Making baskets, furniture and fencing from the branches of the willow trees remains an American tradition. American colonists used willow branches for wattle fencing and other fencing types because of the tree's flexibility and quick growth. Even a novice gardener can bend the branches of a willow into a decorative garden trellis or fence. Willow trees require moist soils to grow, but some online and local garden centres carry craft-ready willow branches and pre-made willow fencing for those lacking access to the tree's branches.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Measuring tape
- 6 garden stakes or rocks
- 6 wooden posts 1 1/2 inches in diameter
- 20 or more willow branches about 7 feet long and 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter
- Rubber mallet
- 1 piece of rebar
Mark 6 fence post locations with garden stakes or rocks, leaving 14 inches between them, in order to create a 6-foot length of willow fencing.
Clear the area so 2 to 3 inches of space on either side of the intended fence is free of plants, rocks or other obstacles.
Cut 6 wooden posts 12 inches higher than the planned height of the fence. Sharpen one end of each post with the hatchet to make it easier to drive into the ground.
Pound the posts into their intended locations with the rubber mallet. Secure the post 12 inches deep in the ground.
Gather about 10 willow branches, each about 7 feet long, for each foot in height the fence will be. For a loosely-woven fence you may need as few as 5 branches per foot.
Weave a willow branch in and out of the posts just above ground level. Allow the ends of the branch to extend past the end posts.
Pound the woven branch down with the rubber mallet until it touches the ground.
Weave another willow branch into the fence row above the first branch. Place the base, or wider, end of the new branch above the tip, or thinner, end of the first branch. Reverse the weave--that is, start it on the opposite side of the post from the first branch.
Pound the woven branch down evenly to the preferred height, which depends on how tightly or loosely you want the fence woven.
Continue to weave branches into the fence in the same way, alternating the weave of each added row by starting on the opposite side of the post from the row below it. Place the base end of each new branch above the tip end of the branch below. Pound each new branch down after it is woven into the fence.
Tips and warnings
- Use a piece of rebar to make guide holes for the posts if you are working in hard, dense soil.
- Leave a 1- to 2-inch gap between the branches if you like the appearance of the wider gap between the horizontal rails. For a sturdier fence, however, pound each rail down tightly before moving on to the next rail.
- You can add more stability to the fence by using weaving sisal or hemp string to fasten the ends of the branches to the end posts.
- You can build longer fences by using more posts and longer branches, but there is a limit to how long the branches can be. Depending on the final length of the fence, it will be practical to build it in two or more sections.
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