West Wales Willows

Planting a Living Willow Tepee or Dome

The materials for the willow tepee The materials for the living willow tepee:
  • Groundcover to suppress competition from other plants, which makes a lot of difference to how well the willows will grow. 
    (Use either plastic, weed control fabric, hemp or coconut fibre mats and bark mulch on top where required)
  • Willow Rods for the uprights and diagonals
  • Tying material  (ideally flexible rubber ties, which stretch as the willow grows and thickens)
  • A spade and possibly an old large screwdriver
The ground cover gets pushed in with a spade, to prevent it from lifting at the edges.

As long as the ground is overall moist enough, watering is not necessary when using a plastic sheet, as moisture will condensate below it and then trickly down to the base of the rods.
Pushing the edge of the groundcover in
The willow rods for the uprights are tied together Either draw a circle (here done with some chalk) or take a bit of string the length of the planned diameter of the tepee, with two sticks tied to itat either end. Push one stick in the middle, then use the other stick to determine the circumference.

The willow rods for the  uprights are being planted at even spacings, leaving a gap for the entrance.

Depending on the soil,  the rods can be pushed straight in or, if the ground is harder, use something like a thick old screw driver to push them in.

The rods need to be planted 1 foot / 30 cm deep into the ground to allow good root formation.
The thinner rods for the diagonals are now planted inbetween the pairs of uprights, going into one direction first (here to the right), then repeating the process, planting the willows pointing to the left.

The places were the willows are crossing are tied with tubular ties.
Planting the diagonals
  The finished tepee!

Where plastic sheeting or weed control fabric has been used, this can now be covered with a thick layer of bark mulch.

The willows will start sprouting soon, providing a shady place to play and new shoots can be tied in or trimmed as required.
All photos above courtesy of S. Sinclair

Willow Domes are done in a similar fashion:
This is a smaller sized dome, with a fairly large entrance.

We can supply kits for domes of 2, 3 or 4 m diameter.
These larger willow domes are suitable for kindergardens, schools or community projects.
A medium size dome
The dome at close-up This close-up shows the two different types of willow used for the upright and the diagonals to create more interest.

A horizontal band is placed and tied in halfway up the structure to provide extra strength.
Here is a detail of the roof of the dome.

As the willow grows, new shoots at the top can make the structure look quite wild. If you don't want this to happen, regular trimming is required.

Where the diameter of the structure is to big that the middle can't be reached for trimming, a circle can be worked into the roof of the dome, around which new growth gets woven.
The roof of the willow dome
A willow dome provides a peaceful resting point The circle should be big enough that a person standing on a ladder inside the dome can fit through it and trim the top from the center.

Here is the finished dome again at its peaceful setting overlooking the pond.

Even the Fox like the Willow Dome!

As you can see, the "grown" dome is so peaceful, it also attracts other visitors!
Photos above courtesy of P.Orpin

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

The above are just suggestions, there are plenty of different ways to embellish your structures!

Give them round windows, a tunneled, perhaps even turreted entrance, double stake the uprights for a different look, give them swirls - your only limit is your imagination!

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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