Willow Structures

It’s been an intense couple of weeks. Driving to Vermont to get willow cuttings from Vermont Willow Nursery, I met Michael Dodge, the owner, and his wife Sonia.   I stuffed the car with willows and I have been planting my stash ever since.  The weather has been as intense as my feelings about being out in it. From damp cold which included hail, sleet and snow to a high yesterday of 83 degrees.

Micheal has over 155 varieties willow and it was very exciting to see what he is growing.   Up til now, I thought of willows as those large weeping trees and scruffy shrubs that we see everywhere.  I was floored to see the many colored stems and pussy willows available, including a pink pussy willow called S. Chaenomeloides ‘MT. Aso’  Michael is also building a collection of dwarf willows which looks promising for gardeners with less space.  One of my favorite small willows which I saw on his website is called Salix Candida.  I got cuttings and have planted it in my Moon Garden for its interesting grey leaves.

Baby Buff Orpington stepping out of coop door to inspect!

I recently got chickens and had the idea to make the “girls” a place to dive into if a hawk was circling above. Where the coop is very exposed and windy and  the living willow structures provide a covered area.   I had a lot of fun making the hoops with the girls inspecting the work at each stage and bugging me for the worms I was exposing when digging the trenches.   I made 4 tunnels in the shape of a circle.  Already the willow rods are pushing out buds and by midsummer the tunnels will look like small hedges from above.

Living willow tunnel in chicken coop.

“Girls” inside the hoops

I also bought enough tall rods to make plant supports for my vegetable garden. This is just the beginning of my exploration into growing and making willow structures. I am already planning next year’s projects and am really glad to be involved with growing this beautiful and renewable plant that has so many uses. Check out Michael’s website:

Dried willow plant supports for sweet peas

Willow plant support

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11 Responses to Willow Structures

  1. Cindy says:

    Love the willow tunnels for the hens. What a great idea!

  2. Hollis Bogdanffy-Kriegh says:

    Wow! Thanks so much for posting this. I LOVE the idea of living structures. The possibilities seem endless. I would also like to thank you for posting about the lilacs. I have a dream of planting a lilac hedge against a 5 ft, very ugly chain link fence that separates us from the neighbors. There are times (like right now when the lilacs are coming into bloom) that it is all I can think about. You have given me some really beautiful ideas.

  3. Anna says:

    Thanks Don, I had no idea about the willows. Gorgeous chicks too.

  4. Liz says:

    You are so amazingly talented! Both the tunnels and the plant supports are so great. Are you having to water all the time? Things are as dry as a bone here.

  5. Salix says:

    The tunnels for the chicks look great. Looking forward to seeing your pics in the summer.
    Michael, Sonia and I are planning some willow workshops at their place next year. I am looking forward to seeing their property.
    For a smaller garden you can keep most shrub willow varieties small(er) by coppicing every winter/spring. In addition to that you can cut them down again mid summer.

  6. Deborah Banks says:

    Great pictures! I love seeing your girls already using their tunnels. Any helpful hints on making the tunnels? My biggest question: will both ends of the hoop root, even though one end is actually upside down for the plant?

    So far I’ve only gotten three of my six bundles of willow planted, due to being on the road so much. I just got them out a week ago, and noticed today they are already sprouting. This week of rain and snow should be great for them.

    • Don Statham says:

      Hi Deborah
      Yes so far the larger hoop willows are leafing out on both sides of the rods. It may be if a piece of the rod was damaged when bending -one side may not leaf out but that’s why you weave willow through the whole structure. Of course the hardiest part of the whole process is digging a deep trench in Delaware County soil! All my cuttings are leafing out that I planted.

  7. Barbara Hill says:

    Don,
    Did you post any summer photos of the willow tunnels for the chickens? If so, I must have missed them. If not, how did they look and did the girls like them?

    Barb

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