Living arches, pergolas and domes. Green gates, tunnels and sound screens. Natural playgrounds and children huts. The living willow is a fast-growing perennial plant that allows many creative designs!

The culture of willow

Where to find willow?

To make designs in willow, you need Salix viminalis. The main Quebec suppliers, to our knowledge, are: Enviro-Saule (St-Jean-Port-Joli), Les Écrans verts (St-Roch-de-l’Achigan, Osons l’osier (L’Isle-Verte) and Pépinière Gaucher (Brigham).

When to plant the willow?

Willow should ideally be planted in April or May, before the hot weather of summer. Plant your cuttings as soon as you acquire them, or else keep them in the refrigerator in plastic bags for up to two or three weeks.

Can I plant the willow in the ground? Is it risky for the house’s foundations if it is planted too close?

Willow can be planted in the ground in almost any type of soil, except those that are very dry or flooded.

Willow can reach two to three meters in height from the first season, and up to six meters at maturity. So remember to leave enough space. Plant it at least 5 meters from the foundations of your home and also avoid planting it too close to a drain (min. 2 meters) or a septic tank (min. 4meters), for the willow can infiltrate them while seeking water.

Can I plant the willow in pots?

The willow can be planted in Smart Pots, provided you choose at least a 45 gallon size (Smart Pot #45). If you want to make a big dome that will survive several years, it is better to opt for Smart Pots #100.

Living willow dome at Domaine Cataraqui

Living willow arch at the National Assembly of Quebec

How to plant willow?

Dig the soil 30 cm deep. Measure and make holes using a miner’s pick or stake where the rods will be planted. The rods must be planted 20 cm deep and with an inclination (if necessary). Ideally, the rods are planted 20 cm apart. Water very well.

How to weave the willow?

To know how to weave willow, you can consult the following links: Living Willow Hedges, Tresser l’osier vivant (for the picture) and Making Living Willow Sculptures.

To make a fence, attach the junctions of the structure near the ground, in the middle, and near the top. Also attach the structure to the previously installed temporary frame (metal rods or wooden posts – for the time that the structure solidifies). Use strings or metal ties.

Which finishing touch?

Spread RCW or straw on the ground. It is possible to make notches to promote the welding of the rods. It is then necessary to glue the welding rods to the notches, tying them together and then putting wide tape to prevent the notches from drying.

In general, it is best not to prune the willow. However, the structure may be growing more on the south side and create a debalancing. If this is the case, it is possible to prune on one side to balance the structure.

Does willow survive the winter? Should I cover it?

To ensure your willow survives its first winter, it would be prudent to cover it. Nevertheless, it still has a good chance of surviving if you do not cover it.