About Michael Dodge
Born in the English Lake District, Michael was trained at the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew as a plantsman and horticulturist. He left England on the Queen Mary I, November 5 1964, after being offered a position by Tom Everett (legendary Director of Horticulture) at the New York Botanical Garden.
In 1967 he was hired by Henry Francis du Pont at that National Treasure, Winterthur Gardens in Delaware to become Assistant to the Director of Gardens. He also bred Viburnum dilatatum ‘Michael Dodge’ while there. Mr. duPont graciously allowed Michael to work toward his BSc in Ornamental Horticulture at the University of Delaware.
In 1971 he was employed by William Bliss Harris at White Flower Farm in Litchfield, Connecticut as Propagator, then in turn: Horticulturist, Plantsman, Director of Horticulture, Primary Photographer, Catalogue Director and finally Catalog Designer (by learning how to use Quark Express and Photoshop). Michael also discovered Amsonia ‘Blue Ice’ among a batch of Amsonia tabernaemontana at Sunny Border Nursery in Connecticut. During that time Michael was very active in the Connecticut NARGS Chapter and Chapter Chairman for 2 years.
In 1997 Michael then became a full time horticultural photographer. With his new wife Sonia he travelled widely in North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand photographing for a company in Europe as well as for horticultural magazines and catalogues. Michael gives horticultural talks (including all about willows) and also advises homeowners on garden design and garden problems.
In 2005, Sonia and Michael moved to Vermont and the following year visited the Montreal Botanic Garden and saw a demonstration of creating Living Structures using Willows. As Michael had spied several native willows growing on the new property (without knowing what they were!), but he knew he could grow willows on this land that had been farmed for at least 150 years. The following year they visited three renowned Salix growers in England and was given an education in Salicology by three very special gentlemen. Back in the States Michael ordered his first willows from the now defunct Willow Dream Farms in Kentucky and bought some cuttings at the Vermont Flower Show. Then friends and fellow enthusiasts gave Michael cuttings from their gardens and nurseries. Many noted Salicologist have shared their time and knowledge with Michael; none more so than Brooklyn born and now a Canadian Salix legend: Professor George Argus. The nursery began in 2006 and is now in it's 14th year. Michael learned how to put up a website using iWeb and started developing Vermont Willow Nursery. As soon as Michael published the site for the first time in 2012 Apple ended iWeb. Oops! Luckily a Canadian company bought the rights to the iWeb program and issued Everweb in 2013 and the following year Michael switched to that program with the great assistance from the owners and on-line support groups. The first few years the site was very amateurish and Michael had lots of strong suggestions from on-line developers. The website is now Michael's pride and joy; it is the product of hundreds of hours of work. Michael used his knowledge of photography to show Willows in a way that no one has ever done before. He hope's that the website promotes the use of Willows and allows people to learn more about these great plants. In the nursery Michael has close to 500 different willows, probably the largest collection in North America and maybe the World. Michael is totally addicted to the genus Salix!
In 2017 Sonia and Michael visited Norway, Finland and Iceland, where Michael saw lots of Salix for the first time. In June 2018 Michael visited China for the first time in on a trip to the Yunnan Mountains. Sadly, Michael is not allowed to bring back cuttings from this trips as all Willows are banned from entry into the US by the very misinformed/misguided people at APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service). Typical government ignorance!IMichael is now is now sharing his knowledge of the genus Salix to help Public Gardens with the nomenclature of the Willows in their Collections. He has assisted the Denver Botanical Garden, the Chicago Botanical Garden, the Morton Arboretum, the Holden Arboretum, the Dawes Arboretum, the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, and the Montreal Botanical Garden. When he isn't able to help, Michael calls on two Russian Salicologists to help out. First is Dr. Irina Belyaeva, recently retired head of the Herbarium of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew; secondly Dr. Julia Kuzovkina* of the University of Connecticut. Together the three of us recently worked on a paper regarding the taxonomy of Salix gracilistyla, its cultivars and hybrids—including Salix xleucopithecia (gracilistyla x caprea). This is what the West (including us) erroneously called Salix chaenomeloides; a totally different species. Here's a link to that species: . What was incorrectly labelled Salix chaenomeloides, Michael gave the cultivar name 'Winter Beauty' as it is so showy all winter. .
In 2021 Michael intends to donate cuttings of Salix unique in his collection to both the Montreal Botanical Garden and the Chicago Botanical Garden. This is being done to boost their collections and also to help preserve Michael's collection. He will also work with taxonomists in the two Botanical Gardens to verify the nomencalture of these Salix.
* Dr. Kuzovkina has published an extremely useful Check List of all published Salix cultivars and is also involved with the authorities that control the publishing of new Willow cultivar names:
CHECKLIST for CULTIVARS of Salix L. (willow)
This Checklist will be updated in 2021 by Prof Kuzovkina.
About Sonia and Michael
We ‘retired’ to Vermont in 2005 to a 50 acre ‘farm’ that hadn’t been farmed for many years. There were 3-4 perennials, a lilac bush, a few spruce trees, a couple of Scots Pine and many marvelous old apple trees (planted and seedlings). Plenty of weeds, brush, barbed wire, farm debris and fertile, but wet loam over shallow bedrock. On a visit to the nearby Montreal Botanic Garden in 2006 we were awed by a display of living willow structures. Light bulbs went off in our heads (or a moment of sheer insanity) about our wet property! Lets grow willows; addiction soon followed!
At the Vermont Flower Show March 2007 we bought our first willow cuttings and then contacted friends in the horticultural world to start building up our collection (~450 varieties now and probably the largest collection of Salix in North America). Our first mail-order purchase of cuttings was from the now defunct Willow Dreams Farm in Kentucky! We also visited willow growers in England that winter to learn the basics. We return to England most years to see what developments have been made in willow uses. We enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship with some of the top Botanical Gardens and Arboreta in North America, trading Salix cuttings and information.
We have a good relationship with top Salix taxonomists in North America and Europe in an attempt to make sure that the Salix we offer are correctly identified.
We are now in a position to share the wealth of the Wonderful World of Willows at the Vermont Willow Nursery. Because of our windy location we should be called “Wind in the Willows”--but that name is taken!
We decided that we had to retire as our bodies were slowing us down and we suffered from the aches and pains of most older people. So we are selling the business and our house to Lisa and Aric and we know the nursery will be in good hands. They have many plans to expand the business and Michael will continue to advise them as long as that is necessary. Michael will keep up this website and include links to botanical descriptions and keys to identifying willows. Later this year, Lisa and Aric will create a separate website for all willow sales that will have links to this website for cutomers to read more information about willows and see more photos.
Sonia and Michael Dodge
E-mail us if you have any suggestions, questions or corrections,
omissions or helpful comments at:
To read more about Vermont Willow Nursery, you may enjoy this blog from our friend and customer, Donald Statham:
Here is a radio interview Michael had with Nikki Jabbour in Halifax, Nova Scotia Summer 2014 where he talks about his horticultural career. Next summer he will do another interview with Nikki to talk about Willows!
Here is a radio interview Michael had with Margaret Roach on her Radio Program and Top-rated "A Way to Garden Blog".
Michael pollarding Salix xsalamonii ‘Chrysocoma’
opposite the family house
Michael with his first plant support.
October 2010 at Windrush Willows, UK
The Wonderful World of Willows
Vermont Willow Nursery
Michael with a bundle of coppiced rods in early April. Winter takes its time to leave Northern Vermont!
About Lisa and Aric
We discovered genus Salix quite by accident. In 2019, Lisa, a plant enthusiast, having discovered an interesting bundle of orange spiraling sticks that rooted very easily when placed in water. They vigorously grew on the kitchen countertop in the middle of winter! Our curiosity was piqued. Lisa's investigation inevitably led her to Vermont Willow Nursery, and the notice of Michael and Sonia's intention to sell the nursery. We were given the opportunity to meet with them in Baltimore, MD in January and they liked us enough to invite us to their home to assist in the spring 2020 harvest! ! Both of us fell in love with the work and the attributes of the genus Salix. The nursery being located on a quiet idyllic hillside merely sweetened the deal.
Lisa is a lifelong naturalist and environmentalist. She has a bachelor's degree in Environmental Resource Management with a minor in Watersheds and Water Resources from Penn State University. Her master's degree in Terrestrial Ecology and Biodiversity Management was completed at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, in Spain.
I have spent my adult life in public service at the USGS in the Water Mission Area monitoring many rivers and streams in New Jersey. During my time at the USGS,
I have personally witnessed the devastating effects of over-development on waterways and beaches.
Michael and Sonia are leaving some pretty big shoes for us to fill…we'll forever be grateful to them for this opportunity and for mentoring us. Our mission is to continue their legacy of interesting products and excellent communication, while expanding on what is offered. We hope that you join us on this very exciting journey. We invite you to grow with us, learn with us, and in a small way change the world.
We met Lisa Carper and Aric Vanselous in Baltimore MD January 6, 2020 after they approached us about the sale of Vermont Willow Nursery. We spent several hours chatting with them and were struck by their honesty and enthusiasm.
April 2020: this is the camper trailer that Lisa and Aric quarantined in while doing most of the Spring 2020 coppicing and shipping!
A sweet photo of Lisa and Aric. They are as delightful as they appear in this photo.
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