How to plant a Willow Hedge

Planting a Willow Hedge isn’t always an easy endeavour and there can be a few pitfalls along the way. This guide will give you all of the information you need when planting Willow Hedge plants and help you achieve a happy and healthy hedge! Not only do we tell you how to plant a Willow Hedge, but we also go beyond that and give you some helpful Willow Hedge insights along the way.

Golden Dogwood Hedge

Why plant a Willow Hedge? Well, the Willow Hedge is without a doubt one of the most unusual hedge varieties available and if you’re looking to break from the norm and do something interesting, then the Willow Hedge is for you. In spring they display lovely yellow catkins and in contrast with the pale green foliage, this gives a wonderful colourful shimmering effect in the breeze.

Willow hedges are also a tough and hardy hedge variety, growing well in even poor conditions and being notably resilient. In short, they are a stunning hedge selection and here is all you need to know about planting a Willow hedge.

Planting a Willow Hedge step by step

Unlike conventional hedging, Willow Hedge needs an existing structure to grow from and can’t function as a freestanding hedge in its own right. This means that planting requires a few extra steps as well as a little bit of garden engineering.

Step one – You need to build a frame (Fedge)

Willow Hedge Fence

Before we go into detail about building a frame, you may encounter the word ‘fedge’ when reading up on Willow Hedges, this is just an amalgamation of the word’s fence and hedge. The frame itself is constructed of Willow stems and will need to be quite robust as it will not only need to support the weight of the Willow but also be sturdy enough to withstand wind.

How you construct your frame is up to you, but many gardeners favour a diagonal trellis as the angles provide a little more stability. It is also important to dig down deep enough to provide an adequate foundation to your frame, it is recommended that you allow at least 12 inches (1ft) depth for this. Anything less and you risk being the gardener forever replanting their Willow frame.

Step two – Planting a Willow Hedge

Hedging cutting close up

Once your framework is in place you have effectively planted your Willow Hedge. Here are some tips and tricks to get the most from planting your ‘fedge’.

  • Remember that you want to allow space for your hedge to grow and creating a trellis that is too tight will create crowding and also make the hedge more susceptible to wind.
  • Willow hedging doesn’t need to be a simple fence, it can be manipulated into a variety of structures including dens, tunnels and sculptures.
  • Plant your Willow during the winter when it is dormant as this is when it is easiest to work with the willow. You can do it at other times of the year but planting a Willow hedge outside of winter will likely result in poor structure quality because the foliage will get in the way.
  • Willow stems don’t like competition and it is best to plant them in a weed control membrane or surround the hedge with bark to prevent weeds.

Of course, all the usual planting precautions should be applied such as watering the hedge upon planting and using compost and manure to fill in the planting area alongside bark chippings.

Step three – ongoing care after planting Willow Hedge

Willow Hedge in Garden

Growing a Willow hedge is a working progress and you will notice that there are occasional gaps or problem areas. Don’t be disheartened as providing the structure was correctly planted and is robust, any problem areas can be fixed. Wait for the winter to weave in additional Willow stems to fill gaps and over the course of a couple of years, you should have created a gap-free hedge through trial and error.

Willow is also a very aggressive grower (sometimes as much as 6ft a year), so you will need to actively manage, prune and cut back your hedge throughout the growing season. Remember, the more it grows the heavier the structure becomes, and untended Willow hedges will likely collapse on themselves. A good Willow hedge is one that is gap-free but not crowded. If the Willow hedge is too compact it will become a lot more susceptible to wind damage.

3 Tips for planting a Willow Hedge

Background from dense bush a willow in spring

Now we have tackled the basics of how to plant a Willow Hedge, here are three helpful tips!

  • Wildlife like rabbits and deer are particularly fond of eating willow, so it might not be advisable to plant in areas with big deer or rabbit populations. Alternatively, you may need to add a layer of protection to your Willow Hedge to prevent it from becoming dinner.
  • Willow hedging needs an almost constant supply of water as well as good drainage to ensure the structure remains upright. This can be tricky to accomplish for amateur gardeners and sometimes a professional may be needed (especially for more complex or substantial structures).
  • You can trim a Willow hedge during the summer or winter with no detriment to the hedge itself. Unlike traditional hedge plants, there is no exact time that is best for pruning. You should however avoid trimming during spring when the catkins are in bloom. Autumn pruning is fine, but many gardeners don’t feel the need to prune when the hedge is shedding its leaves.

Hopefully, that should give you everything necessary for planting Willow hedge plants, if you want further advice, make sure to check out our other blog posts about plant care as well as our how-to guides.

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