So begins "The Wind in the Willows" but it is also very much how I feel today: aching and weary from dispelling a long winter of discontent and longing from my house and welcoming in the warmth and penetrating sun of spring. One of the things I've been doing is bringing those signs of spring indoors! Willows (Salix spp) grow fast, especially at this time of year and their young pliable branches make a great tool for weaving into a variety of things such as baskets, brooms, toys and even wicker furniture. Another interesting note: as far back as ancient documents from Assyria, Sumer, Egypt and the writings of the Greek physician Hippocrates - the medicinal properties of Willows have been well documented. Containing salicylic acid, the same compound found in Aspirin, species of the Salix family have been used as a homoeopathic remedy for aches and fever.
Since they grow so fast, and even more so with pruning, its fine to harvest willow switches - just keep in mind who the trees belong to. Harvest the youngest long slender twigs, not older thicker branches, and try not to do any cosmetic damage by harvesting out large chunks. Once you have cut your willows you will want to weave them as soon as possible, so they dry and harden in the shape that you wish. I've included the most basic instructions to make a circle - but once you are comfortable with that the possibilities are fairly endless! My circles are small, to make a wall-hanging, but you can clearly make them quite large!