So, when one of the two River Birch I bought in Pueblo West from a family owned nursery died (I noticed when planting that they were horribly root bound with thick, winding roots and little soil), I looked to see what Target had to offer. I found River Birch! I looked through the whole pallet, pulling plants from containers and choosing the most likely plant to make it in my yard. The unfortunate thing was, I apparently picked up a Pussy Willow! [sigh]
I had no intention of planting a Pussy Willow. Other than knowing they like wet roots as much as a River Birch, I knew little about them. I've never heard they have real flowers and I had no idea if anything ate the little furry buds I know are called catkins. Past that...a rambunctious shrub that suckers, but offers little in the way of food, was the last thing I was interested in...pretty pussy willow branches in early spring or no.
Then my big dog, Zeus died. He was only about ten or eleven; young for an Akbash, I think. I was crushed and he was so big; I asked a friend to help me bury him in the spot he chose to die. Jerry hit water before he was two feet deep; not a good spot. He filled the hole back in and we came up with another plan, but I remembered how high the water table was in that spot.
I checked; this willow will take some shade. The spot is shaded a bit by huge cottonwoods and other willow trees, so I knew it'd be okay there. But it can be huge; and will grow to a thicket if not severely trimmed. Imagine my surprise when I discovered this today:
The Macphail Woods Ecological Forestry Project of Prince Edward Island, Canada notes the importance of pussy willows for feeding wild birds and other wildlife:
Willow buds are second only to the buds of poplars as preferred food of ruffed grouse. Beaver ... muskrat, red squirrel, and snowshoe hare all include willow in their diet. The leaves are rich in Vitamin C and zinc. Pussy willows are an important nesting site for American goldfinch, while other songbirds use them to a lesser degree. The cover and protection thickets of willow provide are probably of equal importance to wildlife as its food value.Oh good I thought, this won't be so bad after all. At least it'll feed the birds. I seldom purposely purchase any kind of plant unless it feeds birds or at least offers 4-season good looks. Not only will this feed birds, young branches will look cool in a tall, glass vase.
But then I read on: Deer also like to eat the branches of pussy willows. All this attention from wildlife has its good side, of course, especially for bird watching. But the downside is that, if you don't want your pussy willows damaged, you'll have to protect them. Ugh
Since Zeus is gone, my yard has experienced even more squirrels, skunks, raccoons and deer; not to mention bears, I'm sure they'll be back, too. The damn skunks are turning my lawn (such as it is; I don't water it) into what looks like a mini-mine field and the raccoons are pushing down feeder-poles and tearing apart bird feeders!
The deer seem to enjoy my new puppies as much as I do. What on earth is afraid of a 10" fluffy-butt; even if there are two of 'em? [sigh] Even their growls are cute: Grrrrrrr is more like a Purrrrrr...
So, today I planted the Pussy Willow. It should do fine; presuming the deer don't chew it to the ground. I also planted two Trumpet Vines that I got from Perennial Favorites last month. Funny, a neighbor was walking buy and stopped to say hello. Turns out she was friends with the folks from whom I bought this house. She loves the spot, so I invited her in to take a look around.
Ahnee (sp?) works at the Ryus Street Bakery, so while I recognized her...we'd not officially met. What a nice lady! Anyway, she also has Trumpet Vines and says the little hummingbirds practically disappear into the flowers; so deep must they dive. I've looked some time for this plant; too bad I didn't meet her earlier. I hear this is yet another rampant, rambling vine that is easy to transplant! I'll share as soon as its established.
Everything was planted out front, if you'd like to see how things turn out; the Trumpet Vines will grow out front, next to my driveway (near the Virginia Creeper and Honeysuckle), and the Pussy Willow will be on the opposite corner of the front yard. Wish me luck...
Photos of plants from Wiki
Photos of puppies are mine