Willow is a super hardy plant, you can cut a piece off, stick it in the ground and it will grow. It doesn’t matter which way you put it in the ground, or even leave it lying horizontally – it will root!
It grows rapidly and is there for sustainable and is great for biomass fuel, such as willow faggots. It loves wet ground and is a great plant to site on edges of ponds, rivers or bogs as its roots will support the bank system and lessen erosion.
Copyright Mike Dodd
Living Willow is an artistic medium, where you can use it to create structures and sculpture. The art of basketry using Willow is thousands of years old.
‘Hounds’ by Caroline Gregson
Many community gardens and allotments create structures using Willow as it is easy to obtain and is a cheap material. Willow should be coppiced yearly between December and March to promote healthy growth and to keep it in check. So, now is the perfect time to contemplate which type of design you might wish to create in the coming months. The coppiced stems or rods can then be used for structures.
Structures can be made, such as arbors for shade, a screen to provide privacy or a windbreak, a fedge which is a living fence/hedge. You can make wonderful creations for children and us bigger kids. Things like play tunnels, wigwams, domes, arches or even magic wands are great fun! Creating structures with children is not only an enjoyable task but is also educational.
As Willow grows so quickly, if you need height in your garden it’s a brilliant plant to use, however you do need to prune it regularly. Another plus point of a living Willow structure is from an environmental perspective. As it is alive it absorbs carbon from the atmosphere and releases vital oxygen back out. You don’t need to use any toxic preservatives to treat the wood and it is a great habitat for wildlife.
Think carefully where to locate your structure. Willow will compete with other plants for water and nutrients so don’t site it next to your vegetable bed.
‘The Willow Bank’ are ethical, specialist growers based an hour outside of Bristol within Ragman’s Lane Farm. They can provide living Willow structure kits, or bundles of rods, or of course you could coppice your own if you have it growing in your grounds or garden. We have created living Willow structures in the past and would love to come and construct one for you!