This versatile, fast growing plant loves wet conditions, full sunlight and fertile soil. Its tough and can survive in thinner soils and drier places but it thrives along river banks and is adapted to to such environments. Although very supple and bendy willow is also brittle, so in a flood branches break off sparing the tree itself and quickly regrow. Also any part of especially the younger parts of the tree will sprout new roots if in contact with the ground, so broken branches can lodge maybe miles from where they have snapped off and also re-grow, propagating the plant and helping stabilize river banks while significant amounts of wildlife habitat.

Previously we prepared the ground by covering it in mypex, a none biodegradable fabric we can remove in 2 or 3 years time when the plants are established. As willow is a colonizer, it thrives on bare ground or disturbed soil, it doesn’t like to compete with the grasses, so this favours the willow

Preparing the ground
Students moving Mulch past this winters cut willow stools

The willow came by post from our friends specialists in habitat restoration, willow coppice and living structures. The Slightly thicker than a pencil, freshly cut rods are 30cm long and we will plant them 2/3 in the ground, using a bar to make whole, so the plants are not damaged.

We expect these to be able to grow up to 5m a year once established and it will create a local supply of these super fast growing willow variety, salix viminalis. Demand for this material is high and we can generate revenue for the garden by selling cuttings t our own customers or back to the Willowbank who supplied them.

This is permaculture thinking, relationships and multi functionality. We are generating income to sustain the garden whilst adding to the wildlife and biodiversity of the garden. Students are learning skills whilst building a personal connection the garden themselves whilst having a healthy active experience. The willow itself will produce pollen and seed that will feed insects and birds, make the river bank more sable, reduce flooding and erosion. Dog walkers, parents and children are using the space more and more and enjoying seeing it develop.



Osier is an erect shrub or small tree which will grow up to 6m (20ft) tall.  It has very long, up to 25cm (10”) thin leaves.

Native in England and most of the rest of Europe on stream banks and flood plains and in marshes.

Where to grow

All willows are extremely adaptable trees they will grow in most conditions including very poor permanently waterlogged soils.  They will also do very well in good conditions and will tolerate a certain amount of maritime exposure.  They do however require a sunny spot.

We used a Salix Viminalis ‘smooth brown’ as it a very fast growing and has a good resale value.

Sketch of spacing’s used

Planting the willow

To get even spacings we used a pegged line from left right and planted at 80 cm spacings, then used and up down line to make sure the lines were straight. Moving the line for each new row. The number of willow rods supplied was exactly the right amount for the space we have prepared! Very pleasing

Although we have used ‘mypex’ weed suppressing fabric, we gave ourselves the option of removing it later by spacing the rows at 80cm. Left alone these spaces wold fill up with brambles and other pioneer plants competing with the willow as well as making it hard to harvest. This way there is room to mow in between the lines a couple of times a year to prevent that from happening.

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