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I would like to have a small "cork-screw' willow in my front yard. I don't want it as a bush, but with a strong middle trunk.

It currently is about 1.5 feet tall. It has three fairly equally tall trunks. One is very bent. The other two are fairly straight. They are beginning to grow multiple branches.

When should I trim these? How do I choose which to trim and which not to? How else can I direct its growth?

Click images to enlarge...

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

Willows are very resilient, and will normally recover quickly (seeing as they grow so fast) if you make a mistake.

Therefore they are great trees to work with from a gardener's point of view, but do keep in mind, the root system on a willow is shallow (stays very close to the surface) and can be extensive, especially if the roots have to go looking for water.

I'm guessing you have an image in your mind, that clearly shows exactly how you would like this willow to look. If that's correct, you will have to make (most) pruning decisions based on that image you have.

Personally I would be tempted to:

  • Remove the "very bent" one, unless you like the visual look (appearance) of it.

  • Leave the other two, until they grow a few branches, this will allow you to see the shape the tree wants to take naturally.

The below document should prove helpful/useful:

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Cut all the branches but one and try to grow it straight until it is about seven feet tall, subduing the branches to about one foot. Then train the branches at the level or higher to a gently ascending pattern and trim off the lower branches slowly so you do not encourage unnatural growth habits. I have some experience with these things.

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