West Wales Willows

Planting "Fedges", Archways & Tunnels

Improve your surroundings with a willow fedge!

Living fences (also called “fedges”, as they are a cross between a hedge and a fence) are a wonderful way to create borders.
The principle that is used in building them can also be applied to the building of arches, tunnels,tepees, domes and arbours.
(For further information see also our Tepee & Domes page.)

You can now order one of our Bespoke Fedge, Tepee or Dome Kits !

Willow Fedges:

Spacing:

Depending on the height you want to achieve, you can either use finer rods and plant them with a distance of around 20-25 cm /8-10 inches between them for fedges of up to 5 foot (i.e. 8-10 rods per running meter for single rod fedges) or you can use heavier rods, planted with around 30-40cm / 14-16 inches between them for higher structures (i.e. roughly 10-12 rods per running 2 metres.) In addition to this you might want another 4 rods (woven together) every 2 metres, if you don't use fence posts.
(To save yourself constant measuring, cut a piece of willow or any other stick to the required length and use it as a spacer.) 
July

Planting time:

The right time for planting is when the willow rods are dormant, this is generally between late November to the beginning of March.

Ground preparation and weed control:

Weed control is paramount for the first years – this can either be achieved with chemical weed killers prior to planting and subsequent regular weeding, or through planting through a layer of mulch. A thick layer (several inches) of bark mulch can be applied after planting or you can plant straight through spun polypropylene sheets, flax mats or silage sheet (which, for aesthetic reasons, can be covered with bark mulch, pebbles or similar). Lay your sheet on the ground, then push the edges in with a spade or use ground hooks to fasten it. You should have a minimum of 1 foot of ground cover on either side of your structure.
(If your ground is very stony and not allowing easy planting , it might be advisable to dig a narrow, 1 foot deep trench first and refill it with lighter material.)

Putting up your structure:

Use posts or a few rods of willow gently twisted or plaited around each other (so that they don't kink) for your ends.

If you want your fedge to have a straight top, put posts at either end or every few meters and span a wire between them. For arches, tunnels and arbours you will weave the tops together, once you have erected your structure.

Willow woven around the edge of a fedge

If your rods have any side shoots cut these off close to the rods and put them aside.
To facilitate planting the thick end of each rod, which is called the "butt end", can be cut at an angle. If your rods are fairly thin and in danger of bending too much when pushed into the ground, take a metal rod of around the same diameter (an old screwdriver will do well) to push through your mulch before planting each rod. The holes should only be just large enough for the rods to go through, otherwise you will find weeds pushing their heads through the spare space.

Plant half of the rods at the required distance at an angle of around 45°, then plant the other half in the same way, but facing the other direction.

(Please see below for variations of this.)
Rods need to planted with a minimum of around 30 cm / 1 foot in the ground. Failure to achieve enough depth will result in the plants being unable to develop a sufficient root system to supply the length above ground and the rod dying off.

You can either weave the rods alternatively or you can just tie the rods together where they cross. To do this use either tubular rubber ties (which can be obtained from us and which will provide some "give" as the willows grow while still keeping them close together and allowing the crossing points to graft), raffia or the side shoots that you previously removed.


The picture above shows a fedge in the summer
with the sideshoots that have developed.
New growth above the horizontal running wire
will be cut in later in the year.
If you have used a wire wind the tips gently around it
without bending the rods to an extend that the bark is kinked
as this will stop any growth beyond this point.
Alternatively cut the top evenly and leave them pointing upwards.
In domes and arches wind the tips of opposing rods together.

Maintenance:

Water regularly for the first few weeks and continue to water in the first year during dry spells.

Your fedge will continue to grow through putting out new shoots at the top and possibly a few side shoots. As the rods thicken, they will graft at the crossing points and you might have to remove your ties if they start to cut in.

They will generally carry on to look quite "open", unless you plant them fairly tight together and leave all sideshoots on.


Willow Fedges will mainly grow at the top.

Trimming the willow fedge Your living structure can be trimmed regularly
(you can see on the picture how much growth it has put out), just like you would do with a hedge to keep it's shape.
Doing long curved fedges is not a problem,
as you can see on this picture.
A large expanse of a curved fedge

Variations:

Willow fedge planted more vertical
  • Use two or three rods close together instead of single rods to achieve a different look.
  • Leave the rods sticking up straight (i.e. don't bend the tops over) and trim into a straight line again when required
  • Plant some longer willow rods every foot or two and make round or gothic "arches" within your fedge by bending these longer rods together, keeping the rods inbetween short. 
  • Plant at an angle of approximately 30° to get more "filling in".

Willow Archways:

Below are three different examples of archways:
Willow Archway in Diamond Pattern Archway made with 3 different willows
Basic arch with two upright rods on either side and a pair of diagonal rods on the inside, which cross over at the top.

Horizontal bands are woven at the sides in intervals to give it more support.

The top rods are woven together and tied to a rod running along the center.

This archway is made  from long uprights at either side, with further willow woven in a diamond pattern,
as used in the fedge above, inbetween and brought gently around the sides.

(Always take care not to kink the willow, as it will die down above the kink otherwise!)


An archway made from three different types of willow:

Long viminalis as uprights to give enough height for the sides, fairly long purpureas to provide catkins in the spring were used for the diagonals and
S. erythroflexuosa provides infill and colour.

The willows are woven into each other as they grow.


 Order one of our Bespoke Fedge, Tepee or Dome Kits here  !


For TUNNELS simply use multiples of the pattern above

 - or make up your own pattern!

ENJOY!

If you want to find more ideas for work with living willow,
we recommend Jon Warnes Book "Living Willow Sculpture",
which will show you how to make all these items and also living willow seats (scented, if you like!).


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