Willow Coppicing

This month’s big job Sunday was to pollard the willow at the garden.  Willow and other fast growing trees like hazel, can be coppiced to produce wands that can be used as plant supports, hedging, biomass,weaving, hurdles, and all manner of garden structures.

We planted the willow around 10 years ago to create a hedged area in the garden, and to provide willow wands for the future. It’s extremely easy to grow – just plant 9inch stems into the ground in the winter when the plants are dormant, keep them watered and off they go!

The hedge is now 7ft high and each year (between January and March) we cut the new wands down to the stool (the 7ft coppiced trunk) encouraging the plant to make new shoots in the spring.

Willow and hazel are an important source of early nectar for pollinators, they produce pollen heavy flowers and catkins in the spring. For this reason we only cut half the wands each year to leave some to flower (these will be cut on the alternate year.)

This month Lisa is running a willow weaving workshop, where we’ll make obelisks and bird-feeders with the wands. We will dry some of the wands for firewood, and use some of it for wildlife brush hedging (part of our new, exciting entrance-way project) We’ve even planted it around our compost loo to digest the waste! 

 If you have a corner of the garden, it’s easy to grow a stand of willow, and you can get some lovely coloured varieties. Unlike bamboo, they aren’t invasive and they’re native. Just remember they will take root very easily so watch where you put them!

Fun fact – the bark of the white willow contains salicin which is a powerful anti-inflammatory. It is nature’s aspirin and can be taken in a tincture as a pain-killer. The leaves are edible and contain vitamin C (7 – 10 times higher than oranges!)

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