Every year after the holidays have passed, I begin quietly watching the roadways as the month of January wanes towards February, because I know around any bend along some marshy, or wet place I’ll spot that earliest harbinger of Spring in Puget Sound, Pussy Willows! That first glimpse of silky, subtle white covering the stems with thousands of flowers, looks like a soft cloud crowning the tree or shrub. Actually Pussy Willow catkins are flowers. Over the years, I’ve picked many a bouquet, but have also crafted wreaths and swags from those catkin laden stems as well. If you want to preserve some stems of Pussy Willows for crafting or decorating as an everlasting, do not put them into a vase with water, if you do they will continue to grow and the male catkins will elongate until they put out large amounts of yellow pollen.
Just put them into a dry vase and let them sit for a couple weeks until well dried and continue with your project. I remember as a girl picking Pussy Willows in the Green River Valley between Auburn and Kent, holding them or tying them to the saddle of my horse, Lady, to take home to my mom. It was a delight then as now, a simple pleasure and they’re free! This is a sweet little poem about Pussy Willows-
THE WILLOW CATS
They call them pussy-willows,
But there’s no cat to see
Except the little furry toes
That stick out on the tree:
I think that very long ago,
When I was just born new,
There must have been whole pussy-cats
Where just the toes stick through—-
And every Spring it worries me,
I cannot ever find
Those willow-cats that ran away
And left their toes behind!