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Today’s Writing Gardener guest is Emma Janis Lane–two authors for the price of one. Emma Lane writes Regency romance. Her pen name counterpart, Janis Lane, writes romantic cozy mysteries. Today, she will be talking about–


willow catkins

Recently I overheard a patron mention his willow tree had budded, a sure sign of Spring. I felt a rush of panic. No! I couldn’t be late to harvest the silver buds before the catkins appeared. Whereas the little kitties are sweet, they do not stay on the branches very long. Harvested early, the decorative silver buds will be around as long as you like. Spring finds my vases full.

Once pretty willow shrubs lined our service road and supplied me with an abundance harvest, but borers found and riddled the trunks. I am pinching myself to remember to plant twigs to start them all over. In Spring, when the soil is saturated, a willow branch may be rooted by simply sticking it in the ground where you’d like a nice shrub. Careful. Some consider it invasive. Often willows are planted on the banks of streams and ponds to prevent erosion because the roots are abundant and healthy. (‘ware the borers!)

Folk Lore “Wearing the willow” is a term used to describe the lonely heart of a lover who has lost her mate either to another person or death. Willow branches on a hat may also mean that person is hopeful for romance. (Waggles eyebrows.) A well-known television celebrity couldn’t control his laughter while describing Dyngus Day in Buffalo, NY. Always the day after Easter, this Polish American holiday is celebrated with the boys switching (gently) the girls with willow branches and splashing them with water. (A Polka dance or two might be expected.) The next day is turn about fair play for the girls. As you may imagine, these antics have their origins in ancient traditions. Long branches of willow buds are a celebration of Spring in cold country.

ROMANCE: Who can resist the dreamy, swaying branches of a weeping willow? When plotting a Regency Romance, I occasionally allow courting couples strolling the grounds in the warm breezes of early summer the privacy they long for. The swaying green curtain on the stream bank offers privacy to steal a quick kiss. This proved handy in Belinda, My Love when the heroine received her very first kiss by the besotted rogue who had waited patiently for her to grow up.

Medicinal: The willow has a long history of usefulness to mankind. Hippocrates mentioned the willow for medicinal properties. Willow leaves and bark yield salicin, a principal component of aspirin, which was used as both an anti-inflammatory and pain relief. Research reports pure salicin is tough on the digestive system, but it’s interesting to read about the early Native American’s frequent use of the willow bark as medicine.

Crafts: Basket makers made use of the strong but pliable branches. I’ve used them for crafting wreaths instead of grapevines on occasion. I’ve admired a trellis made from willow branches as well. Last but not least, the twisty willow, which grows into a mid- sized tree, produces unique branches for walking sticks. The gnarled branches also add winter interest. Willow, in any of its many varieties, can be both beautiful and useful in your garden.


About the Author:

Emma Janis Lane lives in Western New York where winter is snowy, spring arrives with rave reviews, summer days are long and velvet, and fall leaves are riotous color. She writes Regency Romance as Emma Lane, but also delights in dipping into a Cozy Romantic Mystery, pen name Janis Lane.

Part owner of a plant nursery,she will answer gardening questions at her website emmajlane.com

Whispers of Danger and Love by [Lane, Janis]Whispers of Danger and Love is a contemporary novel which sports a lovely heroine named Cheryl, who loves her career as a landscape designer. This warm tale is a must for gardeners while waiting for the chance to get outside to commune with nature. A bonus is the handsome detective, a childhood friend, who moves next door.