Willow whips living fences, screening, root problems

a1154a1154 Posts: 548

Hi, i have been given a large sackful of willow whips, and am getting excited about living fences, structures, dens etc. 

i do not know the variety and i have been told its not easy to identify as there are so many.

im starting to worry about roots though, and information is not clear. Websites say nowhere near buildings or drains.  Others say modern closed drains are fine, and for buildings you can go min distance -  1.5 x final height.  So if you cut or bend at 6ft say...thats actually pretty close to a building isnt it?

a bit confused.  Any willow fans out there to help me? 


  • chrissieBchrissieB Posts: 772
    I have used willow whips to make a pretty edging around one of my allotment beds - it's a lovely bright organge variety - and it quickly started sprouting. I obviously don't want willow growing permanently so was planning on pulling it all up come the end of the season. I am assuming I can then rub off the roots, store it and use it agin next year.

    I suspect that many living fences, tunnels etc are treated as fairly short- term structures as otherwise the roots will become too big to be near houses. But that's only my own thoughts not from real experience or knowledge .
  • a1154a1154 Posts: 548

    Oh right.  i hadnt really thought they would be temporary.

  • chrissieBchrissieB Posts: 772
    I might be wrong : )
  • hogweedhogweed Central ScotlandPosts: 2,472

    Just use some common sense. A hedge living or not will still have roots and by its very nature will be kept in check height wise so no problem there. You would not build a willow structure close to the house anyway - would you? And even if you did, you would still have to clip it so there should be no problem there either.

    Are you thinking that willow roots will creep underground seeking out water and breaking into drains like some alien being? That you will waken up one morning and find them coming up through the toilet?

    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • a1154a1154 Posts: 548

    Thats not very helpful Hogweed. Fences inevitably involve other parties, and its up to me to get the facts straight so as not to cause any concern for them.  

  • The roots of any hedge can be invasive if there are old structures underneath. However, nowadays the quality of drainage pipes is generally enough to prevent ingress by lesser roots. The roots of a  trimmed hedge will be less searching, so I wouldn't worry overly much. I'm a little concerned about the timing. Whips will need to get in the ground very quick, or at least into water to keep them fresh this time of year. It's normally a late winter event, planting willow structures, and I've done several, fences, screens, domes etc. The leaves and stems will probably be of different shapes and colours respectively which will aid identification.  I'm presuming this is fresh cut willow?  HC 

  • a1154a1154 Posts: 548

    Hi, i didnt think the timing was good either, very dry at the moment for one thing.  Its been cut several weeks and sat in water.  i am topping up water daily, and its sprouting leaf Like mad.  I can take a picture if you want to have a go at identification.  

    All surrounding structures are newish.  Under 5 yo. 

    Do you consider your dome etc a short term item like chrissyb or would you keep it a while?

    oh and i think they are cuttings not whips now ie shorter. 

  • Yes, they're cuttings. Whips are (usually) bare root young trees. If they're sprouting then great, get them in the ground and water them copiously. It's willow. Just plunged into the river banks round where I am they take root, so give them the best chance. The largest dome I've done was for a school. In fact I've just been speaking to them re the maintenance. It's been in situ 8/9 years. Basically a dome with a tunnel entrance, like a  big igloo. It'll stand for ever. Other structures I've put in or steered are intended long-term. Do send a picture of the leaf. Doubtless from this site we'll identify them. HC

  • a1154a1154 Posts: 548

    Hi, sorry for the delay.  I have not been able to update posts for several days, must have been a website problem affecting ipad users maybe. 

    Pic follows.



  • a1154a1154 Posts: 548

    Any ideas on variety ?

  • Am I right in thinking that a willow whip or cutting is a baby willow tree?image If so I would consign them to the bonfire or compost heap, before I would let them near my house and garden. They may have been free of initial cost, but you may pay a heavy price in the long run. 

  • a1154a1154 Posts: 548

    Ha ha it sounds like you are not a willow fan then wonderboy.  Still waiting for variety ID if anyone can help. I have put some in for a hedge.  I need to strim an area before starting my teepee or igloo. 

  • I've planted some routed cuttings to make a twisted willow screen to devide a path and border this year and could do with some advice.

    They're of varying sizes and i have in mind to weave them together. I heard somewhere recently that cutting them down will make them sprout more, like coppicing. Should i do that or prune back just to the main stems?

    Actually am rethinking the whole idea because of the roots though!

  • a1154a1154 Posts: 548

    I have planted some as a screen and intend weaving them. I think im at the same stage i was wondering wether to cut back to main stem, but kind of decided to leave it to next year.  Im happy with it so far Though, i think its going to be good.

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