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JPR Environmental
The Malthouse
GL10 3DL

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living willow structures

Maintenance of Willow Sculptures

1st summer:  Ensure that the ground around the willow does not dry out completely.  This may entail watering a few times during the course of the 1st summer.  Depending on the soil type (a sandy soil will dry out quicker, a clay soil will stay moist longer but will take more to resoak it once it has dried out) give the ground a good soak if there has not been rain for 1 week - especially if this happens within the first few months of being planted.  If the structure hasn't been mulched keep the growth of weeds down by cutting them off at the base - take care not to damage the stems or disturb the soil around the bases of the willows.

Vertical growth should be very strong in the first summer. You can encourage growth at a lower level by pruning or nicking the bark above a bud to create a thicker screen of foliage.

1st winter:  Winter is the time to decide what form the sculpture will take for the following year - is it to be free and easy or do you want to retain the original shape?  If you want to retain the original shape then first look for gaps or weak areas that would benefit from some of the growth woven in or areas where extra planting could be beneficial.  Cut off the remaining excess growth to within 1cm of the stem with secateurs or loppers for the larger stems.

From then on:  If you want to keep the sculpture to an original shape then you can treat it like a hedge and trim it a few times a year (avoid August/beginning of Sept as the new growth produce after may get frosted off).  Most people however seem to prefer watching the structure change shape over the year and do a once a year cut back in the winter.  You should not have to water the willow after the 1st year.   The coloured willows will generally show the best colour on one year old growth achieved by an annual cut. 

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