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Of The Withy, Sallow, Ozier, And Willow

( Originally Published Late 1800's )



1. Salix : Since Cato has attributed the third place to the salictum, preferring it even next to the very ortyard ; and (what one would wonder at) before even the olive, meadow, or corn-field it self (for salictum tertio loco, nempe post vineam, &c.) and that we find it so easily rais'd, of so great, and universal use, I have thought good to he the more particular in my discourse upon it ; especially, since so much of that which I shall publish concerning them, is derived from the long experience of a most learned and ingenious person, from whom I acknowledge to have received many of these hints. Not to perplex the reader with the various names, Greek, Gallic, Sabin, Amerine, Vitex, &c. better distinguish'd by their growth and bark ; and by Latin authors all comprehended under that of sauces ; our English books reckon them promiscuously thus ; the common-white willow, the black, and the hard-black, the rose of Cambridge, the black-withy, the round-long sallow ; the longest sallow, the crack-willow, the round-ear'd shining willow, the lesser broad-leav'd willow, silver sallow, upright broad-willow, repent broad-leav'd, the red-stone, the lesser willow, the strait-dwarf, the longleav'd yellow sallow, the creeper, the black-low willow, the willow-bay, and the ozier. I begin with the withy.

2. The withy is a reasonable large tree, (for some have been found ten foot about) is fit to be planted on high banks, and ditch-sides within reach of water and the weeping sides of hills ; because they extend their roots deeper than either sallows or willows. For this reason you shall plant them at ten, or twenty foot distance ; and though they grow the slowest of all the twiggie trees, yet do they recompence it with the larger crop ; the wood being tough, and the twigs fit to bind strongly ; the very peelings of the branches being useful to bind arbor-poling, and in topiary-works, vine-yards, espalier-fruit, and the like : And we are told of some that grow twisted into ropes of 120 paces, serving instead of cables. There are two principal sorts of these withies, the hoary, and the red-withy, (which is the Greek) toughest, and fittest to bind, whilst the twigs are flexible and tender.

3. Sallows grow much faster, if they are planted within reach of water, or in a very moorish ground, or flat plain ; and where the soil is (by reason of extraordinary moisture) unfit for arable, or meadow ; for in these cases, it is an extraordinary improvement: In a word, where birch and alder will thrive. Before you plant them, it is found best to turn the ground with a spade ; especially, if you design them for a flat. We have three sorts of sallows amongst us, (which is one more than the ancients challeng'd, who name only the black and white, which was their nitellina) the vulgar round leav'd, which proves best in dryer banks, and the hopping-sallows, which re-quire a moister soil, growing with incredible celerity: And a third kind, of a different colour from the other two, having the twigs reddish, the leaf not so long, and of a more dusky green ; more brittle whilst it is growing in twigs, and more tough when arriv'd to a competent size : All of them useful for the thatcher.

4. Of these, the hopping-sallows are in greatest esteem, being of a clearer terse grain, and requiring a more succulent soil ; best planted a foot deep, and a foot and half above ground (though some will allow but a foot) for then every branch will prove excellent for future setlings. After three years growth (being cropped the second and third) the first years increase will be twixt eight and twelve foot long generally ; the third years growth, strong enough to make rakes and pike-staves ; and the fourth for Mr. Blithe's trenching plow, and other like utensils of the husbandman.

5. If ye plant them at full height (as some do at four years growth, setting them five or six foot length, to avoid the biting of cattel) they will be less useful for streight staves, and for setlings, and make less speed in their growth ; yet this also is a considerable improvement.

6. These would require to be planted at least five foot distance, (some set them as much more) and in the quincunx order : If they affect the soil, the leaf will come large, half as broad as a man's hand, and of a more vivid green, always larger the first year, than afterwards : Some plant them sloping, and cross-wise like a hedge, but this impedes their wonderful growth; and (though Pliny seems to commend it, teaching us how to excorticate some places of each set, for the sooner production of shoots) it is but a deceitful fence, neither fit to keep out swine nor sheep ; and being set too near, inclining to one another, they soon destroy each other.

7. The worst sallows may be planted so near yet, as to be instead of stakes in a hedge, and then their tops will supply their dwarfishness ; and to prevent hedge-breakers, many do thus plant them ; because they cannot easily be pull'd up, after once they have struck root.

8. If some be permitted to wear their tops five or six years, their palms will be very ample, and yield the first and most plentiful relief to bees, even before our abricots blossom. The hopping-sallows open, and yield their palms before other sallows, and when they are blown (which is about the exit of May, or sometimes June) the palms (or ,;,x Eaixapi'rot frugiperdae, as Homer terms them for their extream levity) are four inches long, and full of a fine lanuginous cotton. Of this sort, there is a salix near Dorking in Surrey, in which the julus bears a thick cottonous substance. A poor body might in an hour's space, gather a pound or two of it, which resembling the finest silk, might doubtless be converted to some profitable use, by an ingenious house-wife, if gather'd in calm evenings, before the wind, rain and dew impair them ; I am of opinion, if it were dry'd with care, it might be fit for cushions, and pillows of chastity, for such of old was the reputation of the shade of those trees.

9. Of these hopping sallows, after three years rooting, each plant will yield about a score of staves, of full eight foot in length, and so following, for use, as we noted above : Compute then how many fair pike-staves, perches, and other useful materials, that will amount to in an acre, if planted at five foot interval : But a fat and moist soil, requires indeed more space, than a lean or dryer ; namely, six or eight foot distance.

10. You may plant setlings of the very first years growth ; but the second year they are better, and the third year, better than the second ; and the fourth, as good as the third; especially, if they approach the water. A bank at a foot distance from the water, is kinder for them than a bog, or to be altogether immers'd in the water.

11. 'Tis good to new-mould them about the roots every second, or third year ; but men seldom take the pains. It seems that sallows are more hardy, than even willows and oziers, of which Columella takes as much care as of vines themselves. But 'tis cheaper to supply the vacuity of such accidental decays, by a new plantation, than to be at the charge of digging about them three times a year, as that author advises ; seeing some of them will decay, whatever care be used.

12. Sallows may also be propagated like vines, by courbing, and bowing them in arches, and covering some of their parts with mould, &c. Also by cuttings and layers, and some years by the seeds likewise.

13. For setlings, those are to be preferr'd which grow nearest to the stock, and so (consequently) those worst, which most approach the top. They should be planted in the first fair and pleasant weather in February, before they begin to bud ; we about London begin at the latter end of December. They may be cut in Spring for fuel, but best in Autumn for use ; but in this work (as of poplar) leave a twig or two ; which being twisted archwise, will produce plentiful sprouts, and suddenly furnish a head.

14_. If in our coppices one in four were a sallow set, amongst the rest of varieties, the profit would recompence the care ; therefore where in woods you grub up trees, thrust in trunchions of sallows, or some aquatic kind. In a word, an acre or two furnish'd with this tree, would prove of great benefit to the planter.

15. The swift growing sallow is not so tough and hardy for some uses as the slower, which makes stocks for gard'ners spades ; but the other are proper for rakes, pikes, mops, &c. Sallow-coal is the soonest consum'd ; but of all others, the most easie and accommodate for painters scribbets, to design their work, and first sketches on paper with, &c. as being fine, and apt to slit into pencils.

16. To conclude, there is a way of graffing a sallow-trunchion ; take it of two foot and half long, as big as your wrist ; graff at both ends a fig, and mulberry-cyon of a foot long, and so, without claying, set the stock so far into the ground, as the plant may be three or four inches above the earth : This (some affirm) will thrive exceedingly the first year, and in three, be fit to transplant. The season for this curiosity is February. Of the sallow (as of the lime-tree) is made the shooe-maker's carving or cutting-board, as best to preserve the edge of their knives, for its equal softness every way.

17. Oziers, or the aquatick and lesser sallix, are of innumerable kinds, commonly distinguish'd from sallows, as sallows are from withies ; being so much smaller than the sallow, and shorter liv'd, and requiring more constant moisture, yet would be planted in rather a dryish ground, than over moist and spewing, which we frequently cut trenches to avert. It like-wise yields more limber and flexible twigs for baskets, flaskets, hampers, cages, lattices, cradles, the bodies of coaches and wagons, for which 'fis of excellent use, light, durable, and neat, as it may be wrought and cover'd: for chairs, hurdles, stays, bands, the stronger for being contus'd and wreathed, &c. likewise for fish wairs, and to support the banks of impetuous rivers : In fine, for all wicker and twiggy works.

18. But these sort of oziers would be cut in the new shoot : For if they stand longer, they become more inflexible ; cut them close to the head (a foot, or so above earth) about the beginning of October ; unless you will attend till the cold be past, which is better ; and yet we about London, cut them in the most piercing seasons, and plant them also till Candlemas, which those who do not observe, we judge ill husbands, as I learn from a very expericnc'd basket-maker ; and in the decrease, for the benefit of the workman, though not altogether for that of the stock, and succeeding shoot : When they are cut, make them up into bundles, and give them shelter ; but such as are for white-work (as they call it) being thus faggotted, and made up in bolts, as the term is, severing each sort by themselves, should be set in water, the ends dipped ; and indeed all peel'd wares of the viminious kind, are not otherwise preserved from the worm ; but for black and unpeel'd, shelter'd under covert only, or in some vault or cellar, to keep them fresh, sprinkling them now and then in excessive hot weather : The peelings of the former, are for the use of the gard'ner and cooper, or rather the splicings.

19. We have in England these three vulgar sorts ; one of little worth, being brittle, and very much resembling the fore-mentioned sallow, with reddish twigs, and more greenish and rounder leaves : Another kind there is, call'd perch, of limber and green twigs having a very slender leaf ; the third sort is totally like the second, only the twigs are not altogether so green, but yellowish, and near the popinjay : This is the very best for use, tough and hardy. But the most usual names by which basket-makers call them about London, and which are all of different species (therefore to be planted separately) are, the hardgelster, the horse-gelster, whyning or shrivell'd-gelster, the black-gelster, in which Suffolk abounds. Then follow the golstones, the hard and the soft golstone, (brittle, and worst of all the golstones) the sharp and slender top'd yellow-golstone ; the finegolstone : Then is there the yellow ozier, the green ozier, the snake, or speckled ozier, swallow-tayl, and the Spaniard : To these we may add (amongst the number of oziers, for they are both govern'd and us'd alike) the Flanders-willow, which will arrive to be a large tree, as big as one's middle, the oftner cut, the better : With these our coopers, tie their hoops to keep them bent. Lastly, the white-sallow ; which being of a year or two growth, is us'd for green-work; and if of the toughest sort, to make quarter-can-hoops, of which our seamen provide great quantities, &c.

20. These choicer sorts of oziers, which are ever the smallest, also the golden-yellow, and white, which is preferr'd for propagation, and to breed of, should be planted of slips of two or three years growth, a foot deep, and half a yard length, in moorish grounds, or banks, or else in furrows ; so that (as some direct) the roots may frequently reach the water ; for flminibus salices though we commonly find it rots them, and therefore never chuse to set them so deep as to scent it, and at three or four foot distance.

21. The season for planting is January, and all February, though some not till Mid-February, at two foot square ; but cattle being excessively liquorish of their leaves and tender buds, some talk of a graffing them out of reach upon sallows, and by this, to advance their sprouting ; but as the work would consume time, so have I never seen it succeed.

22. Some do also plant oziers in their eights, like quick-sets, thick, and (near the water) keep them not more than half a foot above ground ; but then they must be diligently cleansed from moss, slab, and ouze, and frequently prun'd (especially the smaller spires) to form single shoots ; at least, that few, or none grow double ; these they head every second year about September, the autumnal cuttings being best for use : But generally

23. You may cut withies, sallows and willows, at any mild and gentle season, between leaf and leaf, even in Winter ; but the most congruous time both to plant and to cut them, is crescente luna vere, circa colendas Martias ; that is, about the new moon, and first open weather of the early Spring.

24. It is in France, upon the Loire, where these eights (as we term them) and plantations of oziers and withies are perfectly understood ; and both there, and in divers other countries beyond seas, they raise them of seeds contain'd in their juli, or catkins, which they sow in furrows, or shallow trenches, and it springs up like corn in the blade, and comes to be so tender and delicate, that they frequently mow them with a scyth : This we have attempted in England too, even in the place where I live, but the obstinate and unmerciful weed did so confound them, that it was impossible to keep them clean with any ordinary industry, and so they were given over : It seems either weeds grow not so fast in other countries, or that the people (which I rather think) are more patient and laborious.

Note, that these juli, are not all of them seedbearers, some are sterile, and whatever you raise of them, will never come to bear ; and therefore by some they are called the male sort, as Mr. Ray (that learned botanist) has observed. The ozier is of that emolument, that in some places I have heard twenty pounds has been given for one acre ; ten is in this part an usual price ; and doubtless, it is far preferable to the best corn-land ; not only for that it needs but once planting, but because it yields a constant crop and revenue to the world's end ; and is therefore in esteem of knowing persons, valu'd in purchase accordingly ; consider'd likewise how easily 'tis renew'd when a plant now and then fails, by but pricking in a twig of the next at hand, when you visit to cut them : We have in the parish near Greenwich, where I lately dwelt, improv'd land from less than one pound, to near ten pounds the acre : And when we shall reflect upon the infinite quantities of them we yearly bring out of France and Flanders, to supply the extraordinary expence of basket-work, &c. for the fruiterers, lime-burners, gardeners, coopers, packers-up of all sorts of ware, and for general carriage, which seldom last above a journey or two, I greatly admire gentlemen do no more think of employing their moist grounds (especially, where tides near fresh rivers are reciprocal) in planting and propagating oziers. To omit nothing of the culture of this useful ozier, Pliny would have the place to be prepared by trenching it a foot and half deep, and in that, to fix the sets, or cuttings of the same length at six foot interval. These (if the sets be large) will come immediately to be trees ; which after the first three years, are to be abated within two foot of the ground.. Then in April he advises to dig about them : Some raise them abundantly, by laying poles of them in a boggy earth only: Of these they formerly made vine-props, juga, as Pliny calls them, for arch wise bending and yoaking, as it were, the branches to one another ; and one acre hath been known to yield props sufficient to serve a vine-yard of 25 acres.

25. John Tradescant brought a small ozier from S. Omers in Flanders, which makes incomparable net works, not much inferior to the Indian twig, or bent-works which we have seen ; but if we had them in greater abundance, we should haply want the artificers who could employ them, and the dexterity to vernish so neatly.

26. Our common salix, or willow, is of two kinds, the white and the black : The white is also of two sorts, the one of a yellowish, the other of a browner bark : The black willow is planted of stakes, of three years growth, taken from the head of an old tree, before it begins to sprout : Set them of six foot high, and ten distant ; as directed for the poplar. Those woody sorts of willow, delight in meads and ditch-sides, rather dry, than over-wet (for they love not to wet their feet, and last the longer) yet the black sort, and the reddish, do sometimes well in more boggy grounds, and would be planted of stakes as big as one's leg, cut as the other, at the length of five or six foot or more into the earth ; the hole made with an oaken-stake and beetle, or with an iron crow (some use a long auger) so as not to be forced in with too great violence : But first, the trunchions should be a little stop'd at both extreams, and the biggest planted downwards : To this, if they are soaked in water two or three days (after they have been siz'd for length, and the twigs cut off ere you plant them) it will be the better. Let this be done in February, the mould as well clos'd to them as possible, and treated as was taught in the poplar. If you plant for a kind of wood, or coppice (for such I have seen) set them at six foot distance, or nearer, in the quincunx, and be careful to take away all suckers from them at three years end : You may abate the head half a foot from the trunk, viz. three or four of the lustiest shoots, and the rest cut close, and bare them yearly, that the three, four or more you left, may enjoy all the sap, and so those which were spared, will be gallant pearches within two years. Arms of four years growth, will yield substantial sets, to be planted at eight or ten foot distance ; and for the first three years well defended from the cattle, who infinitely delight in their leaves, green, or wither'd. Thus, a willow may continue twenty, or five and twenty years, with good profit to the industrious planter, being headed every four or five years ; some have been known to shoot no less than twelve foot in one year, after which, the old, rotten dotards may be fell'd, and easily supply'd. But if you have ground fit for whole coppices of this wood, cast it into double dikes, making every foss near three foot wide, two and half in depth ; then leaving four foot at least of ground for the earth (because in such plantations the moisture should be below the roots, that they may rather see, than feel the water) and two tables of sets on each side, plant the ridges of these banks with but one single table, longer and bigger than the collateral, viz. three, four, five or six foot high, and distant from each other, about two yards. These banks being carefully kept weeded for the first two years, till the plants have vanquish'd the grass, and not cut till the third ; you may then lop them traverse, and not obliquely, at one foot from the ground, or some-what more, and they will head to admiration ; but such which are cut at three foot height, are most durable, as least soft and aquatick : They may also be graffed 'twixt the bark, or budded ; and then they become so beautiful, as to be fit for some kind of delightful walks ; and this I wish were practis'd among such as are seated in low and marshy places, not so friendly to other trees. Every acre at eleven or twelve years growth, may yield you near a hundred load of wood : Cut them in the Spring for dressing, but in the Fall for timber and fuel : I have been inform'd, that a gentleman in Essex, has lopp'd no less than 2000 yearly, all of his own planting. It is far the sweetest of all our English fuel, (ash not excepted) provided it be sound and dry, and emitting little smoak, is the fittest for ladies chambers ; and all those woods and twigs would be cut either to plant, work with, or burn in the dryest time of the day.

To confirm what we have advanc'd in relation to the profit which may be made by this husbandry, see what comes to me from a worthy person whom we shall have occasion to mention, with great respect, in the next chapter, when we speak of quicksets.

The considerable improvement which may he made in common fields, as well as inclosed grounds, he demonstrates by a little spot of meadow, of about a rod and half ; part of which being planted about 5o years since with willows (in a clump not exceeding four pole in length, on one side about 12) several of them at the first and second lopping, being left with a strait top, run up like elms, to 30 or 40 foot in height ; which some years since yielded boards of 14 or 15 inches broad as good for flooring, and other purposes within doors, as deals, last as long, work finer, white and beautiful : 'tis indeed a good while since they were planted, but it seems the crop answer'd this patience, when he cut up as many of them (the year 1700) as were well worth 10L. And since that another tree, for which a joyner offer'd him as much for those were left, which was more by half than the whole ground it self was worth ; so as having made 20L. of the spot, he still possesses it without much damage to the grass. The method of planting was first by making holes with an iron crow, and widening them with a stake of wood, fit to receive a lusty plant, and sometimes boaring the ground with an auger ; but neither of these succeeding, (by reason the earth could not be ramm'd so close to the sides and bottom of the sets, as was requisite to keep them steady, and seclude the air, which would corrupt and kill the roots) he caus'd holes, or little pits of a foot square and depth to be dug, and then making a hole with the crow in the bottom of the pits, to receive the set, and breaking the turf which came out of it, ramm'd it in with the mould close to the sets (as they would do to fix a gate-post) with great care not to gall the bark of it. He had divers times before this miscarry'd, when he us'd formerly to set them in plain ground, without breaking the surface, and laying it close to the sets ; and therefore, if the soil be moist, he digs a trench by the side of the row, and applies the mould which comes out of it about the sets ; so that the edge of the bank raised by it, may be somewhat higher than the earth next the set, for the better descent of the rain, and advantage of watering the sets in dry weather ; preventing likewise their rooting in the bank, which they would do if the ground next the plant or set were made high, and sloped ; and being left unfenc'd, cattel would tread down the bank, and lay the roots bare : The ground should therefore not be raised above 2 or 3 inches towards the body of the set Now if the ground be dry, and want moisture, he chuses to bank them round, (as I have described it in my Pomona, cap. VI I.) the fosses environing the mound and hillock, being reserves for the rain, cools and refreshes the sets.

He farther instances, that willows of about 20 years growth, have been worth 3os. and another sold for 3L. which was well worth 5L. and affirms, that the willows planted in beds, between double ditches, in boggy ground, may be fit to be cut every five years, and pay as well as the best meadow-pasture, which is of extraordinary improvement.

27. There is a sort of willow of a slender and long leaf, resembling the smaller ozier ; but rising to a tree as big as the sallow, full of knots, and of a very brittle spray, only here rehears'd to acknowledge the variety.

28. There is likewise the garden-willow, which produces a sweet and beautiful flower, fit to be admitted into our hortulan ornaments, and may be set for partitions of squares ; but they have no affinity with other. There is also in Shropshire another very odoriferous kind, extreamly fit to be planted by pleasant rivulets, both for ornament and profit : It is propagated by cuttings or layers, and will grow in any dry bottom, so it be sheltred from the south, affording a wonderful and early relief to the industrious bee : Vitruvius commends the vitex of the Latines (impertinently called agnus cactus, the one being but the interpretation of the other) as fit for building ; I suppose they had a sort of better stature than the shrub growing among the curious with us, and which is celebrated for its chast effects, and for which the Ancients employ'd it in the rites of Ceres : I rather think it more convenient for the sculptor (which he likewise mentions) provided we may (with safety) restore the text, as Perrault has attempted, by substituting laevitatem, for the author's regiditatem, stubborn materials being not so fit for that curious art.

29. What most of the former enumerated kinds differ from the sallows, is indeed not much consider-able, they being generally useful for the same purposes; as boxes, such as apothecaries and goldsmiths use; for cart-saddle-trees, yea gun-stocks, and half-pikes, harrows, shooe-makers lasts, heels, clogs for pattens, forks, rakes, especially the tooths, which should be wedged with oak ; but let them not be cut for this when the sap is stirring, because they will shrink ; pearches, rafters for hovels, portable and Iight laders, hop-poles, ricing of kidney-beans, and for supporters to vines, when our English vineyards come more in request : Also for hurdles, sieves, lattices; for the turner, kyele-pins, great town-tops ; for platters, little casks and vessels ; especially to preserve verjuices in, the best of any : Pales are also made of cleft willow, dorsers, fruitbaskets, canns, hives for bees, trenchers, trays, and for polishing and whetting table-knives, the butler will find it above any wood or whet-stone ; also for coals, bavin, and excellent firing, not forgetting the fresh boughs, which of all the trees in nature, yield the most chast and coolest shade in the hottest season of the day ; and this umbrage so wholsome, that physicians prescribe it to feaverish persons, permitting them to be plac'd even about their beds, as a safe and comfortable refrigerium. The wood being preserved dry, will dure a very long time; but that which is found wholly putrified, and reduc'd to a loamy earth in the hollow trunks of superannuated trees, is, of all other, the fittest to be mingled with fine mould, for the raising our choicest flowers, such as anemonies, ranunculus's, auriculas, and the like.

What would we more ? low broom, and sallows wild, Or feed the flock, or shepherds shade, or field Hedges about, or do us honey yield.

30. Now by all these plantations of the aquatick trees, it is evident, the lords of moorish commons, and unprofitable wasts, may learn some improvement, and the neighbour bees be gratified ; and many tools of husbandry become much cheaper. I conclude with the learned Stephanus's note upon these kind of trees, after he has enumerated the universal benefit of the salictum : nullius enim tutior reditus, minorisve impendii, aut tempestatis securior.

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