Help & Advice

The Musgrove family and our team have a huge wealth of willow knowledge and experience. From willow growing and processing to customer requirements for willow weaving projects, we can help.

Please take a look at our Frequently Asked Questions section below or get in touch

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are some of the most commonly asked questions. Please do not hesitate to contact us if your question doesn't appear below.

What is Brown Willow?

Any variety of willow that is dried with the bark on. The following varieties of willow are grown here and are available as Brown willow.

  • Black Maul
  • Brittany Green
  • Dicky Meadows
  • Flanders Red
  • Whissender
  • Noir de Villaine

Some of the brown willow varieties may not be available all year round. Size availability varies. Sizes can range from 3ft - 9ft.

What is Buff Willow?

Buff willow can also be known as stripped willow. This is most commonly the Black Maul variety. Black Maul is the best willow to use for this purpose. The willow is boiled for approx 8 hours before being stripped of its bark and dried. Black Maul, despite it's name, is not black in colour.

What is Green Willow?

Any variety of willow that is freshly cut and flexible.

What is Steamed Willow?

Brown Willow (dried) that has been placed in the boiler for a few hours to colour the bark of the willow a chocolate/black. The willow is then removed from the boiler and dried outside. We recommend the following varieties for steaming; Black Maul or Noir De Villaine. Steamed willow is used for adding colour and texture to baskets. It is also used for outdoor sculptures and hurdles. Steamed willow has to be resoaked to make the rods pliable.

What is White Willow?

This willow (Black Maul) is harvested but kept alive and when in full leaf during the summer, stripped of leaf and bark to reveal the white rod underneath. The willow is then dried the same day it is stripped and stored in the dark to prevent yellowing. This process is lengthy and expensive but does produce the highest quality product. It is highly sought after and very popular, so stock is always limited.

How long should willow be soaked to gain flexibility?

  • Buff and white willow should be soaked for 2 hours in cold water and then mellow wrap in a wet blanket overnight
  • Brown willow should be soaked for one day for every foot of willow
  • Steamed willow requires slightly less soaking time than brown willow as this has been processed already
  • Green willow does not require soaking. It will be completely flexible without this treatment
  • The Flanders Red variety of willow will require double the soaking time of brown willow

How do I use a soaking bag?

Our heavy duty soaking bags are designed to be reused. Read our handy guide

How should I treat my outdoor hurdle or sculpture?

We recommend a mixture of 50% linseed oil and 50% turps. Alternatively, a breathable preservative from your local DIY store should suffice. Please treat your hurdles as you would a wooden panel fence to prolong their lives.

How can I encourage more wildlife?

Willow is increasingly being used to provide ground cover for birds and animals. For many years, we have noticed an abundance of animal and bird activity in our withy beds in comparison to the grass fields that neighbour them. Choose a variety that is disease resistant, pleasing to the eye and of a slow to medium growth rate. Ask our advice, we are happy to supply small or large-scale ground cover projects.

What size are the willow bundles?

Traditional Somerset bundles measure 1 foot in diameter and 3 foot 1 inch to 3 foot 2 inches in circumference around the butt end, (the base of the rod).

Which willow should I use for indoor sculptures & lanterns?

Buff Willow is the perfect willow for projects of this nature. The smoothness of the rod enables paper tissue and masking tape to be stuck easily to it. It is incredibly lightweight, flexible and strong, so fairly large-scale structures and sculptures can be made with it. We recommend lengths of 5 to 6 foot upwards, so you will have some thicknesses of rod at the butt end for stability.

Which willow is suitable for outdoor work and sculptures?

We recommend Green, Brown or Steamed Willow. These all still have their bark on to give protection against the elements. Willow products should still be treated when left outdoors for long periods of time, unless of course they are growing.

Why are bundles sold in foot lengths?

The old fashioned method of grading by hand is still used today. Unsorted bundles are placed in a barrel sunk into the floor and rods are then pulled out from the longest (at around 9ft) in foot graduations down to the smallest (at 3ft).

Why do you boil willow?

To produce buff, green or brown the willow needs to be immersed in water and boiled for approximately 8 hours. This process releases the tannins, which colour the willow rod a golden brown shade and soften the bark to enable it to be removed or stripped.

Why has my willow got marks on its skin?

We try as best we can to manage the pests and diseases that some of our varieties of willow are susceptible to without damaging the environment. Sometimes we are unable to prevent insect, snail or fungal damage to the rod or leaf of the willow. Sometimes a hailstorm or strong wind at a crucial growing point can affect the rods growth and appearance. We aim to produce the highest quality rod in the most environmentally friendly way possible.

Will I receive only 6 ft long rods in a 6 ft bundle, 5 ft long rods in a 5 ft bundle?

No. This is a natural product which is sorted by hand against a wooden rule marked in feet. For example, in a 6 foot bundle you will have rods of varying lengths between 6 foot and 5 foot; so the longest rods will be 6 foot and the shortest in the bundle would be 5 foot. This is the traditional process of grading which we still undertake today. It is not possible for us to know without counting how many of each length rod you will receive in a bundle. We are unable to do this given the volume of material we grade each day.

Why is willow sold by weight & how many rods will I receive?

Delivery companies charge for sending items through their networks either by item weight and / or dimension (size). 

When tying up any willow orders - either for shipping through the courier network or for collection from the farm - we accurately weigh out the willow rods from 1kg, 5kg, 10kg etc.  Our machines are regularly calibrated and certified to be accurate. The number of rods within each of these weights is always approximate and cannot be guaranteed; only the weight of an item can be guaranteed.

Historically willow bundles were tied up by a measurement of 1 foot in diameter and 3 foot 1 inch - 3 foot 2 inches in circumference around the butt end, the base of the bundle. The number of willow rods contained within these bundles would vary depending on the thickness of the willow, whether the rods had come from on old withy bed or a new one where they may grow differently. This is still true today.

At each new cutting season, we tie up a number of Traditional bundles of willow of all the varieties we sell; green, buff, brown etc, weigh them and count the number of rods contained within each bundle. We then take an average weight and approx. number of rods per bundle for our records and use these as a guideline throughout the year.

Willow is sold by weight and not by rods

If the number of rods required is critical, it's worth ordering more than you require to allow for variances in growth and thickness. You may also break some of the willow rods while working on your project!

Musgrove Willows Ltd © 2021