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Willow Fedges: not quite a fence, not quite a hedge!

  • Willow Fedges: not quite a fence, not quite a hedge!
  • Willow Fedges: not quite a fence, not quite a hedge!
  • Willow Fedges: not quite a fence, not quite a hedge!
  • Willow Fedges: not quite a fence, not quite a hedge!
  • Willow Fedges: not quite a fence, not quite a hedge!

Winter is a good time to think about installing a willow "fedge", so-called because it is made from living plants, so it's a hedge: but it can be used like a fence to divide off one part of the garden from another, or to screen you from a nosey neighbour - although being deciduous, this only works through the summer!

I can be "just" practical - but it can also be purely decorative, like a sort of living trellis: it can also be a huge amount of fun, as you can build them into all sorts of shapes, including tunnels and domes, which are great for children to play in.

I've done a lot of these over the years, and it's always a pleasure: and not nearly as difficult as you might think!

As with all garden projects, preparation is what makes it work: clear a strip of ground about 2' wide, running the length of your proposed fedge. Dig out any roots, especially those of perennial weeds, and skim off the grass, to leave clear, bare soil.

Work out how many willow "wands" you are going to need (there are many websites with calculators), and either buy them in, or harvest them from existing willow hedges or trees. Note: don't attempt to harvest weeping willow - Salix babylonica - as it makes a rather droopy fedge, or contorted willow - S. matsundana Tortuosa - which makes a strangely untidy-looking fedge, or Crack willow - S. fragilis - as they, as the name suggests, are prone to breaking instead of bending.

Then take your wands, and push them into the ground at intervals: I usually put them about 18" apart, adjusting the exact gap depending on how thick we want the screen to be. Then put in another row, but this time at 45 degrees, and weave them between the upright wands, over, under, over under. Next, add a third row, also at 45 degrees but this time pointing the other way. Again, go over, under, over under.

When you reach the end of the row, the angled wands go round the end upright one, and back again, which will fill in any gaps.

By now your fedge will be standing pretty much upright on its own, but it's good practise to tie all the joints or crossing points together: this encourages the willow wands to graft themselves to each other, making a very strong barrier.

If your first row is a bit wobbly, you can tie a line of wands across the top of them for stability, these are referred to as "binders", but they do then make it more difficult to get the diagonal ones in... sometimes it's a bit of trial and error.

All you have to do now is chop the tops off to make them level, water well, and stand back to admire it!


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