I have three pesky female willows in my garden – all three are very close to the house, and if left to grow for more than three years, they insist on trying to procreate.
If you didn’t know this, the male willow or Salix are the ones with the catkins, or pussy willows, and the female flowers on separate plants are so discreet that you won’t notice them without close examination.
The difference becomes obvious in the last days of May when the weather is warm and the air is still.
Then, the seeds that the female willow has been nurturing in secret are released. They are carried in a silky down, which to the sensitive or downright allergic will cause sneezing, wheezing and a lot of discomfort.
Due to this issue, I coppice these three determined females every two to three years.
The canes or rods are usually long and whippy, perfect for making some obelisks to support some annual flowering vines.
I cut all the growth right down to the stump or stool, leaving three or four buds for it to shoot from. Some are a good size, about 2 cm (1") thick at the base, and these I sort into one bundle.
Others are usually smaller, but long and whippy. These I put in the shed until I’m ready to use them as weavers.
I choose five or seven (an odd number) for the uprights of the obelisk, and put them into a terra cotta pot or other container. I can sometimes use a small child’s ball to hold them in place if the pot is the right size.
Taking some of the reserved smaller canes, I start weaving them around, going behind one rod, and in front of the next, all the way around. As you get to where you started, you’ll see that then you can alternate, going behind those you went in front of before, and vice versa.
Weave several times around, until the uprights are firmly in place.
Then re-arrange them to be equally spaced around the edge of the pot, and wrap tie wire around the top. I leave about 10cm (4") or less, and put a glass globe from an old light fixture on top to cover it. You can also wrap grapevines or other flexible canes around to make a round top.
Fill the pot with potting soil, and plant some seeds of Ipomaea, the Morning Glory vine, or any other easy flowering vine, and you can also plant lower growing annuals to trail over the sides of the pot. Willow rod obelisks are an easy, beautiful accent for a doorway or simply to line a pathway.