During the winter months, osier willows become my favourite tree. While for most trees, leaf fall means a loss of colour and bark is grey, or brown, or just dark looking against the winter skies, osiers catch fire. The fine twigs on this willow are a brilliant, orangey colour, so when everything else is looking sad and drab, these trees are vibrant and cheering.
I find during the winter that lack of colour can really get to me, so finding the wonderful colours of these willows always gives me a big lift.
Osier willows are popular for pollarding and coppicing. With a pollard, you cut the tree somewhere up the trunk to get a lot of fine growth, as with the photo. Coppicing is at ground level. Once you’ve started pollarding a tree, you have to keep doing it or the weight of the growth will tear the trunk apart. It tends to be willows and hazels that are pollarded and coppiced for the very usable material this produces. As the age a tree can get to is to a large extent limited by its size, this kind of cutting can increase the life expectancy of the tree. Trees that have been cut in this way will keep producing new material year on year, so it’s quite a sustainable way of doing things.
For all tree things, visit http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/ – which was also the source for this osier image.