If I could only grow one shrub for floral arrangements, I know exactly what that would be—the curly willow. Also known as cockscrew or corkscrew Hankow willow (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’), this is noted for its contorted, much twisted stems.
With its beautiful form, the curly willow is often used as a line flower. These can be used either fresh or dried. Both forms are available year-round commercially. The fresh stems will have delicate foliage that adds a nice to touch to floral arrangements.
Curly willow is suitable for most every style of floral arrangements. These range from minimalist and contemporary to the more traditional floral designs.
For floral design, cut the stem to the length that is needed to suit your arrangement. Scale is important here. You don’t want it to overwhelm everything else in the design. Having said that, there is a way to use these en masse for large-scale arrangements. Such a design would only be suitable for large rooms.
Typically for this purpose, the stems are bunched together in a very large vase or other type of container that rests on the floor. This will generally be too tall to sit on most tables. Often, an Oriental-looking vase is used for these large arrangements . Such a container actually serves to emphasize the Asian roots of this plant, which is originally from Korea and China.
When used fresh, the stems can be bent to most any shape you need. For example, you can bend them to create a support for weaker stemmed flowers.
If you have some garden space, it isn’t hard to grow your own curly willow. The plant is often seen in landscapes. This is hardy in zones four through eight. Though this may be considered a tree, I have pretty much kept mine as a multi-stemmed shrub. So, one plant can really produce all the stems you need.
If you plan on growing curly willow for your designs, remember that this variety along with the other willows love wet places. The roots seem to seek
out sources of water. If planted near waterlines, sewer lines, and the like, the roots can damage the pipes. To be safe, I planted mine on the other side of the driveway.
As with most willows, the curly willow can be easily grown from cuttings. When fresh willow stems are placed in water, they often produce roots. Then, it is easy enough to transplant them to the outdoors.
In its tree form, the curly willow can be 30 to 50 feet in height. It tends to have an upright, spreading shape.