Living Willow from Willows NurseryFAQs
When can I buy/plant willow ?
You can place an order for willow (short cuttings, long whips, kits) from September onwards ready for the new season – but we only send out living willow in the winter (generally late November to late February). That is when it is freshly cut and it is the right time to plant the willow for it to successfully root. Any time in the period late November to early March is usually fine for planting.
We will send the willow out to suit your plans for preparing the site and recommend planting within a few weeks of taking delivery.
If you take delivery at the end of the season we recommend planting as soon as possible to be certain of successful rooting.
When will my willow arrive ?
If you place an advance order before the cutting/delivery season for living willow (which is generally late November to late February) then we will get in touch with you when we start cutting to find out when you will be ready to plant and to arrange delivery (as the carrier requires a signature).
If you place an order during the cutting/delivery season (ie from late November onwards) we will assume that you are ready to plant !
We aim to send out short cuttings orders within 3 working days.
Orders for long willow whips and kits, sent by carrier, are generally sent out twice a week. We don’t send out over the Christmas/New Year period.
We will advise you of the despatch date (and tracking information if sent by carrier).
Please let us know if you would like delivery delayed at all or if there are any particular dates during the delivery period that you would like us to especially avoid.
Whilst Tuffnells generally does deliver the day after orders are sent we, unfortunately are not able to guarantee next day delivery, so please bear that in mind when planning delivery and planting.
Please let us have any directions or identifying features if they will help the carrier to find your property more easily and, hopefully, avoid delays in delivery.
Please also provide us with a location for leaving your parcel if you may not be in. It needs to be a location you are happy will be safe
as neither we nor the carrier can be held responsible for any losses.
If you would like to place an order early in the season to ensure availability (we do generally sell out of the longer whips before the end of the season) but you would like delivery delayed, please just add the details in the notes section on the order or send us an e-mail when you order.
If you order on-line or provide your e-mail address when you order by post or phone then we will confirm delivery details by e-mail so please check your inbox for our confirmation details.
Can I collect my order ?
How near to buildings can I plant willow ?
The generally accepted rule of thumb is – plant at least one and a half times the height of the willow tree/structure away from buildings/pipes etc. So, for example, with structures about 6 ft (1.8 m) high with potential for 6 ft (1.8 m) top growth – plant at least 18 ft (5.5 m) away.
How do I order/pay ?
If you are a school or organisation and would like to be invoiced, then you can either place the order by ‘phone, fax*, post or email (*faxes can be received on our telephone number) and we will send an invoice by email. Payment can be made by cheque, credit/debit card or bank transfer.
We are not registered for VAT.
How is the willow delivered ?
Long willow whips/living willow kits are sent by a specialist carrier – Tuffnells – and delivery is usually* the day after it is sent.
*However, whilst Tuffnells generally does deliver the day after orders are sent we, unfortunately are not able to guarantee next day delivery, so please bear that in mind when planning delivery and planting.
Tuffnells, must deliver the willow on their first visit. A re-delivery charge will be incurred if they cannot find the property or cannot leave the parcel safely which we will need to pass on, so please make sure that you provide all* information necessary to ensure that delivery on the first attempt can take place.
*Please let us have any directions or identifying features if they will help the carrier to find your property more easily and, hopefully, avoid delays in delivery.
*Please also provide us with a location for leaving your parcel if you may not be in. It needs to be a location you are happy will be safe
as neither we nor the carrier can be held responsible for any losses.
You can provide an alternative delivery address (ie your work address/a relative etc) if this is more convenient.
If you place an advance order before the cutting/delivery season for living willow whips/kits then we will get in touch with you when we start cutting to find out when you will be ready to plant and to arrange delivery.
If you place an order during the cutting/delivery season (ie from late November onwards) we will assume that you are ready to plant – planting should be within a couple of weeks of delivery.
We aim to send out short cuttings orders within 3 working days with Royal Mail or EVRi (formerly Hermes).
Orders for long willow whips and kits, sent by carrier, are generally sent out twice a week.
We will advise you of the despatch date (and tracking information if sent by carrier).
If you would like to place an order early in the season to ensure availability (we do generally sell out of the longer whips before the end of the season) but you would like delivery to be delayed, please just add the details in the notes section on the order or send us an e-mail when you order.
If you order on-line or provide your e-mail address when you order by post or phone then we will confirm despatch details by e-mail so please check your inbox for our confirmation details.
How do I store the willow ?
Unpack the willow from the polythene packaging as soon as you take delivery. Willow whips and cuttings should ideally be planted immediately (within a few days of delivery) – however, if this is not possible, store them somewhere cool – an unheated shed/garage or even just leave outside (out of the sun) – and aim to plant within a couple of weeks.
Ideally – once we are in the cutting/delivery season – order only when you are ready to plant or let us know, when you order, if you would like delivery to be delayed.
Do you deliver outside UK mainland ?
Short willow cuttings can be sent throughout the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) by First Class Post or EVRi (formerly Hermes) at a cost of £4.00.
We can send long willow whips/kits to the Scottish Highlands and Islands and the Isle of Wight but Tuffnells does charge more for this service, so please contact us for the cost of delivery which will be in excess of the standard £19.00 charge – also next day delivery is unlikely, with at least 2 days being more usual.
How do I prepare the site for planting ?
The area to be planted should be prepared in advance (ie in the early Autumn when conditions should be more favourable) and the following are our recommendations :-
The planting site should be dug over and cleared of grass and weeds. Fertiliser/manure/organic matter should be added if appropriate – especially if the soil has a tendency to dry out quickly. Planting through an appropriate membrane or adding a good mulch will help in weed control later on but is not essential.
As an example, the ‘Adapted’ Dome Kit will make a dome that can have an inside height up to a maximum of 6 feet 6 inches with a base diameter of up to a maximum of 7 feet – ie that is the largest it can sensibly be built whilst still being held together by reasonable overlapping of willow – approach the other domes and wigwams in the same way (dimensions are given on the Kit Prices page).
If you prefer, you can make the dome lower & wider or taller & narrower. So, on the basis of that, decide on the rough base diameter you will be aiming for and the digging over just needs to be around the circumference of the circle – but leaving the doorway undug if you have decided which way it will face.
One way to mark out the circle is – 2 sticks tied together with a piece of string measured to the radius of the required circle : one end pushed into the ground at the centre of the site and the other stick used to scrape a mark in the ground, or use as a guide for marking with paint/sand etc.
Then, ideally, dig around this marked planting line 2 spade widths (ie a spade width either side of the marked line so you have scope to alter the planting width if you wish) and a spade deep.
For tunnels, look at the dimensions given of the item ordered and mark out the width and dig over the two parallel planting areas in the same way.
For fedges, obviously, just the one line of digging is needed.
Can I buy willow whips longer than 9 ft (2.7 m)?
Whilst some whips do grow longer than 9 ft (2.7 m), there are fewer of them.
We do have a some kits using 11 ft (3.3 m) long whips for the main structural elements – which allow taller/wider structures to be created – but you need to telephone or email to order those so that we can ensure that demand does not outstrip supply (they are not listed to buy in the on-line shop).
In a good growing year, if there is a more plentiful supply of longer whips, we may be able to offer 11 ft (3.3 m) whips on their own (as opposed to only as part of a kit) – or possibly even longer whips – please get in touch to check on availability.
Can I buy long whips of the coloured varieties to make a living willow structure ?
Salix Viminalis ‘Bowles Hybrid’ is the only variety that we offer as long whips for structures – we find that the long stems of the coloured varieties (for winter interest) have too many side branches to make it sensible for us to send them out. The ‘Bowles Hybrid’ stem colour is a greeny/brown.
For all of the willow varieties, it is only the one year old growth that has the brighter stem colour in the winter, with the older stem colour becoming duller over time.
What we suggest to customers who would like some extra interest in their structures, is that they could order some short cuttings of their selected variety and plant those at, say, 18 inch spacing around/along the structure and weave in the new growth as it comes.
When the leaves fall off in winter you will have a splash of colour – then just continue to weave in the new growth in subsequent years to continue the effect.
What should I order to plant a windbreak/living screen to block out the neighbours/noise ?
A Fedge will create an attractive barrier, however, if you want something more dense (although it will, of course loose it’s leaves in winter and will not totally block you from sight then) planting short cuttings might be more effective in the longer term.
Ideally the short cuttings should be planted at 18 inch (45 cm) spacing and for more impact and a denser screen, if you have room, a double row would be good with 12 to 18 inches (30 to 45 cm) between the rows and the cuttings staggered in a zig zag pattern
‘Bowles Hybrid’ is the toughest of the willows we have available, and a double if not a triple staggered row would be best for a windbreak. Alternatively, one of the coloured stemmed varieties would give interest through the winter.
Potentially, each short cutting will grow 3 or 4 stems, some of which, in good growing conditions, should reach 6 to 9 ft (1.8 to 2.7 m) in the first year depending on the variety chosen.
For a screen, the idea would then be, each winter, to cut down 1/3 to 1/2 of the stems. You will be left with a partial screen and new growth will come from the cut points keeping the windbreak dense lower down. The next winter you would then cut back the 2 year old stems . . . and so on.
How fast does willow grow ?
In good growing conditions (with reasonable soil and kept well watered), you could expect the new willow shoots from short cuttings to be around 3 ft (0.9 m) tall by early June (reaching the height indicated in the description for the particular variety) in the autumn.
Growth on structures will be less vigorous but good leaf cover should be expected by late Spring after planting in good growing conditions.
Do I need any experience/training to 'plant/build' willow structures ?
Please visit our ‘How to . . . . ‘ pages for brief details of how living willow structures are made and also our ‘Your Willow’ page for photographs sent in by customers of the living willow structures that they have made.
How long does it take to 'plant/build' willow structures ?
How much maintenance do willow structures need ?
Then in the winter (when the leaves are off and it is easier to see) you can weave in as much growth as you wish to/need to, to keep the structure in good shape, and then cut off the rest. This might take 1/2 an hour to an hour.
You might find it helps, during the late summer, to cut off any thicker/longer new growth you haven’t woven in at the very top of a dome or tunnel that will no longer bend down easily to weave in – if left it may be caught by the autumn winds and rock the structure about.
If you are planting a Fedge, it will put on top growth and side growth. Ideally, you will weave in the side growth as it becomes long enough, so that side of the maintenance is little and often and could happen when you walk past as above. You can leave the top growth as a screen until winter and then cut it down (back to the original fedge height), that might take half an hour at most for a 10 ft run between late November and early March.
What is in a willow structure kit ?
What sort of soil does willow need ?
What do I need to do before the willow arrives ?
You should dig the site over beforehand – this clears grass and weeds, makes it easier to push the willow in and ensures that the soil is not too compacted making it difficult for the roots to get established. See ‘How do I prepare the site for planting ?’ above.
Can a living willow structure be used as soon as it is planted ?
When you plant your living willow structure you will have created a skeleton of the basic shape required – as can be seen in various photographs on our website. It can be used at this stage . . . . however, the willow is only pushed into the ground and it will be a few weeks before it starts to root.
After that the roots will still be fragile so, if there is any danger that the willow will be pulled or rocked damaging the newly forming roots, it would be best to wait to use it until early summer.
Even then, through the first summer, rough handling of the rooting stems should be avoided to ensure that the whips become firmly established.
Will willow grow in shade ?
If it is a large tree that takes up a lot of water and makes the proposed planting site very dry, then it might not be a suitable location for a living willow structure.
How do I tie/secure the willow together ?
We provide biodegradable twine for initial securing – on the basis that pressure grafting and woven in new growth will then hold the structure securely after the first season.
You can also use willow or synthetic ties.
What are your 'dead' willow bundles of Salix Viminalis 'Bowles Hybrid' suitable for ?
They can be used for ‘rough’ weaving, say, around living structures, borders, making plant supports or general crafts etc (‘Bowles Hybrid’ is not a variety considered to be of basket weaving quality) or, if ordered in winter, as they are fresh cut, they could be used to plant and create small living willow sculptures – please let us know if you plan to plant them so that we can send you the freshest cut material.
From late November onwards we have fresh cut willow which is totally pliable, and will stay so (if kept somewhere cool) until about April.
Thereafter, it will need soaking to become pliable again – in the late spring it may only need a few days soaking, in the autumn (as it has dried out totally from the winter cut) it will need soaking for about 10 days to become workable.
Very roughly speaking, a mixed 4 to 6 ft (1.2 to 1.8 m) bundle can cover about 8 to 10 square feet (0.75 to 0.9 sq m), depending on the type of weaving used and how tightly it is done.
There are approximately 200 whips in the bundles.
Can I plant a 'Fedge' Kit more densely to keep my hens out of my vegetable garden ?
How long will a willow structure last ?
The original willow stems will thicken slowly over time – for example after 5 years a 2cm diameter stem may have increased to about 6cm (totally depending on the growing conditions, but that’s a rough idea).
The idea is to weave in new growth either through the growing season or in the winter so that in the spring when the new growth comes again you have the basic original shape.
We don’t recommend leaving non woven-in willow to grow for a 2nd year as the new growth will make it too heavy and it is liable to pull the structure apart when it is caught by the wind.
There is no reason why a maintained structure can’t last for many years and still look good.
Do you sell rooted willow ?
We only sell fresh cut unrooted willow – in the winter – because it roots so readily then.
I would like to give a willow structure as a present do you have something I can give them before the willow is ready ?
We are happy to provide a gift card with brief details of the structure ordered that you can give. It will be sent as an email attachment for you to print off.