Creating Your Own Living Willow Sculptures

You will need basic tools such as a spade, string, marker pegs, garden gloves, pruners, and bio-degradable garden ties (or fine willow to tie-off) and mulch (optional).

To simplify matters we have two basic starting points - circular (tepees, domes and chair shelters - arbours) and straight (tunnels, archways, a living fence/hedge - fedges).

To start...

After finding a suitable position for your structure, snip each rod's base diagonally to ease planting (Diagram 1).

Circular structures - tepees, domes, arbours

Mark out the base, use a peg attached to some string to 'scratch' a circle into your turf. Don't forget to leave a door space (about 1 metre)! (Diagram 2) For an arbour simply mark out a semi-circle.

Use a spade to clear a 30cm wide strip of excess turf from your base - leave the doorway space intact. Add some compost to the cleared base, if desired.

Starting at the 'doorpost' push two long rods into the ground closely together, to a minimum depth of 15cm. Continue pushing single large rods into the prepared ground every 20cm. Finish at the other 'doorpost' with another two long rods close together.

Twist two 'doorpost' sets of rods around each other and gently towards each other to make a doorway, twist again and secure, at the required height, to complete the entrance arch (Diagram 3).

For a tepee gather together the remaining willow at the top and tie off at the required height, using thin willow strips or bio-degradable ties (Diagram 4).

For a dome start by bending opposite willow rods to meet in the centre, and tie off to the required height (Diagram 5). Excess length can be twisted around itself to keep it neat, or trimmed off later.

Next add the medium length willow to weave into the frame. Push two rods into the ground at 45 degree angles, halfway between the larger rods. Then simply weave them upwards into your structure in a lattice, or diamond, pattern. If you are creating a doorway, simply 'go back on your self' to avoid blocking the entrance (Diagram 6).

Tie off the ends, as before, trim where necessary, then water well, and leave to grow and thrive.

For an arbour follow the dome instructions, but remember to pull the rear rods to the front centre and tie off to create the semi-circular structure. It is suggested you put an additional two rods for support at the back of the semi-circle, to increase the structures strength and give you the initial shape (Diagram 7).

Straights - tunnels, arches and fedges

Mark out your desired base length by scratching a line(s) through your soil with a tent peg or similar, then use a spade to remove any excess turf. Add some compost to the cleared base, if desired.

Push the large rods a minimum of 15cm into the ground at 30cm intervals, make two long rows for a tunnel or archway - or a single line for a fedge.

For tunnels, bend the opposite pair of large willow rods towards each other to create an arch. Twist around each other, secure at the required height, if necessary trim as required (Diagram 8).

Next weave the medium length willow into the tunnel. Push two rods into the ground at 45 degree angles, halfway between the larger rods. Then simply weave them upwards into your structure in a large lattice, or diamond pattern (Diagram 9).

Tie off the ends, as before, trim where necessary, then water well and leave to grow and thrive.

Ensure all planted willow is watered well in its first year.

Mulch or bark chips can be placed around the bottom of the planted structure to suppress weeds and hold moisture. Remember, every structure is unique, so if you want to be a bit more creative then go ahead - after all, a living structure will change to reflect the seasons in any case. Enjoy Yourself!

If you require a more information we can happily recommend some excellent guide books, many of which are available to buy from us direct. Or, even better, why not come and join us in the beautiful Somerset countryside for one of our popular willow craft courses? Please contact us if you would like to know more about any of our products.

Peg in the ground Circle being dug out Two rods in the ground Dome from willow rods Tunnel or archway in willow rods
Diamond pattern - Willow rods Semi-circular structure - Willow rods Willow tunnels with willow rods Weaving willow into the tunnel.