The Buzz

My favorite plant- the Willow Oak

Asking a gardener what their favorite plant is much like asking a chef what their favorite food is.  The possibilities are seemingly endless with many thoughts and questions determining the choice.  What is in season? What sort of meal is it?  Hot or cold?  When I am asked this question regarding a plant, I often ask the inquisitive mind to narrow the field a bit.  Luckily, that is the case here.   My favorite plant that I have growing in my garden is a champion of our native West Tennessee forest, Quercus phellos, the Willow Oak.  The tree in my backyard is a giant, ascending to a height of around 80 feet with a trunk of nearly 5 feet wide to support it.  It cast a shadow over my house during the summer and sheds it’s foliage in the winter to give the house some warming rays.  The branching structure is graceful yet strong and supports much life including, squirrels, numerous different birds, mosses and other plants even, tucked neatly in between branches.  It is not without its difficulties though.  As I mentioned earlier, the leaves fall all over the property in the fall and in the spring, the catkins, its flowers, graffiti everything about.  But for the thrifty gardener, these headaches are a blessing in disguise.  The fallen foliage and flowers make for a fast acting mulch, returning the spent material back into the tree.   Quercus phellos is easily grown in sun and is adaptable to many soil types, but thrives in moist bottom lands, where it is found naturally.  Although this is a very common tree, it reminds me of all things mundane; when done right, there is nothing better.  Think potatoes. 
Posted by nick esthus at 3:00 PM


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