Making Willow Edging A Nice Summertime Project
The benefits of making your own willow edging are several. The edging is inexpensive, in fact virtually free should you have your own, or access to, some good-sized willow shrubs, or trees. The method employed is quite simple, and if you make a mistake, it's easy to go back and fix it. One of the nicer features is that, while patterns are available, you can modify one to suit your own taste, or just get creative and dream up your own pattern. The only two "rules" are that the finished product be attractive and also functional. Both requirements are a bit subjective, which gives you plenty of freedom to do as you wish.
Willow edging is normally used to define the edges of a garden bed, to separate one bed from another, or to provide an edging to the lawn. Contrary to some commercial edging products, willow edging looks very natural, and is almost as long lasting as plastic or rubber-based edging products.
They Bend Without Breaking - The stems (or rods) in willow shrubs or the smaller branches in a willow tree are quite flexible, and can be bent to form an arch or woven between vertical rods or stems. Yet the stems and branches are also strong and sturdy, so the edging barrier when completed will hold its shape, and put up with a certain amount of punishment. If only dry willow sticks are handy, they'll become pliable again if soaked in water for a day or two, so don't be alarmed if you have only dry sticks and not fresh ones to work with. Whichever type you have, just prune them to length and strip off the leaves or small side branches and you're ready to go.
Use Vertical Rods And/Or Arches - Assume that your willow edging is going to be a foot in height, although the height is totally up to you. You can either place rods vertically in the ground a foot apart and weave longer rods horizontally through the vertical rods, or for an edging that is a bit more artistic, use overlapping arches, reinforced with a vertical rod in the center of each arch. An arch that is 16" from end to end and 12" high in the center will require a rod that's 43" to 44' long. It needs to be long enough so that it can stick it into the ground a couple of inches and still get the height you want. With a little bit of experimenting you can get the measurements you want. The arches can either be the same height or different heights, though an alternating height pattern is probably the most attractive. It's also a good idea to overlap the arches 3" or 4" on each end. Besides being more attractive, your edging will be a little more sturdy.
The Horizontal Rods - The willow rods you use to weave horizontally between the arches or vertical rods should be at least 36" in length. They don't all have to be the same length as you'll want a staggered effect anyway, but a 36" long rod will weave along two arches or between 3 vertical stakes. While willow can be used for the vertical stakes, you may want something a little more substantial. The stakes should be 3/4" to 1" in diameter and bamboo or hazel are two good alternatives. Just choose a wood that's not going to rot away the first year after it's placed in the ground. Green or brown plastic rods might be another alternative, and shouldn't take away from the natural appearance, as they'll be mostly covered by the horizontal willow rods.
Try to keep the horizontal rods compacted together as you proceed. Your willow edging will be stronger and have a nicer appearance by doing that.
Time Is Money - How long will it take you? That depends of course on when you will finish the amount of edging you started out to do, or run out of willow, whichever comes first. You'll no doubt get better as you go along, and once you get into the swing of it, may find yourself installing edging in places you'd never dreamed of, like in your neighbor's yard or down the street. You'll save money in the process. A 4' section of willow edging can set you back around $15.00, and you know you can make edging that looks just as nice, don't you?