Living willow whips are 'living' tree-stems used for replanting. We harvest these during autumn & winter where the tree is in its 'dormancy state', meaning it is inactive and can be handled without the risk of drying out.
There are some 5000 varieties of willow (Salix). This variety is called Salix viminalis, and is characterised by its very fast growth and how easily it re-roots. It's frequently used in the biofuel/biomass industry as its rate of CO2 absorption (sequestration) per growing season is among the highest of any tree type, and by far outcompetes hardwoods like oak and ash.
We supply the willow whips as 'unrooted' meaning with no roots on the whip. Willow has the unique ability to produce new roots as it during the spring comes out of its dormancy state. So when the willow whip is replanted during winter or early spring, the whip will produce new roots in time for it to be able to support its growth during the growing season. The planting season is weather-dependent (temperature mostly) but the rule of thumb is planting MUST happen from November to March. We find the best results are achieved if planted between mid-November to late February, but if March is relatively cold, (or if you are planting in the North of the country), March will be absolutely fine too.
Planting is very easy and very quick. No preparations are typically required. Digging is NOT required either. If the ground is soft, simply press the whip 15cm to 30cm into the soil. The longer the whip, the further down, to minimize the risk of it falling over in the wind. If the ground is firm, poke a hole first with eg. a screwdriver or another implement with a thickness about the same as the butt end of the whips. The whips can be planted through a mulch such as bark or permeable woven plastic but it is generally not required as the whips easily can compete (for water) with grasses or weeds.
The planted whips are then best left to settle for at least one growing season. After that, it can during the winter be 'coppiced' for more bushy growth. This is done by cutting down the whip to about 4 inches over ground level. Or it can be pollarded to a certain height, simply by cutting off the top at the desired height. New green shoots will appear at the cut position, but these can be removed by hand during spring, and the remaining whip will instead develop strong side shoots which becomes new branches that can either be left or woven sideways.
There are lots of uses for willow whips, and this list is far from complete.
- Garden space-dividers
- Domes, tunnels, arches
- Repair of hedges
- Garden-art, living structures
- Soil-erosion protection
- Riverbank reestablishment
- Pond surrounds
- Absorption of water in wet areas
- Compost/wheely-bin camouflage
- 'garage cladding, 'fence cladding
and many other jobs where the aim is hiding something less visually aesthetic.
The whips can also be harvested and used for a multitude of purposes, such as basketry, bean poles, hedging, firewood, 'hugleculture' (water absorbtion and release)