Dappled Willows and Winter Interest

One of my favorite shrubs is the Japanese dappled willow (Salix integra).  In the springtime its new foliage emerges with variegated green and cream leaves that persist through the fall.  The leaves darken some as they grow older (or for those who prefer different terminology "grow more mature") until they bare themselves when the light levels drop and cooler temperatures arrive in the fall. 

One thing you may not have considered with these willows is their value in the winter landscape!   The younger branches emerge with a reddish color that may not match Salix alba 'Britzensis' for winter value but certainly does an adequate job.  To ensure that you get nice reddish tinted stems you may want to coppice the shrub (cutting it back to just above the ground) and allow new stems to grow from the roots each year.  Depending on the desired size of the willow you may not want to trim it back drastically but cutting out the oldest wood would be advisable to attain the winter red.  It's a similar strategy to trimming Red Twig Dogwoods.  Just trim out the brown and leave the red.  Japanese dappled willows may not be as showy as other plants for winter interest but they look pretty good to me!

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