Willow is a versatile, flexible and fast growing plant, making it ideal for use in constructing structures for shade, shelter, play and privacy. Living willow projects grow quickly, budding out delicate, green leaves within one month of planting. A living fence, or fedge, will provide privacy screening in the first year and is a sustainable alternative to many other types of fencing. Domes, tunnels, mazes and arbours are great fun and easy to build. With a little bit of maintenance they will last indefinitely, growing into magnificent, unique features in a garden or school yard.
In Ontario the best time to plant is while the willow is dormant, in early spring just after the ground thaws. The leafless rods are inserted into the ground in a pattern to encourage upwards and sideways growth, and tied to help with natural grafting. It is important to keep the area weed free so that the willow has a chance to take hold without competition, it is recommended that a weed barrier and mulch be installed at the time of planting. Once planted, willow requires regular watering, the equivalent of one inch of rain per week, throughout the first growing season and during periods of drought. It is best to water deeply once per week, because frequent shallow watering does not encourage deep root growth which is essential for most healthy plants.
Structures requiring height may be planted and trained for a year or two before they are tall enough to be enclosed. Some pruning or weaving is required to maintain the shape of most projects but this can be an enjoyable exercise, especially for children. Structures may be pruned several times during the growing season to maintain an orderly appearance, or allowed to grow long and wild, then pruned and woven before new growth appears in the spring.