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S. (Willow) Stems at Bluestem Nursery

Salix (Willow)

Living Willow Structures & Fedges

Cover of book about
Living Willow Sculpture

Build a living fence (fedge), chair, dome, tunnel, bench, teepee, igloo, maze or whatever your imagination can produce. Just stick long willow branches (6'+) directly into the ground, tie them together into the desired shape and they will root and grow, producing a cover of green leaves over the structure. This is the quickest and one of the cheapest ways to create a screen as well as being one that allows you to control the shape and height of your fence. Birds love it too!

Long straight branches are needed for living willow structures. To make a fedge, in early spring simply stick the rods in the ground about 8-12" and at an angle of 45-60 degrees. Place them about 15" apart. Then go back and interplant another row of rods angled in the opposite direction, forming a diamond pattern. Then tie the joints together for stability. There are instructions on the websites listed below. Ten rods are required for a distance of approximately 7.5', when planted 15-18" apart.

Since a living willow structure must be pruned to keep its shape (at least twice a year, depending on the structure), the coloured bark of the annual growth is not much of a factor for winter interest. Therefore choosing a variety based on its colourful stems will likely result in disappointment, as it is the annual growth that is colourful, and not the bark on two-year-old wood. So we suggest that you do not choose your rods based on the merits of its winter colour. As a matter of fact, there is not much difference between all the rods other than their diameter or sturdiness.

Picture of a fedge at Reford Gardens, Grand-Métis, Quebec
Photographed by Georges Archer

We are not experts on the subject of living willow structures. We cannot help you with instructions on how to make them or how many rods you will need, though we now have instructions on building a dome on our blog.

Please refer to the book shown on this page or to the websites below for more information and lots of pictures of Living Willow Sculptures:

We sell rods for fedges and other living willow structures:

Your best and cheapest approach is to purchase cuttings and harvest rods from your own plants. Two years from the time you start a bundle of 10 cuttings, you will have a yield of approximately 3-6 rods (per plant) of 6-10' in length, depending on the variety and the growing conditions. The following year you will have many more.

We usually have the following rods available (in early spring only). These are also the recommended willows if you want to grow your own plants for harvesting the rods:

All the above willows are currently growing in Zone 4/5. Willows hardy to Zone 3 include:

We have a webpage called Rod Production Stats, which shows how many rods can be expected from some of our willows, and another page called Willow Growth Rates, which shows the heights of the plants (meaning the length of rods you can expect) in a single year of growth.

These beautiful pictures that have been sent to us. Click to enlarge.

Pictures submitted by Amanda Stewart Tulsa, OK


created by Robert Miller in Altamont Gardens, Ireland
photographed by James Burke