There are few trees as elegant and graceful as the weeping willow, and they are extremely popular landscape trees. But not every garden is large enough to comfortably site one of these tall, spreading trees.
While there is no true dwarf form of a standard weeping willow, the Kilmarnock willow is a small, grafted willow with an umbrella-shaped weeping structure that will bring a romantic look into small gardens.
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Meet the Kilmarnock Willow
The Kilmarnock willow (Salix caprea 'Kilmarnock') is not a true weeping willow but rather a pussy willow that is grafted onto the strong, slender stem of a Salix discolor rootstock. The gardener must get involved in its creation since it must be trained into the form of a small tree. It usually grows to some 6 to 8 feet tall and is appropriate for small yards and even containers.
The Kilmarnock willow is a thoroughly charming little tree with slender, curved leaves. It grows in an attractive shade of blue-green, but blazes gold in the autumn before falling. The silvery "pussy willow" catkins appear suddenly in spring before the leaves do, and decorate the branches into the summer. It gets its species names from the Scottish hometown of Thomas Lang who developed it.
Plant the Kilmarnock Willow
This short willow thrives in cooler zones and is recommended for U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 through 8. As a willow, it loves moist soils and prefers a location near rivers, streams, or other waterways. In addition, it enjoys rainy conditions and prefers dappled light to strong sunshine. Direct sun at the top of the hardiness zone range will result in sunscald.
The preferred soil for this dwarf willow will be rich and loamy with a soil pH range of 6.6 to 7.3. Work in organic compost if necessary. For best results, plant it where it will have some protection from strong winds.
Care for a Dwarf Weeping Willow
A gardener who purchases a young, grafted dwarf weeping willow will have regular pruning duties initially. This tree doesn't automatically shape itself into a small-tree shape, but will happily turn into a mounding shrub if left to its own devices. That's because, untrained, it will grow as a multistemmed plant with significant lateral growth. Use a garden pruner to train this tree, while it is still young, closer to the weeping willow shape.
Although this tree is grafted, it remains a willow and needs plenty of moisture to thrive. Give the Kilmarnock willow an inch or more of water weekly during times of drought. Healthy specimens will grow to about the height of the gardener, a perfect size for a small garden site or even a container plant.