Living Willow Harlequin Trees
Looking after your willow tree.
5 key points
1. Water, water, water. Leave it sitting in water. Take them out of the water in the winter put them back in early spring.
2. Trim or rub off side shoots.
3. Shape the crown until August.
4. Feed if necessary, if leaves are yellowing and re pot or plant out.
5. Trim tops in February and re check ties so they don't restrict growth.
After making or buying your tree in spring it will grow shoots on the trunk and at the top. Those on the trunk can be left to grow a little (personal choice) before being removed, whilst those at the top will grow and become the crown. I let mine grow a little on the sides but then rub or cut them all off so there are no offshoots on the trunk. This leaves a lovely sculptural plant in the winter.
If you choose to cut and shape the tops the latest time is at the beginning of August.
The tree could be planted out but if being left in its pot it must be watered regularly (at least ever 2-3 days and more when hot and dry) then fed with fertiliser after 2-3 months. I have had mine in pots for 3 years and they are still doing well.
Keeping them in a bucket or pot of water saves watering all the time. I have recycled old galvanised buckets, pots and enamel saucepans for this purpose.
If planting out this should be done when the roots are established (June at the earliest and if you can keep it in the post for the first season even better)
Make sure to tie the bottom criss crosses using reusable cable ties or string to help hold its shape before you move it.
Cover with a suitable mulch which will help retain the water.
Plant in a suitable hole first filled with water so the soil at the bottom is loosened. Keep well watered for the first month.
If you are keeping it in a pot then move to a larger pot.
Check each year to see if it needs to be potted up again.
In about 4-5 years the willow rods should start grafting with each other.
It can be grown in shady conditions and kept out all winter as it is a very hardy plant.
Each spring cut the crown back a couple of inches above the top criss- cross.
This will create a fuller crown in its second year and thereafter.
And as the tree grows the ties will need to redone so they don’t restrict it.
Hedgerow and Garden Materials
for willow weaving and basket making
Bushes, hedges and trees are an excellent source of material to work with but it is important to ask for permission before you cut.
You can generally cut between the months of October and March. The rule is if you can wrap it around your wrist you can use it. With our climate being very eratic this can vary from year to year.
The material is usually too dry to use after May but if soaked like willow it might be possible to use it. Some materials are too brittle and don't soak up the water well.
When you have cut the rods leave them to weather under a hedge for a couple of weeks. This allows them to dry a little so when used there won’t be as much shrinkage.
Many of the materials you collect will fade as they dry out so the brighter it is the better.
Sweet or Spanish chestnut, Beech, Fruit trees, Lilac, Poplar,
Climbers and trailers
Ivy, Holly (does not need much weathering as it will dry out too much), bramble with the thorns stripped off with a glove, Periwinkle, Clematis, Dog rose, Honeysuckle, Hop, Ivy, Passion flower, Winter flowering jasmine.
Coppiced or pollarded trees.
Willow, Lime, Eucalyptus, Hazel
Bay laurel, Dogwood, Laburnum, Butchers broom, Forsythia, Privet, Peach, Vine, Snowberry
Ash, Elm, Blackthorn, Yew, Spindle, Hazel, Field Maple
Alder, Birch, Contorted Hazel, Larch with cones on, Magnolia, Mistletoe, Oak, Pussy Willow, Blueberry,
A great book for hedgerow materials and how to make a basket is Susie Vaughn's Handmade Basket Making book, I made my first basket using this book.
I use Musgroves as my main supplier.
Their customer service is excellent.
Musgrove Willow Growers Ltd
Willow Fields, Lakewall, Weston Zoyland, Bridgwater, Somerset TA7 0LP
English Willow Baskets.
Telephone: 01823 490249 (Mon-Fri 9-5).
P H Coate & Son
Meare Green Court, Stoke St Gregory, Taunton,
Somerset, TA3 6HY