Salix purpurea 'Nancy Saunders'

Purple Willow

I first saw this delightful selection in a charming English nursery: Pan-Global Specialty Plants in Gloucestershire and founded by Nick Macer. Nick very kindly allowed me to wander around his nursery and garden to photograph anything I wanted. This male selection makes a medium-sized, somewhat rounded shrub with slender, shiny red twigs in winter. The 1in male catkins appear in pairs on opposite sides of the stems; start gray, red anthers burst out of the fluffy gray covering before turning yellow with pollen. Bees love this willow as it produces so many flowers with so much pollen! It is amazing to me how names like this and 'Irette' were given feminine names when they were male selections! The lovely mature bluish leaves are preceded by translucent juvenile leaves with hints of orange and pink. It is a handsome shrub for the garden and can be used in small gardens if pruned right after flowering in early spring. Best if coppiced every two to three years if you want lots of slender rods for basket-making. After coppicing the next year this willow produces lots of 4-5ft fine rods 1/4in at the base and about 1/8th at the top. Hardy Zone 3. Dried rod color: dark brown to gray-green

USES: Perhaps the best willow for fine basketrywork. As an ornamental shrub or as a screen where it’s density will hide unwanted views or, if planted densely, keep out deer. Much loved by bees!



The vivid red stems of 'Nancy Saunders' are really striking.

The above photos were taken in England in September.

The color of all willow stems depends on the amount of sun they receive. The more sun, the brighter the color.


of Michael Dodge

above: brilliant scarlet buds in October

left: In the nursery in early October, showing how the stem color deepens in the Autumn. The leaves also turns bluer.

Male catkins of 'Nancy Saunders' Willow in various stages of development. April-May.

When coppiced they produce long straight stems

with long narrow leaves.

'Nancy Saunders' produces catkins in gay abandon, more than any other purpurea.

Mid April.

Bees by the hundred show up when 'Nancy Saunders' blossoms, with plenty of pollen for a whole hive! Mid April.

Bright red catkin buds show off in late October on shiny red, slender stems--color for winter displays.

catkins shedding their winter bud-scales

and the fur-covering protects the reproductive parts from low temperatures.

early April.

If left unpruned the bushes become densely twiggy, but produce many, many more catkins.

If left unpruned they produce lots of twiggy, colorful growth and smaller leaves.