There’s something about the combination of red, orange, and green — especially when paired with the rich brown of willow branches — that makes us think of the holiday season. If you grow these fast-growing trees in your backyard or have access to a willow tree outside your home, you can easily collect branches for use as holiday decorations. Willow branches are also perfect for preserving for the holidays because they’ll last for months without wilting and discoloring. Preserved willow branches smell wonderful and add a natural touch to any room in your home. You can preserve them by drying, freezing, or salt-curing them. Here are 12 ways to preserve those special branches so that you can enjoy their beauty all winter long!
How To Preserve Willow Branches?
One of the most traditional ways to preserve willow branches is by hanging them to dry. This is a great way to use branches that are damaged in any way. The drying process may cause the branches to lose some of their colors and fade but to a very small degree. You can use the branches while they are still green and fluffy or let them dry until they are brittle and brown. If you don’t want to use the willow branches indoors, drying them outside may draw unwanted pests like bees, wasps, moths, and beetles. For quick drying, you’ll want to expose the branches to plenty of direct sunlight. If it is too cold outside to do this, you can use artificial light in your garage or basement. It may take a few weeks, but as long as the branches are out of direct contact with moisture, they should be completely dry in a few weeks.
Willow branches can be preserved by freezing them, which is an excellent option if you don’t have time to dry them. You can use fresh or dried willow branches when freezing them, but you’ll get better results if you use freshly cut branches. If you use freshly cut branches, you’ll want to simply lay them out in a single layer on a dry surface and leave them to freeze completely. Once they are completely frozen, you can transfer them to an airtight container or bag. Storing them in moisture-free containers or bags will help prevent freezer burn. You can opt to leave the willow branches out in the winter when the weather is cold enough, but remember that they may affect your indoor air quality. Frozen branches will last up to a year, but you can use them sooner if desired.
Salt curing is a process that is similar to salting meat. It’s an effective way to preserve willow branches that are fresh. You’ll want to use coarse salt like sea salt or kosher salt. You can also use salt that is mixed with another substance like sugar, spices, or herbs. You’ll want to make sure the salt covers all sides of the willow branches; otherwise, they won’t be preserved. To salt cure, willow branches lay them out in a single layer on a dry surface and sprinkle the salt on them. You’ll want one tablespoon of salt per branch. You’ll want the branches to be completely covered in salt. Next, you’ll want to leave the branches out in a dry place with plenty of air circulation until they are completely dry. It is best to salt cure branches in the fall or winter. It may take a few months, depending on weather conditions, but once they are completely dry, you can store them in an airtight container until you are ready to use them. Salt-cured willow branches will last for several months.
Preserving with hot water
Willow branches will last for years if you put them in a pot of water and bring that water to a boil. To do this, you’ll want to place the willow branches in a large pot of water. You’ll want to add enough water to cover the branches. Once the branches are in the water, you’ll want to bring the water to a boil and then let it sit for a few hours. You’ll want to add more water as it evaporates to keep the water level consistent. You’ll want to strain the water and branches and let them dry completely before storing them in an airtight container. This method works best on willow branches that are brown and brittle. While they are drying, they may smell a little musty, but the smell will go away once they are completely dry. You can use the branches right away or store them in an airtight container until you are ready to use them.
Storing in oil
If you want to preserve willow branches, you can store them in oil like vegetable oil, olive oil, or coconut oil. To do this, you’ll want to lay the branches out in a single layer on a clean surface and let them dry for a few days. Once the branches are dry, you’ll want to put the oil in a container large enough for the branches and then submerge them in the oil. Put the lid on the container and store it in a dry place. You can use the branches whenever you want by taking them out of the oil and letting them air dry. You can also add fresh branches to the oil whenever you want to create a new scent. This is a great option if you collect branches over the course of several seasons.
Storing in vinegar
If you want to preserve willow branches, you can store them in vinegar. You’ll want to grab a large jar or container and fill it with vinegar. Make sure that the branches are completely immersed in the vinegar. You can pick a variety of vinegar that create different scents, but you’ll want to choose something with low-sugar content. You can also add fresh herbs to the vinegar to create a custom scent. You can use the branches whenever you want by taking them out of the vinegar. They may lose a bit of color, but they will still be beautiful. This is an excellent method if you want to store branches but don’t have a lot of space. You can also use this method to preserve other small flowers such as rose petals.
Wrapping with fabric
If you want to preserve willow branches, you can wrap them in a fabric like a cotton sheet or piece of linen. To do this, you’ll want to find a clean, dry surface and then lay the branches out on the surface. You’ll want to use a fabric that is large enough to wrap the branches and make a covering for them. You can wrap the branches with the fabric so that they are completely covered. Leave them like this for a few weeks. You can then store them in an airtight container. This method works best on willow branches that are brown and brittle, but you can also use it on fresh branches that are still green. Wrapping the branches in the fabric will help preserve their natural scent.
Don’t throw away the leaves!
You may be tempted to throw away the leaves of your willow branches once you’ve preserved them, but don’t! The leaves of the willow trees are actually quite useful. You can use them to clean your home by sweeping or mopping with them or use them to freshen up your linens by adding them to the washing machine. You can also create willow bark tea by soaking the leaves in hot water. You can use the leaves on their own or mix them with other herbs and spices like cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Once they are infused, you can either drink the tea or use it to add a bit of flavor and fragrance to baked goods.
Willow branches are an excellent decoration for the holiday season. If you have access to a willow tree, you can easily collect and preserve branches for use as holiday decorations. You can preserve willow branches by drying, freezing, or salt curing them, or storing them in oil, vinegar, or wrapped in fabric. No matter which preservation method you choose, you can use the willow branches throughout the holiday season and well into winter.