Below: River, relaxing on our front steps with a simple wattle fence

of ‘Winter Green' built in ~30 minutes to stop our dogs running through the tulips!

Our bed of Salix ‘Winter Green' after coppicing. These are some of the best rods for living or dried structures.

Below: The same bed in October with 10-14ft rods. The first 6ft of the bed were recoppiced by beavers in the middle of summer. I now keep them out of the nursery with an electric fence about 10in from the ground.

The same Weeping Willow (S. x salamonii 'Chrysocoma') the following October.  I keep relatively small by pollarding it every 2-3 years so it doesn't block the view. Don’t want a 60ft tree in your garden?

Pollarding is a simple way to grow and enjoy a weeping willow.

Salix alba var. sericea the Silver Willow pollarded on top of stubbed branches.


Coppicing and pollarding is extremely hard pruning to get the plant to produce an abundance of young shoots in order to produce the most flower buds and brightest colored stems. These are best performed in late winter (March/April here) before leaf buds start to turn green. The difference between them is that coppicing is where the stems are cut to 1-2in just above soil level, whereas pollarding is done on top of a straight 4-8ft trunk or on the top of shortened branches. There are willows in Europe that have been pollarded for centuries!

It is most important to use really good, sharp pairs of bypass pruners and loppers. Because I have so many to prune I use pneumatic pruners that cut up 1in diameter stems. I also use an extremely sharp, hard-steel Japanese pruning saw with a 2ft handle from (Lee Valley Tools item #EC710) for thicker stems. Be careful with these saws: they cut people even easier than they cut willows!

First remove any thin, twiggy growth as close to the stem as possible; then tackle the thicker stems cutting them down to 1-2in. This closeness to the base reduces the number of thin twiggy stems. What to do with the stems you cut off? Cut them into 10” lengths and plant them; make a living structure; dry them for basket-making, plant supports or biodegradable compost bins; chip to make mulch.....

Coppicing: cut all the stems 1-2in from their base.

Willows coppiced at the Chicago Botanical Garden. This shows the value of coppicing as the winter stems have brilliant color. As the stems age, they lose their bright colors and turn gray or brown.

The cultivar may be

Salix alba 'Britzensis', 'Chermesina' or 'Cardinal'

   Before pruning in early April 2012 with ‘Lily'.                              after pruning                         

A novel display at the fascinating Reford Gardens at Metis on the south bank of St Lawrence River in Quebec. It’s worth going out of your way to visit this stimulating garden that features landscaped areas by world famous landscape architects.

This amusing planting shows one of the many Golden Willows trained as twisted pollards growing in traffic cones.

The cones are filled with potting soil, turned upside down and the willows stuck in. This is a temporary display as the traffic cones will soon strangle the trees. The trees can be recycled when they go dormant by cutting them off at the top of the cone and sticking them in the ground.

far left: that's the fragrant Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) behind the willows.

left: twisted braids of a golden willow; this is relatively simple to do; just tie one end, braid and then tie the other end..

     S. alba ‘Britzensis’ pollarded in the Montreal Botanical Garden. This is a mature specimen that is cut back every year to very short stubs and puts out 6-8ft of growth in the summer. In winter the young stems are bright scarlet.

Young specimens of pollarded 'Britzensis' at the MBG in beds with annuals.

The same Silver Willow in August. Photographed in the enchanting North Hill Gardens of

Joe Eck and the late Wayne Winterrowd in Southern Vermont

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Coppicing and Pollarding

This is what happens when a really old willow is cut down.

The abundance of lush new growth is typical of Willows, so if you have an old and possibly dangerous willow, just cut it down to whatever size you want it, and let the tree do what it wants.

Remember that these trees provide an abundant source of food for bees.

Photo taken in Belgium by one of our lovely customers, Jill Cozzens.

This tree is probably Salix x pendulina one of the hardiest weeping willows.

Note the pile of firewood from this willow between the car and the tree!


of Michael Dodge