cathy at Rambling in the Garden has found some sunshine to lighten the gloom of her black clouds today. Do go and see.

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40 Responses to In a Vase on Monday. Black Clouds

  1. Eliza Waters says:

    I used to have one of these, but it had to be removed when the new septic went in and was too big to relocate. I wish now I took cuttings, alas.

  2. I love it! Never seen one, especially black. And spot on display – solo.

  3. bcparkison says:

    Interesting…you just never know what will go and what want. I like it….but then I have always liked black.

  4. Kris Peterson says:

    Rather than a bear, the stems made me think of black swans, a touch sinister like the movie of that name but very dramatic and compelling. I hope your weather improves. We’re bight and sunny but also headed back into drought…

  5. Heyjude says:

    A most interesting plant and I like the drama of it in the black vase.

  6. Wow, that’s a stunner! I don’t recall seeing that one before, of if I did, not that close up and not at that stage. It looks beautiful in your vase!

  7. I have never heard of a black one. It is very dramatic.

  8. pbmgarden says:

    I very much like this dark dramatic vase. Interesting plant. I share your mood this week too. More rain here then plunging temps again.

  9. They are extraordinarily good looking. Not at all somber.

  10. Annette says:

    Oh dear, I’m sorry to hear that your weather still hasn’t improved. It’s truly a special plant and perfect for a black garden. I do hope the mourning will be over soon so that you can get on with your projects. Lashing rain here too by the way, daffs are still standing though!

  11. Tina says:

    Oh, the catkins are beautiful–inside, and outside, the house.

  12. Anna says:

    It certainly doesn’t appear to have the I must stroke you appeal of the common pussy willow or the pink variety but it is a stunner Chloris.

  13. Cathy says:

    Yes! I remember this from when we visited and indeed you gave me a cutting but mine did not take. The full display of them in the black mourning vase is stunning Chloris, and yes, to me they are like black bears, definitely not black swans!! It has occurred to me that when my pink pussy willow arrives the Coop Corner might be too near the house for it, with it being a willow. What do you think? I suppose it is not the same as a massive willow..

    Sorry to hear your garden is so wet and soggy – it must be especially frustrating when you are anxious to get on with your Project. I have the first inkling of a new project but I will try hard to wait till after our openings to make a start on it – but it’s a long way from being a fully-fledged project yet, anyway!

    • Chloris says:

      If any of these root I will send you one along with the snowdrops which I still haven’t posted. Sorry, sorry, sorry. I will send a few hellebore seedlings too, you could always grow them on and sell them at a garden opening if you don’t have room. You and I just need a project to dream about don’t we? I still haven’t made my path by the winter garden as it’s such a bog.

      • Cathy says:

        Don’t worry about the snowdrops, they will become round the mountain when they come… Yes please to hellebore seedlings and a black bear cutting if it roots. You are definitely right about the need for a project and although the current stirrings wouldn’t make an especially big project it will still take some thought to be sure how best to do it – so it’s as well I want to leave it till the end of summer! I am not surprised you haven’t managed your path yet!

    • Chloris says:

      And about your pink pussy willow, you can keep it small by cutting it back when the catkins finish, but I’m not sure how extensive the root system will be. I would be a bit worried about planting it too near the house.

      • Cathy says:

        I was planning a spot perhaps a couple of metres away, but on second thoughts I need to reconsider. I also need to make sure I keep Benny in check as he has grown well since last year

  14. snowbird says:

    Oh goodness! How dramatic, I just love it!xxx

  15. tonytomeo says:

    Did you show these last year? I have seen them before.

  16. Cathy says:

    Black clouds is an appropriate name for this dark pussy willow which doesn‘t make one think if sunshine on a spring day! It is striking, especially in a dark vase with the reddish colour starting to show.

  17. I had this pussy willow in my previous garden, planted next to a Salix chaenomeloides ‘Mt. Asama’ which was described as having “dark pink” catkins. Both plants came for Forestfarm in the early 2000s (while they were stiill the original Forestfarm). The idea was that the black and the pink catkins would be out at the same time. But of course the Mt. Asama catkins opened fully while the black ones were still tight in their sheaths and not even thinking about emerging.By the time they did, the pink ones were well over. Murphy’s Law of Bloom Times strikes again!

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