The real word on willows

At the risk of sounding like I’m 100 years old — and getting stoned to death for being unAmerican — I’m going to clue you all into something. So lean close to your screen and read the following:

Google doesn’t have all the answers.

“What!?” you sputter. “That’s just crazy talk!”

Yea, it’s nutty. And admittedly, I’m not setting the tech world on fire. (I swear if one more person asks “Are you on twitter yet?” I will jump out of a window… or break one of these tiny basement panes and wriggle out.)

I know the web’s got the corner market on every single thing you could possibly imagine. I get it. (Quick.. google “dust bunnies.” Oh look, 624,000 hits.)

But good luck trying to find an actual opinion on something. Much less one that you trust.

After the recent success of our new apple trees — meaning none are dead yet — I’ve been wondering what else can I plant? Specifically, what can I plant that requires little to no work?

We have a swampy area in our back pasture — a wannabe pond. In fact, I think it was a pond in a previous life before other owners drained it. When it rains it gets marshy. And it’s an ideal spot for a weeping willow.

Why a weeping willow? Well, they thrive in wet areas, and whenever I’ve seen them on TV they look perfectly pretty and shady and symmetrical. Beyond that, I’m clueless.

The reviews on google were not favorable. The basic gist: weeping willows are invasive, weedy things that burrow into water and sewer lines, and drop leaves and branches all over the place.

Not the feedback I was looking for. But this was the web speaking. What do real people think?

Last weekend at a garden festival, I queried a tree guy. He scrunched up his face. “A weeping willow…?” Like I’d just announced plans to cultivate poison ivy and a pool of piranhas.

“Well…I don’t carry them. But I’ll tell you this,” he said, recovering his composure. “They’re really invasive. They get into pipes and are a real hassle.”

This sounded familiar.
me: “Well, we’re thinking of putting one in a field, so it wouldn’t be near the house.”

the guy: “They’re messy and they shed alot.”

me: “It would be in a horse pasture, so that wouldn’t matter.”

the guy: “It does if you don’t want your pasture to look messy.”

me: “Horses poop in there. It always looks messy.”

Finally, he threw up his hands. “Well, if you really want one, get a golden weeping willow. They’re the best of the lot.”

Screw that guy, I thought, as I smiled and walked away. He’s only here to push his own stupid trees. And why waste time on him when I could be tap a real source of information.

Our next door neighbor, Chet. Local veterinarian and all-around good-guy.

Chet is ever positive, but he’ll still give it to you straight. And he knows about most everything.

vet problems, of course:
“Chet, can you look at this cat’s tooth?” (I brandished the cat at his car on the drive.)
Chet: “Lemmie see this old rascal.” (raises cat’s lip, yanks tooth). “There you go. He’ll be fine in 2 days.”

home care:
“Should we do something about our septic system?”
Chet: “Leave it alone. It’s not bothering you, don’t go bothering it.”

farm expansion
martin: “I was thinking about getting goats…”
chet: “Goats are nice…when other people own them. You don’t need any.”

local history:
“Ever seen this much rain?”
“Well, I’ll check my records, but I recall it was in ’86 when the river crested the bridge….”

So of course I had to ask what he thought of weeping willow trees.

chet: “Well, I grew up with them…”

“i’m thinking of getting one in the field.”

chet: “They’re soft, meaning that when a big storm comes, they can split or blow down. But they’re nice trees. They’re used to be a couple in your field.”

“Really? What happened to them?”

“They came down in a storm.”


“But go ahead and plant a couple,” he says with smile. “For fun. There’s no harm in it. And when your kids have their own kids, the trees, if they’re still standing, will be big and shady.”