By December, our willow harvest is usually well underway. We then carry on cutting our willow through the winter months until spring. Green willow (or fresh cut as it is also known) is incredibly flexible and can stay so for around 6 weeks. As the willow dries it will be classed as semi-green. At this stage, the willow contains less moisture, so the rods may require soaking before use. Leave the willow to dry out completely and it will be ‘brown’ (or dry) and ideal for basketry and sculpture work. (If green willow is used to make an item such as a basket the weave will loosen as the willow dries out.)
How to store green, fresh cut willow
There are a few important rules to follow when storing green, fresh cut willow. Depending on the variety, the way the willow is stored and aired can have a dramatic effect on the colour and vibrancy of the rods.
We dry and store hundreds of thousands of willow rods. The rules that we apply on our Somerset farm can easily be followed at home.
Drying thousands of rods on our farm
First, you will need somewhere dry to store it and the willow should be off the ground. If you have bought a bundle of our green, fresh cut willow, (thank you) be sure to remove all but the middle tie. This allows the rods to be spread apart a little more without the entire bundle being loose.
Storing willow in one of our warehouses
Place the bundle(s) on a shelf, rack or up on a pallet in a dry location. Ideally, you want air to be able to circulate around the willow rods. Do not place in direct sunlight.
Air needs to circulate otherwise moisture will ruin the willow
How it dries depends on the variety
Yellower varieties, such as Flanders Red and Dicky Meadows tend to dry differently to Black Maul (where the skin is one colour). As the willow rods begin to dry they may take on a black tint. DON’T panic. This is part of the drying process. Once the willow is fully dried the black tint should disappear.
The willow varieties that need extra care and attention when drying are; Dicky Meadows, Brittany Green and Flanders Red. Check regularly to ensure air is getting to all the rods. Dicky Meadows can be particularly tricky to dry.
Willow drying in one of our open-sided warehouses
While green willow should not be dried permanently in direct sunlight lying it out on trestles on a sunny day can really help enhance the colour. Treated this way, the orange, red hues in a variety such as Flanders Red can become more pronounced. Even buff willow can change colour as it absorbs the sun’s rays. BEWARE - leave the willow out too long and it can get ‘burnt’ as overexposure bleaches the colour out of the rod. Just be sure to take your willow back indoors in the evening.
Once your willow is completely dry it can be soaked as and when you require it. The variety of the willow and the length of the rod will determine how long the rods will need to be soaked for. (We have written a separate guide on how to soak willow and soaking times.)
6 Tips for storing green, fresh cut willow
1. Remove all but the central tie on a bundle to loosen the rods
2. Store in a cool, dry, elevated location
3. Allow air to circulate
4. Be sure to check your willow regularly
5. Placing the willow outdoors on a sunny day can enhance the colour
6. Leaving the willow in direct sunlight for too long will adversely affect the colour