Living Willow Hedges

You can call them willow hedges but maybe a more accurate term? “Fedges” = fence + hedge. Willows, sallows, and osiers form the genus Salix (Latin for willow), a grouping of 400-ish species of deciduous trees and shrubs. Willow are native to moist soils in cold and temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Almost all willows take root very readily from cuttings. Young, thin willow cuttings are known as withies, longer willow rods are known as whips.

Why a Willow Hedge?

living willow hedge
Willow is often used for streambank stabilization (bioengineering), slope stabilization and soil erosion control. Willows are often planted on the borders of streams so their interlacing roots protect the bank against the action of the water. Their roots are often much larger than the stem that grows from them.  See how to plant willow cuttings to prevent erosion at a streambank: www.ksre.ksu.edu

How to Build a Willow Hedge

fedge
Simply make a hole in the ground with a metal bar, then insert the willow cutting. Weed control is important when starting a willow fedge and the cuttings should be planted into a weed barrier that allows water penetration, otherwise the weeds might suck away a bit of vitality from the young willows. As a general rule, shorter cuttings establish and grow best without competition from weeds, whereas longer cuttings have more stored energy and can handle a bit of competition. Willows prefer full sun but will accept part shade. Willows are also very adaptable as per water conditions once they are established and will also survive in poor quality soils. Image: www.yorkshirewillow.co.uk

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Living willow fence at Vevey Garden, Switzerland. Willow rods are pushed into the ground at an angle. The tops are tied to a horizontal, weaved in withy to give stability along the top. Willows have high levels of auxins, hormones that promote rooting success. The hormone is so prevalent that “willow water” brewed from willow stems, will encourage the rooting of many other plant cuttings as well. Image by Barbara, OvertheMoon www.flickr.com

living willow hedge
The angled rods tend to sprout along their entire length, while the uprights oft times sprout from the top only. Botanical Gardens of Wales. Photo by Libby, www.flickr.com

living willow hedge
Living willow hedge panels by Green Barrier of Scotland. Living hedge sections come in pre-constructed 1m widths and in heights from 1.2 to 2.5m. They are planted directly into topsoil to a depth of 60cm (2 feet), to provide support while the roots grow. www.esi.info

living willow hedge
Use Salix Viminalis and rub off the new shoots on the lower portions of the rods to achieve this open look. Image: livingwithtwistedwillow.blogspot.com

living willow hedge
Salix ‘Americana’ planted in Canada. Ties are used to secure the structure while it becomes established. salix-willows.blogspot.com

willow fedge
Same hedge as photo above, yet one year later. The fence was trimmed back once in the early fall. Fence and photo by Lene Rasmussen. salix-willows.blogspot.com

living willow hedge
A wood frame with tall, straight willow branches stuck vertically into the soil and intertwined into the frame. Caution, willow roots are aggressive in seeking out moisture; for this reason, they can become problematic when planted near cesspools or drainage areas. They should also not be planted close to a building due to their roots aggressive and large size. modmissy.com

Buying Willow Hedge Materials

One of the best places to find willow tree cuttings for sale is on eBay, where you’re often buying direct from the tree’s owner.

If you don’t want to go the “grow-it-yourself” route, Gardener’s Supply Company has a terrific selection of willow fencing and expandable willow trellises.

Maintaining Your Willow Hedge

living willow hedge
The living fedge structure will require periodic pruning and weaving of new growth. By Green Barrier Fence, Europe and Canada. www.lesecransverts.ca

living willow hedge“During the summer any side-shoots are rubbed off to keep the lattice work of the fence clear of growth, but the top three or four buds are allowed to grow out. These shoots are trimmed back to the top of the fence in the winter.” From Living with Twisted Willow. livingwithtwistedwillow.blogspot.com

living willow hedge
Living willow fence by Wassledine, Bedfordshire, UK. Additional cuttings can be added to secure the base. As they grow the lower shoots can also be woven in to thicken the fence. www.wassledine.co.uk

living willow hedge
Heavy pruning at the top encourages growth at the bottom.

The World’s Coolest Living Willow Hedges

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Living willow fence at RHS Garden Harlow Carr, Yorkshire. rchsblog.wordpress.com

living willow hedge
Three willow stems woven into a diamond pattern. The tops are tied to a horizontal withy to give some stability to the top. Photo: Peter D’Aprix: www.vegetablegardener.com.

living willow hedge
Living willow fence. Photo by Barbara, OvertheMoon, www.flickr.com

living willow hedge
Living willow hedge surrounding a vegetable garden in France. Design: Judy and David Drew. Photo by Nicola Browne. www.gapphotos.com

living willow hedge
Lush new growth on the willow arbour at Whichford Pottery, Warwickshire. www.whichfordpottery.com

living willow hedge
Willow arch at Bealtaine Cottage, Ireland. permaculturecottage.wordpress.com

living willow hedge
Living willow arch. See resources below for willow arch kits. Photo by Daniel via: www.flickr.com

living willow hedge
Living willow arch. A 4′ x 7’6″ x 2′ arch installed for 130 pounds in Suffolk, England. www.naturalfencing.com

living willow hedge
A living willow arch. As photo above, but in winter. www.naturalfencing.com


living willow hedge
Fedge in the winter at Ryton Organic Gardens. www.thewillowbank.com

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Living willow privacy screen in urban settings. englishbasketrywillows.com

living willow arbor
Living willow dining arbor to protect you from the sun. Kit for sale here: www.thewillowbank.com

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A rose in front of Hakuro Nishiki or Dappled willow. This is just a shrub not a fedge, added here because this willow variety is striking. The slender leaves emerge as glossy bright pink, then mature into a white, green and pink variegation.  Regular pruning encourages the best color. Stems are red in the winter. Prefers moist soils. Image via: davesgarden.com

The Willow Palace

living willow hedge
In 1998, natural artist and architect Marcel Kalberer created the Auerworld Palace, a pavilion made of living willow trees. It is also known as the “mother of all willowpalaces”. It has become a tourist attraction for the region between Weimar and Naumburg, Germany. www.arcprospect.org

Willow Hedge Online Resources

Seventeen willow varieties for fencing: www.yorkshirewillow.co.uk
Willow for living structures:  www.bluestem.ca
Which willow where:  www.bluestem.ca
Varieties: www.willowsvermont.com
Read about the different Willow Species for Hedging: www.hedging.co.uk

Popular Species for Willow Hedges

Rods available in 1.5, 2.0m, 2.5m, 3.0m and 3.5m lengths.

Salix Viminalis (produces long, straight rods without many side shoots),
Salix Tortuous (Corkscrew or Curly Willow),
Salix Alba Vitellina (Golden Willow),
Salix Alba Chermesina (Scarlet Willow),
Salix Purpurea (Chou Blue),
Salix Sachalinensis (Sekka)
Salix Triandra (Black Maul) grows fast.

How to Make Willow Water

Root azaleas, lilacs, and roses by soaking two large handfuls of pencil-thin willow branches cut into 3-inch lengths in two quarts of boiling water and steep overnight. Refrigerate unused water.

How to Protect Willow Hedges from Deer

Deer will eat willow when there is nothing else to eat. But if you desire your edge trimmed periodically this might not be a bad thing. Willow rebounds quickly. Salix purpureas is the most bitter and therefore least-eaten willow.

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Author: keiren

Keiren is an artist who lives in New York City. A lover of animals, nature, science & green building.

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21 comments

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1

For the back fence

2

Hi! would you know which type of plant would be good in making a living hedge for a tropical climate?

3

Some willows are prone to disease when exposed to excessive warmth and humidity, so you need to pick your species with care.

Coastal plain willow, pussy willow, desert willow and Arizona willow all do well with warm temps.

If you have a local nursery, I would check there. Hope they grow well for you.

5
Carla Douberly

I have looked at all your creations and ideas. Will be using many in my own yard. Thank you so much for the share.

Carla

6

Love this site lots of creative ideas.

7

Willow fences...just the thing for my garden...thanks!

8

I was wondering if you had to worry about off shoots or runners coming up from the ground around the fence (like raspberry). I live in Northern Ontario and we have TONNES of red willow and I need a new fence between mine and my neighbours yard...this would be cool but I don't want my neighbour to have to worry about runners and issues with insane roots that will destroy our already dilapitated underground infrastructure (ie. water lines and plumbing)

9

I have always been fascinated with these type of fences, now I know how they are done and with a variety of styles too. I can't wait to do this at my home. I will definitely be shopping at online plant nursery for all my living hedge needs.

10

greetings from gravenhurst, ontario, canada...i design and build rustic furniture and i'm looking for a steady source of furniture grade willows...while living and working in california i discovered desert willow and loved it...i'm having difficulty finding something similar here in the frozen north...you can see my work at http://www.rustixdesign.com

thanx...stanley 705.687.8436

11

can living willow be adaptable in the Philippines?

12

Any way there may be a company in Mchigan? I'd love to try along my fence line! I have a hundred feet of chain link that's old, & would love to transform to one of these beauties!

13

Will these living willows grow in the Georgia [Middle Georgia] USA? Do they need water and fertilizer care? To make a fence 50ft long, how many willows should I plant? Please answer. Thank you.

14

Hi Karla,

I am sure that many species of willow will grow in Georgia. Yes, they do need water. Please contact one of the willow distributors listed as they would know how many cuttings and of what species you would need. Thx

15

I live in mount Uniacke Nova Scotia and have a substantial amount of willow canes which are available each spring.I trim them by hand and it takes about 40 man hours to complete. These are 20 feet tall and I trim back to 10 feet.Each cane would be 3 -3ft. plants. If interested please contact me at rediker1962@gmail. com

Thanks. Chris

16

Hey Chris,

I'm in Halifax, I'd be interested in your willow canes. Shoot me an email. I'm trying to outline my acreage with a willow windbreak. I have a really high water table (maybe 2 ft below ground ) and willows do really well here. My email is herringchoker1971@gmail.com

Thanks,

David

17

Can you recommend the least aggressive/invasive species of willow for living willow fences, i.e., least likely to spread through the root systems? I'm very interested in these kinds of fence/privacy screens but know that some species of willow can take over a huge area quickly by spreading through their root systems. I would want a living willow fence to 'stay put'.

18

Will Pussy Willows work for a living hedge?

19

Willow fedges wind tolerance is variable it seems.

Tornado deflection. Amazing windbreaks. Sheep in Pembrokeshire colored.

20

i like to know do you sale something the same to grow in miami fl send me info

21

Hi, I would like to know when is the best time/season to trim willow and when is the best season to plant it. Also, what is the best time to cut and store it for basketry projects in the future.

Thank you.

Coleen