Creatively Pruning a Dappled Willow

This past weekend we went to visit my wife's family. On the property they have a couple Japanese Dappled Willows ('Hiroki Nishiki') that I've taken cuttings from in the past. They are several years old and have really become large shrubs stretching over ten feet tall. Needless to say a shrub this large needs a special place and if doesn't have that special place it needs pruned.

The willow needed pruned so I set about attempting to coppice the shrub. Coppicing is where you cut the shrub to within a couple inches of the ground and allow it to regrow. Usually trees that are coppiced are cut back annually but this willow never had the treatment.

I started the process of coppicing but as I cut back branches I began to see a shape emerge.

Two main branches that I tied together last year had formed a nice curve and began to reveal an interesting and somewhat symmetrical branching structure. I've seen pictures of chairs, living arbors, fences, and many more things made from willows that have been trained and creatively pruned into living sculptures which gave me an idea: since this willow was beginning to reveal something interesting, why not encourage it? I cleaned out the extra branches and trunks using a set of heavy duty lopers and gradually a willow window was carved from the unruly shrub. The window seems to highlight the grandma and grandpa statue in the garden behind it. I left the branches above the willow alone so that they could fill out with foliage and provide a small shade canopy. Anything that grows inside the window will be pruned while the above areas will be allowed to grow freely.

I moved a couple other things around the willow including a heavy stone bench and the birdbath. As long as the willow stays pruned to the two main trunks both birds and bottoms will have a place to rest!

A Bit on Willow Propagation:

I also saved some of the cuttings for rooting. I dug a hole about 6-8 inches in the soil mud and covered the bottom of the bundle. Willows don't take too long to root so I'll check them in a few weeks then pot them up or plant them where I want them. Rooting willows in bundles is a good way to root a whole bunch of them at once without spending a lot of time doing it. They tend to root well anywhere you stick them. 

I would love to try a willow structure or willow fence at some point but that will need to wait until I have a little more time!

For an update look here: Japanese Dappled Willow Sculpture in June

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