One day, years ago, I was driving up the street and saw a
huge pile of beautiful corkscrew willow branches on a tree
lawn.  There were so many I thought a whole tree must have
come down although there was no trunk to be seen.  The
branches were still green with their leaves intact so they
weren’t brought down by a recent wind.  It looked as
though some crazy man with a hatchet had chopped and
discarded them with no regard for their rarity or beauty.  

While I have never been a “tree lawn trash collector”,  for
this rare find I made an exception.  I told myself It was only
yard waste which couldn’t be quite as blatant as picking up
cast-off furniture.  My activities seemed pretty  strange to
the passing drivers but I was not deterred.  I picked up
several of the largest branches and piled them on top of my
car and held them there with one hand as I drove home.
 
Artistically designed by nature’s hand, Corkscrew Willow
branches add dramatic effect to any décor.  
The parent tree is striking, particularly in the winter. The
strange haphazard twisting of its branches make
identifying it unmistakable. The Corkscrew Willow is a
deciduous tree, which means it sheds its bright green,
lance shaped twisted leaves annually.
Once I got my plunder up to my little apartment, I set
each branch upright around my living room which
became a temporary forest while I worked on them.  It
took some time but I removed every leaf and then
grouped them as best I could.  Choosing which branches
were best paired and putting them together was not easy
as all the tiny twigs had to intertwine.  I made two
groupings and in both cases I chose to keep the limbs as
large and full as possible so that both reached ceiling
height.
This brittleness also needs to be kept in mind should you
decide to hang seasonal decorations on your tree.  I
decorate my branch for Christmas with dozens of clear
plastic icicles and snowflakes.  Some of the snowflakes
are blown glass and others are hand cut from holographic
silver paper.  
Of course all this handling from gathering, transporting,
stripping and arranging was possible only because the
branches were green.  Now, years later, even a slight
brush up against my limbs and the tiny twigs snap off.  The
beautiful group I gave to mother was “trimmed” drastically
some years later when I allowed the movers to transport
them to her new apartment.  The point here is you must
decided what you are going to do with your corkscrew
willow and do it while it is green and pliable for once it
dries it becomes terribly brittle and will not tolerate any
great changes.
 
At Easter time I hang small wooden ornaments, pastel
plastic eggs, lavender silk blossoms and tiny Easter
baskets from the branch.  In all cases the ornaments are
light weight and I am careful to hang everything from  
branches thick enough to support them.  The branch will
not tolerate the weight of a string of lights and besides,
that would ruin the overall design created by the twigs.  
Other than Christmas and Easter my branch is unadorned
and stands alone as nature's art leaving scribbling black
marks against an otherwise boring white backdrop of
apartment white paint.
It is recommended by floral experts who arrange
branches of this size for special events that the branches
be permanently anchored in a bucket of plaster.  Since I
didn’t have any plaster and didn’t want to be bothered
with that additional mess, I arranged the stems in a large
deep pot and pressed dirt tightly around them.  Then
cover up the dirt with an artificial boxwood wreath i
happened to have on hand.
Here is an example of how corkscrew willow can stand
alone as an architectural element in interior design.  This
grouping is absolutely sculptural in its effect.  
I took the larger arrangement to my mother’s apartment
which could better accommodate its size.  Fortunately,
Mom’s place was only a couple of miles away from mine. I
chose to deliver the branches early on a Sunday morning
when there wasn’t a soul on the road which limited my
embarrassment and allowed me to stop in case I lost my
grip and dropped them.
Notice in this picture how spotlighting can enhance the
drama of corkscrew willow branches.  This play of light and
shadows was used in my lead picture.  I use a small
flexible necked high intensity light to cast shadows on the
wall and ceiling which appears to double the number of
existing branches and blurs the line between substance
and shadow.  This somewhat eerie effect is particularly fun
at Halloween.  
The interior decorators whose work is featured in the
home magazines love to use corkscrew willow to
accessorize.  The branches work equally well in a
traditional, modern or eclectic room setting.    
If you are not lucky enough to have a source for
corkscrew willow cuttings from yours or a neighbor's yard
or to stumble across them as I did, you can usually find
them at the larger craft stores in the floral department.  
Be warned though. These bundles are dried and
therefore contain only short branches that are minus the
intricate offshoots.  There is also an artificial variety of
corkscrew willow as seen in the picture on the right.  The
uniformity of their twists make the faux corkscrew easy to
spot.  Still the fake sticks are interesting and useful as a
filler in floral arrangements and I am quite sure are more
durable than the real thing.  
Corkscrew willow branches are not limited to home decor
and floral accents.  Photographers love it as subject
matter for the distinctive composition it offers.  
I deem myself a connoisseur of all things made from
natural wood as can be seen in several of the projects  
presented on this site.  Although I don't own any myself I
love rustic furniture.  While doing the research for this
article I found this fabulous chair by
Albe Rustic
Furniture.  Their use of corkscrew willow in this piece is
the perfect blend of art and functionality.  
If you need larger green or fresh branches you may be
able to order them on-line from a place called
Nettleton
Hollow who provides decorative branches and botanical
material.
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