By roses382, Apr 2 2016 02:03PM
A plant that is fairly unobtrusive for most of the year, Salix gracilistyla 'Melanostachys', comes into it's own around now. It is a fairly compact willow, growing to 3m, but to get the best catkin colour, I prune it back to about 2ft every year, in much the same way as I do the other willows to get the best winter stem colour.
The unusual thing about this Willow is the colour of the catkins - a shimmery black when the sun catches them, with red anthers. My plant is tucked away at the back of the hen house, so I cut long stems to bring into the house. They make a dramatic arrangement, all by themselves in a tall vase and are always a talking point. Like other willows, leave them in water for a while and they will soon root. They prefer a moist soil, but seem quite happy on my fairly dry one, which probably also helps to keep it fairly compact.