Scraggly Willow

On August 2, 2012 by Lauren Biegler

This post is a detour from my list, and more of a story about a recent experience I had as a result of starting this blog.

If you recall…I visited the Flower District on July 24, following a friend’s recommendation. While I was there I met a man named Bobby, who was shucking leaves off of a ‘Scraggly Willow Tree.’ I sat down with Bobby and asked him to explain how he found this tree and what his life is like in this profession. He told me  that the tree is what gives him life. Literally, he supports himself by growing this tree and selling it at the Chelsea Flower Markets. The ‘scraggly willow’ is a decorative tree you would see in elaborate vases, fashion sets, hotel lobby’s or restaurants. Bobby has seven trees at his home in New Jersey and every day he cuts off hundreds of  the branches, shucks off the leaves and brings them to the market where they are dried out, dyed and then sold. Bobby told me he makes quite a good living off this, in fact his top client is Ralph Lauren, who comes to him personally on Saturdays to purchase the vines for his photo shoots and for his personal home. 

After Bobby finished teaching me about the tree he said to me: “Come back this Saturday, and I will teach you how to grow this tree. When you plant it, it will take care of you for life.” 

Walking away I thought…obviously he says that to everyone, and if not…obviously he would say that to a 23-year-old girl, so I won’t go back.

Later that night, I was talking to my friend who told me to go the Flower District and I told her my story about meeting Bobby and his invitation to teach me how to grow this tree. She took a totally different outlook on the opportunity and said, “that is one of the purest forms of life, to plant a tree and make a living off of it…the tree of life.” Such a simple statement, with so much truth. My friend encouraged me to go back and while I was there, “listen closely to what he says because  there will be a message in his story.” 

So I decided to go back on Saturday, and find Bobby. When I got to his shop, he was not there and I spent about an hour looking for him. I went in to the shop where I met him, and asked the other tenants where he might be. They informed me that he left, and I missed him for the day. 

No Bobby.

I wasn’t upset I missed Bobby, because I knew I could always go back. Also, I took it as a sign…if he was not there I was not supposed to meet him then. I was bummed because I knew I probably wouldn’t go back again because I get so busy with work and trying to find new things to do. So…opportunity missed, on to the next one! 

Yesterday, I had my second photo shoot for a Warrior Bootcamp class at The East River Pavilion on 60th and East Riverside. I arrived early and began to set up my stuff to take pictures. Aside from myself and the workout class there were a few other people sitting in the park benches. I was busy fiddling around with my camera and setting up my tri-pod when I noticed a man get up and start to walk away. Preoccupied I took a quick look at him, and turned around for the double-take.

It was Bobby.

In a city of 8,000,000+ people, 60 city blocks, 7 avenues and across the island from where I had originally met him…I found him when I was not looking.

Shocked, I tapped his shoulder:

Me: “Is your name Bobby? Do you work at the Flower District on 28th and 6th?”

Bobby: “Yes?”

Me: “I met you there! I talked to you about the tree….you told me to come back!”

Bobby: “About the Scraggly Willow…Yeah?”

Me: “Well do you remember me?”

Bobby: “No.”

Me: “Well, I even have a picture of you (get out camera and show him picture I took of him and the trees) – I came back on Saturday, I want to learn how to grow that damn tree!”

Bobby: “OH SHIT! That is me! I talk to hundreds of people a day! I was there Saturday, you must have missed me. When can you come back? I will teach you how to grow the tree…but you can’t tell anyone that I gave you the seeds.”

Me: “Tomorrow, I can come tomorrow at Lunch.”

Bobby: “Okay, I’ll teach you tomorrow.”

Today I went back to the Flower District, and guess who I found. Bobby. Just like I was meant to.

This time, Bobby remembered me. He took me over to where he was shucking off the leaves from his Scraggly Willow trees, and broke me off a branch. He told me that to grow this tree you need to cut the stem at a 45 degree angle, and put it into a vase with water for 3 weeks. You have to leave the branch untouched in water for three weeks straight and it will eventually grow roots. Once the roots are strong enough, it can be planted into a pot with fertilizer. When the tree begins to take shape it will start to look like this. 


After about a year, the branch will have grown into a small tree and can be planted into the soil. If you have a yard, the tree will grow to look like a weeping willow tree.  Bobby has seven of these trees in his yard.            


I left the Flower District with my own Scraggly Willow branch in hand:

Such a simple truth: in order to have life, you must feed life.

I’m starting with a tree.

One Response to “Scraggly Willow”

  • Jess Milano

    everything that comes out of your mouth makes me smile.. and then sometimes cry and then definitely smile again. You’re just lovely, and so is this post. Love and miss you<3

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