You are certainly familiar with its branches that are covered with velvety catkins in spring… With its tight-bound shape, the ‘Kilmarnock’ goat willow (Salix caprea) is perfect for small gardens and balconies.
The weeping variety of the goat willow species, bred in England in the XIXth century, Salix caprea ‘Kilmarnock’ (previously called ‘Pendula’) is a tree shaped like a short parasol that is particularly ornamental.
At the end of winter, its naked branches bear silver white pompoms that open up in spring to reveal golden stamen bouquets. In fall, its long leaves turn to beautiful copper hues.
Thanks to its tight-bound shape and its compact size (its trunk can’t grow any higher than 10 feet (3 meters) tall), this little willow is the perfect choice to add a touch of originality in smaller gardens and in beds, too.
‘Kilmarnock’, easy growing
Less vulnerable to diseases than its tall weeping willow cousins, ‘Kilmarnock’ tolerates any type of soil as long as it is very moist. It will be perfectly happy near a body of water, although not having any nearby isn’t a problem.
Set it up preferably in spring, in the sun and sheltered from strong wind. Remember to stake it for the first two years, because its roots don’t run very deep. After that, remove the stake. Pair it with tall grasses to play on textures, and with early spring bulbs to highlight its spring catkins.
In garden boxes, plant it in a mix of clay soil and soil mix (one part each). Remember to water it regularly.
Caring for ‘Kilmarnock’ willow
- Simply prune its branches every spring to trigger new growth (catkins appear on the previous year’s growth):
- cut them back to 2 inches (5 cm) from their original branch,
- apply pruning paste.
- In fall and in spring, you may apply a preventive spraying of Bordeaux mixture.
If you’re growing it in garden boxes, add tomato or strawberry plant fertilizer from April to September.
- Another stunning dwarf willow: the pink-leaved flamingo willow
Smart tip on Kilmarnock goat willow
When it’s well cared for, branches tend to grow all the way to the ground. If you find this messy, snip them about 6 inches (15 cm) above ground level when this happens with a secateur or sturdy scissors. That way the tree can keep swaying freely. After the blooming in Spring, though, cut all the branches back to the top to get a new set of branches for the year after.
Just had my Kilmarnock willow tree from May this year. It has done really well, except the branches are now trailing on the ground and heading towards our path. Should I be pruning these back if so when?
Hello Edith! You can snip them shorter if you don’t like this, especially since the branches will just keep growing longer and will get in the way. Another tip, if your willow is in a pot, is to raise the pot a bit by placing it atop a stone, stack of tiles or any other nice object. You’ll get more swaying in the breeze that way!
So pleased I found this site as I had a big problem with my Kilmarnoch Willow tree and I never thought there would be anyone to help me with it until now.
I am so grateful to you and for the answers I got, now everything is solved regarding this tree and am so obliged to you for having a site like this where people need answers to very difficult questions about their gardens.
Hi fingers – turning green for sure ! I saw your thread on the tree and shrub forum, I’m happy you’ve found it helpful! Nate is quite an expert on this type of stuff. Feel free to ask more questions there and, since you’re getting wiser, share your own experience, too! All the best.