| these 5 month
old willows started life as
cuttings that were simply inserted into the ground
in the spring
Due to the rapid growth rate of certain willows, they can make excellent
screens or hedges. There are 3 main ways that this can be done:
This page will deal with the last suggestion. We now have a webpage
that gives the growth rate of most
of our willows, which should be helpful in determining their screening
No matter which technique you choose, if you are planting
willows for their screening effect, then you should coppice
them at the beginning of their second season. This will
result in more branches growing up from the base of the
plant, hence a denser screen.
Technique #1 - Coppicing alternate plants
Year 1 - Plant a row of willows 2' apart
(for a dense screen, or further apart for a slightly looser
one). Some varieties will grow 5-7' the first year.
Year 2 - Jim recommends that you cut them all down
to ground level (this is called coppicing). This results in a fuller
screen the first year. However it is not required that you cut them
For the coppiced plants, I suggest you take note of how quickly they
take to regain a height suitable for screening. This will help you to
make decisions regarding the future cutting back of the plants. If they
grow back really quickly, then you might want to coppice them all every
Year 3 - cut every other plant down to ground level.
This leaves half of the plants to continue the screening effect, while
the other half grow. The coppiced plants will provide you with the colourful
stems for the winter, while the older ones will only have color on their
new growth. The older plants may be pruned to whatever height you wish.
Year 4 - coppice the 2 year old plants
If you coppice every spring, it is unlikely that any further pruning
will need to be done. If you leave some for 2 years, then you may have
to prune them to keep them the size you want.
You might want to plant in 2 staggered rows for additional
screening and/or winter color (see #6).
- you have a screening effect all year
- screening in early spring will not be as dense as in #6
Technique #2 - Coppiced
Plant willows a minimum of 2' apart (for a dense screen,
or further apart for a slightly looser one). Coppice (cut
to the ground) all the willow plants every spring/late winter.
See our page on Pruning Willows
for Ornamental Effect for more information.
Cut all willows to the ground every spring.
- the resulting new growth, particularly on some of the varieties,
is colorful and will provide you with great winter interest.
- the resulting screen is quite narrow
- there will be no screening effect for a few weeks while
the willow stumps grow rods again
- same list as in Technique #1 above
|One of our customers has
observed that half of her S. koriyanagi 'Rubikins', which was coppiced
very early in the season was much taller than the other half, which
she coppiced a few weeks later, even though both cuttings were done
while the plant was dormant. So we therefore suggest that for early
and maximum height, that the plants be coppiced as early at it is
practical to do so.
Technique #3 - Sheared
Plant willows no more than 2' apart (for a dense screen,
or further apart for a slightly looser one).
Prune or shear the plants as you would a hedge.
Technique #4 - Partial pruning
Plant willows 3' apart (for a dense screen, or further
apart for a slightly looser one).
This technique will allow you to have a screen from the
time the leaves come out in the spring until they fall in
the winter. Try cutting back to the ground only one-third
to one half of the stems each year, removing the oldest,
and thickest ones each spring. Leave the others unpruned.
These are the ones that will give you screening until the
new rods grow tall in a couple of months.
Pruning all the branches to the ground will give you lots
of strong, vividly coloured stems, especially in some willows.
However catkins are produced on the branches of the previous
season's growth so if you cut the the branches to the ground
each year you won't get any. To have the best of both worlds,
follow the pruning technique mentioned in the above paragraph.
- you will have a year-round screen. You won't have to
wait for the plant to re-grow its branches and leaves
- less pruning in the spring
- you will have nice catkins from some of the willows
(see our list of willows with nice catkins on this
- the older branches will provide a taller screen
- there will not be as much winter colour because it is the annual
growth that is colorful
- same list as listed for Technique #1 above.
Technique #5 - Willows are left unpruned
Plant willows about 5' apart, though it depends on the
expected height of the willow.
Choose one of the shorter shrub willows to grow as a screen.
Prune if you find they are growing too tall. If a branch
get out of line width-wise, just cut it back, however cutting
back to the main stem is recommended. The plant will regrow
quickly to fill in the bare area.
- the hedge has a loose informal look and will be enjoyed
- can be useful as a snowfence or windbreak
- will take a little longer to produce an effective screen
Technique #6 - A double row of willows
This makes the densest screen. Plant willows 2-3' apart
in each row.
Plant two rows of willows (staggered) and coppice one row to the ground
at the end of the winter. Coppice the other row the next winter. Plant
basketry willows for the narrowest row.
- you will have a screen year-round
- you will have catkins on the older row, as long as you leave it
unpruned until they are finished blooming
- one row will have the beautiful annual stem colour on those that