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Spring (in my part of the world, anyway!) is almost here... and that means that a lot of your dormant landscape plants are just about ready to start kicking off their growing season. In that spirit, I thought I'd share a neat little tip that I learned from an organic fruit tree grower that I met at a class on plant propagation a few years ago. Willow plants - the shrub/tree that provide us with landscape plants, soil erosion control and summer shade - are naturally high in the plant growth hormone Auxin at the tips of their branches in early spring, especially when they first begin to bud up and leaf out. Old-school plantsmen would sometimes take a few cuttings from a willow - crush them up - put them in a bucket of water and then soak their fruit tree cuttings in this solution for a few days before planting them out in a cold frame to root - simply on the basis that a bare willow stem will almost always root so long as it's not dried out - they saw it work in theory - but didn't understand the science behind it. Auxin is water-soluble - so you can actually make a 'rooting tea' from the bruised and crushed tips of any common species of Willow by cutting a few cups-worth of the growing tips from a healthy plant, bruising or crushing the plant material a bit, placing them in a quantity of water to cover and letting it steep for a day. You then strain off the water from the plant mass and place it in a sealed jar in a refrigerator until you're ready to use it. When that time comes, pour off enough to steep your cuttings up to the first internode that will be the source of your roots and let them stand in the solution for 24 hours - and then plant them into your soil/soilless mix of choice. Refrigerate the rest of the solution for your next round if you like - it should keep, sealed for the rest of your growing season if the water you started with is free of any nasty bacteria - willows also contain salicylic acid in their bark - which some of you may recognize as the precursor to that modern wonder-drug, Aspirin. With the increase in organic growing fans, I thought that this was a perfect time to pass this tip on. Any comments or feedback is welcome, of course... and as always, your milage may vary - but best of luck in your grows. Peace, BB