Monday, May 10, 2010

Living willow Fence + Hedge = Fedge

Five weeks ago I installed a Living Willow Fence in my garden.
The British expression for this is "Fedge", but "Living Willow Fence" sounds much better in my ears. You could argue that it is a hedge - it has to be trimmed twice annually to keep the pattern visible and to maintain even growth - yet, it has some fence characteristics, as it is woven.

This living willow fence separates my hosta garden/pond area from the front part of the property and will eventually provide some shelter from the wind while forming a decorative divider.
As I like the woven pattern to remain visible, this construction will never become a "privacy fence". If you like the fence to become more dense, you could weave new growth in between the existing pattern (rather than trimming it off) - but in that case, why not just plant a traditional hedge?

When you search for information about a Living Willow Fence or Fedge, you will realize that there are many different ways of making one. Some like it to be very rustic or country like, others like it to be more refined. I am using the technique that has become popular in Denmark (they call it a Belgian fence) and that is shown in the book "Pilehegn" (Willow fences) by Jette Mellgren.

We have a lot of strong winds here, so I decided to make a "double" fence, which makes for a stronger, denser, and more beautiful fence. The same kind of living willow fence can be made with single or even triple rods if desired.

At the ends of the fence a heavier rod is required for strength and I have used a "twisted tree" like the ones we made at the workshops here in April.
If I so desire, I can leave the top to grow as a tree - or I can just trim it to the same height as the fence - how great it is to have options!
In the photo you can see how the rods are woven together and around the end rod. Over time the rods will fuse together at the points where they meet and create a very unique fence, hedge, fedge!
To hold the rods in place now, I have used cable zip ties at the crossings halfway from the ground and at the top. As the willow grows, I will cut off the ties so that they will not hurt the willows.
Different willow varieties will make fences with different appearances - although the frame will be the same - just like different kinds of trees look different - although they all have trunks and crowns. I have used Salix 'Americana' for this fence and the first shoots have been growing for the past couple of weeks. I will post an update later this summer, showing how the living willow fence develops.
A Living Willow Fence can be installed after the ground thaws and until the end of April.
Well in time for next year's planting season, I will have information posted about varieties available for living fences, kits, ordering, shipping, installation by me etc.
Words and photos by Lene Rasmussen,Willows.


  1. Thats a beautifully made "Fedge", but i must admit I prefer "Living Willow Fence" as well. I love you twisted tree as well, would love to try and make one.

  2. The first shoots give the fence a certain look, sculptural I think. Are all the rods growing so far? The fence is stunning, excellent work, I'm sure you'll enjoy it very much.

  3. Thank you both for your encouraging comments.

    Sunny, it is probably too late this year for you to get some willow whips for the twisted tree, but next spring you'll have to make some.

    Weaving Willow, ALL the rods are growing so far. My Salix 'Americana' delivered beautiful, long, straight, and healthy rods for this project.

  4. that looks amazing. please post some more pictures when the willow grows in a bit. I would love to see it.

  5. Thanks, Irena.
    I plan on another post later this summer and again next year to show how it develops.

  6. Lene, hvor er det smukt, utrolig smukt.
    Engang i mit "tidligere liv" med stor have i Danmark, drømte jeg om at få netop sådan et hegn, for jeg synes det er intet mindre end fantastisk. Men naboerne og min tidligere mand havde andre planer, så derfor blev det aldrig til det fantastisk flotte hegn.
    Hav det rigtig godt.

  7. Det er blevet et meget smukt og lige hegn. Nu kan du så hygge dig med at vande og vande og vande ;-)

    Jeg lavede et belgisk hegn for 3 år siden. Jeg havde ikke nok lige og smukke pil, så det blev lidt mere rustikt, og desværre kom alle pilene ikke. Jeg lader hele hegnet gro uden at holde stammerne rene, så det bliver en hæk i løbet af sommeren. Om vinteren klipper jeg ruderne fri igen.

    Glæder mig til at se hvordan dit hegn ældes :-)

  8. Annette, jeg har glædet mig i 3 år, til at have pil nok til at lave et hegn. Håber, at det vil trives her.

    Vivian, ja, lige nu er det bestemt ikke nødvendigt at vande - her er der (ligesom i Danmark?) koldt, blæsende og regnfuldt. Hegnet er ikke så langt, så jeg har planer om, hvis vi får en tør sommer, at lægge en drypslange (hedder det det på dansk?) ud og styre vandingen med en timer.
    Jeg har kigget på dit hegn på din hjemmeside MANGE gange, beundret det og glædet mig til selv at kunne lave et.

  9. Translations, please! We're all wondering what great comments we're missing!

  10. Weaving Willow - my good friend Frances,
    Annette is telling me how beautiful she thinks the fence is and that she always wanted one, but it never happened.
    Piletossen also says that it is a very beautiful and straight fence that I now have to water, water, water....
    She made a Living Willow Fence 3 years ago. It was a bit more rustic and unfortunately not all of the planted whips rooted. She lets it grow without trimming it all Summer so that it appears as a hedge, then trimms it in Winter to reveal the squares again.
    I answer them that I have been looking forward to having enough willow for a fence for 3 years and that I hope that it will grow well here. Right now it is not necessary to water here - it is cold, rainy, and windy. If it becomes necessary, my plan is to lay down a soaker hose and control it with a timer. I have looked at Vivian's (Piletossen) home page many times, admired the fence and looked forward to being able to making my own.
    There, I don't mind translating at all, but didn't think about it.

  11. Your living willow fence is gorgeous, and I like your term for it much better than fedge. Cold, rainy and windy is right, but in the hot summer a soaker hose on a timer will do the trick.

  12. Oh, that would be wonderful to try! Three years gathering the willow? A lot of thought and planning went into that.

  13. Yvonne and Kathy, thank you for your comments.

    Sorry Kathy, if I didn't express myself right. It took 3 years from the time I planted my first willow cuttings till I had enough whips for a fence. Last spring I used all my willow for cuttings to plant in the field to increase my stock.

  14. Det ser bare så flot ud, der kun 2 ting der afholder mig fra at laver levende hegn, det skal vandes første sommer, og efterfølgne så skal det klippes,og det får jeg bestemt ikke husbonden til at gøre.

  15. Wow, I had never heard of this until a few weeks ago.

    How long do these last? How much care do they need?

  16. Lisa and Robb,
    ...thanks for visiting and your comments. I guess they last as long as you want to take care of it in your garden.
    The first year you need to make sure that it is moist all the time and that it doesn't have to compete with weeds. After that you just have to cut it once or twice annually to keep the pattern visible.

  17. And I silly Dane always thought that Hedge + Fence was hence, oh me, oh my...
    Do you know Bent and Karen Winkler? They were frequent guests at my neighbour's Biokol. He makes fantastic baskets, bought even by the queen.

  18. AagePK,
    no,no, not so silly, but this was invented by the British, hence it is fedge.
    I only know Bent Winkler by name - from his books and the internet - and yes, he makes fantastic baskets. Would love to take a class with him some time.

  19. That was a nice fedge but is it possible to just plant them straight and not bother weaving them? Would they be as effective as a hedge as well?

  20. Dear Anonymous,
    If you just plant the long rods straight, you need to provide some support (some kind of frame made of wood or wood and rope)otherwise they won't stay standing where you want them. An alternative would be to plant a row - or double or tripple row - of willow cuttings. Then coppice them after the first - and preferably also the second - growing season and you will have a nice looking hedge. After that you can prune as you like. If you plant more than one row close to each other, you could alternate coppicing the rows each year. That way you would have both a dense and year round hedge and some fresh looking growth.

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  22. This is great! I'd love to give this a try. I love willow fences but a living fence is even better! I'm going to research this further and study up on the gardeners you talk about. Thanks so much!

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Flowervine Farm!
      I do have some more information on my website:


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