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Nature's parka? Those fuzzy catkins on pussy willows protect the flowers underneath.

A brown, thin branch with soft gray catkins covering the flower bud of a pussy willow plant.
Kristin Colwell/Getty Images/iStockphoto
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iStockphoto
Just prior to blooming in early spring, the flowers of the pussy willow plant are covered by a protective fuzzy coating, called a "catkin."

Pussy willows are one of the early signs of spring in Vermont and because the pussy willow plant flowers so early, it needs a little protection!

That fuzzy, gray catkin serves as a protective covering for the flowers and the plant.

Then, once it blooms it becomes a great plant for pollinators and birds.

Pussy willows are native plants and can grow quite large - from six to 10 feet tall and some varieties can grow even bigger.

This plants thrives best in a location that gets full sun, and also has well-drained but moist soil.

Pussy willows thrive on stream banks or an area where there is some constant soil moisture but not a full-on swampy area.

So if you have these growing conditions in your lawn or landscape, plant some pussy willow! They are very easy to grow and make great cut flowers to bring into your home.

Clip a branch or two and place in vase with water and the pussy willow will actually root and you can grow even more.

Because pussy willow plants can grow quite large, in early spring, plan to cut them way back to a couple of feet tall every three years.

After pruning them back, the plants will leaf out and branch out and form a smaller shrub that will grow into more pussy willows next year.

Also, add more color to your spring yard by seeking out some different varieties of pussy willosw. The plants native to Europe and Asia have different colored catkins, like black, red and pink.

Though they will thrive more in the Champlain and Connecticut River Valley areas, as they need slightly warmer conditions, those other varieties of pussy willows will grow in Vermont.

When it comes to attracting pollinators to your yard, lots of butterfly species will lay their eggs on pussy willows.

Those eggs turn into larvae and the plant then becomes a food source. Then, as the larvae grow into caterpillars, they becomes a food source for nesting birds.

One small songbird's nest with hatchlings may need about 5,000 caterpillars to feed the baby birds from hatching all the way up to fledging.

Love lillies, dahlias and crocosmia? Charlie Nardozzi has a webinar on April 4 at 6 p.m., "The Bulbs of Summer." Find out more here.

Q: I never had cut worms till last year and then they attacked cabbage, lettuce, parsley and leeks. Is there a way to get rid of them? If I can leave the land fallow for the year, will that kill him off? - Anne Marie, in Pawlet

A: You can try to leave the ground fallow or try a couple of other options.

One method is to use that bed to plant cover crops. Another option: grow some plants that the cutworms won't find interesting, like root crops.

If you plant carrots and parsnips and other root crops in the same bed, that could rid it of cutworms.

And yet another method to try is, as you put transplants like peppers and tomatoes into your garden bed, create a barrier that the cut worms can't penetrate.

Make the barrier from the cardboard insert of a toilet paper roll! Cut the cardboard roll in half then use it as a collar around the transplant.

Sink the cardboard collar a couple of inches down into the soil. That will protect your transplants from critters.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

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Mary Engisch is the host and reporter for Weekend Edition Saturday and Weekend Edition Sunday on VPR.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on VPR. Be part of the fun and send your gardening questions here, for Charlie to answer on the air. Plus, find lots of great gardening tips and information for all seasons here. For more gardening information, check out Charlie's website, Gardening with Charlie Nardozzi. Charlie is a guest on VPR's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.