Living willow structures, and their care

Living Willow Sculpture of an owlLiving willow structures come in a variety of uses and forms:

  • Play structures, such as domes, tunnels and bespoke items perhaps a boat, caterpillar, dragon, or metro train. These are often useful in primary schools. (include pic.s)
  • Domes can be used as small social spaces of about 1.5m diameter, to larger outdoor classrooms up to 4m in diameter. Also, useful to promote outdoor play, to provide shade, and as a teaching space.

The tunnels and domes can be combined in a variety of ways.

  • Living willow screening may also be useful around Firepits in Forest school areas. (include pic.s)
  • For gardens, screening, arbours and arches are useful ways of creating new spaces/views in the garden and creating privacy.
  • Arches can also be made for weddings, either in situ, or in moveable containers.
  • Living willow is also a useful method for creating Prayer stations, Sacred circles, and Labyrinths to enable more focussed attention by enclosing space around the user. (Include pics of church at Kielder, and sacred circles at Dilston and Ransom wood).

Planting site and season, aftercare, maintenance:

There is a relatively short season for planting living willow. One needs to plant the willow rods  (cuttings) during the winter between  late November once the sap is down (leaves are off), and late February (when the willow begins to grow again).

The willow needs to be sited in reasonably good soil, and away from tall buildings or close to large overhanging trees.

Building sites with thin soil are not suitable, nor is alkaline soil. Willow loves damp conditions, so if your ground is very dry, then it is worth mulching the living willow as a way of retaining moisture and adding nutrients.

Once planted, water regularly. If there is a prolonged hot spell then water thoroughly in the evening at least twice a week.

For large components in large domes we use Salix Viminalis var. Bjorn or Tora (fast growing).

But for much of the weaving various large basket willow varieties are preferred. These have a variety of bark colours, to provide interest.