The first photograph show one of the species of willow I grow, a red twigged willow. This is good for winter interest as its bark colours stand out well in the snow. It is not so good for basket-making as its "whips" are often too branchy.
The second picture shows a "stool" of "basket willow", a species I bought from the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ontario. Each fall or spring I cut down the willow to a height of around six inches. The willow then grows back with double the number of shoots until a mound or stool of shoots is created. This species of willow grows annually to a height of around nine feet. Its "whips" are not too branchy and I use it for the hoops of my rib and fanny baskets. A six to eight foot whip when twisted around itself in a circle makes an excellent hoop.
The willow from this stool was cut down last fall as "brown" willow, that is willow with its bark on. Some of it is stored in my basement studio as hoops for future baskets. The willow I cut down in the spring, after the first flush of leaves has occured, can be made into "white" willow, that is willow with its bark removed to expose its white flesh. This process of stripping the willow can only be done easily at that time. My studio storage area contains lots of white willow too.
The third picture shows a Japanese species of willow that is excellent for the ribs I use in rib and fanny baskets. It grows to a height of around six feet and features many slim whips with no branching.
Catkins are appearing and a few tiny leaves. I will have to be patient for a few more days before I can begin stripping the willow.