Willow is one of the most versatile plants/trees for weaving and building just about anything you can dream up from baskets to gazebos. A couple of years ago, I came across a very interesting site through Pinterest showing the most intricate yet natural structures in lush, green, outdoor settings. It changed my life forever. I wish I could share that very first site I landed on that day, but it has been lost among a plethora of other similar sites, each just as intriguing as the last.
Two years ago, we ordered our Salix Rubykins, one of many varieties in the willow family. We began to place what appeared to be just branches off a tree into the ground creating a fence in a crisscross pattern. My husband and I planted approximately 100 rods on a chilly March day.
Then we waited … but it didn’t take long! By mid-summer, our rods had leafed out and started growing buds. Buds became more branches over the next year and by the following winter, I had whips to make my first basket and some wreaths!
We have allowed the willow to fill out this year creating a denser barrier. Over the winter, we will thin out the branches and use them for weaving items such as baskets. As you can see, growth is very steady over the summer providing many whips for the following winter.
In the first part of the winter months, the leaves will fall away from the branches. This is the time to trim the whips that you would like to use for other materials and allow them to sit in a cool place avoiding the sun. In order for the woody limbs to dry out properly for weaving, they should be allowed to sit, preferably in temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, for a couple of months or more. Once they have properly dried out, the whips are placed in water to soak. The general rule of thumb is 24 hours for each foot that you are soaking. The whip then becomes flexible for weaving. There are many YouTube videos available on willow weaving and you may find that a class is taught in your local area as well.
*A word on propagating willow. Planting willow is very easy. The most important thing to remember is to cut the bottom of your rod at an angle that you will then push into the ground 6-8 inches. Any buds appearing on the rod should be pointing up. Willows love water so be sure and provide a good water source or water frequently. Cutting and replanting rods before the sap begins to run and Spring awakens will allow the rod its full energy to take root and grow.