Creatively Pruning a Dappled Willow

Creatively Pruning a Dappled Willow

This past weekend we went to visit my wife’s family. On the property they have a couple Japanese Dappled Willows (‘Hiroki Nishiki’) that I’ve taken cuttings from in the past. They are several years old and have really become large shrubs stretching over ten feet tall. Needless to say a shrub this large needs a special place and if doesn’t have that special place it needs pruned.

The willow needed pruned so I set about attempting to coppice the shrub. Coppicing is where you cut the shrub to within a couple inches of the ground and allow it to regrow. Usually trees that are coppiced are cut back annually but this willow never had the treatment.

I started the process of coppicing but as I cut back branches I began to see a shape emerge.

Two main branches that I tied together last year had formed a nice curve and began to reveal an interesting and somewhat symmetrical branching structure. I’ve seen pictures of chairs, living arbors, fences, and many more things made from willows that have been trained and creatively pruned into living sculptures which gave me an idea: since this willow was beginning to reveal something interesting, why not encourage it? I cleaned out the extra branches and trunks using a set of heavy duty lopers and gradually a willow window was carved from the unruly shrub. The window seems to highlight the grandma and grandpa statue in the garden behind it. I left the branches above the willow alone so that they could fill out with foliage and provide a small shade canopy. Anything that grows inside the window will be pruned while the above areas will be allowed to grow freely.

I moved a couple other things around the willow including a heavy stone bench and the birdbath. As long as the willow stays pruned to the two main trunks both birds and bottoms will have a place to rest!

A Bit on Willow Propagation:

I also saved some of the cuttings for rooting. I dug a hole about 6-8 inches in the soil mud and covered the bottom of the bundle. Willows don’t take too long to root so I’ll check them in a few weeks then pot them up or plant them where I want them. Rooting willows in bundles is a good way to root a whole bunch of them at once without spending a lot of time doing it. They tend to root well anywhere you stick them. 

I would love to try a willow structure or willow fence at some point but that will need to wait until I have a little more time!


Dave has written since 2007. He gardens on an acre and a half where he raises his 5 children. He enjoys growing vegetables, herbs, and propagating plants. Dave works as a real estate agent in Spring Hill, TN.

This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. I have this willow grafted in a tree form. What a vigorous grower! I have to whack it back hard every winter or I think it would eat my house. It is worth it for the pink catkins and snowy white spring growth though.

  2. I need to really prune back 3 Nishiki willows this winter, but they're only 2 years old so I'm not sure I should try coppicing. They had strange interrupted growth last year, with leaves only every foot or so along each branch. I'll try selectively pruning out branches. I love the way you did the artistic removal of all but two sweeps of branches… neat effect! Wonder if I can do the same.

  3. My sister has the grafted tree form, while I have the bush. It was in such a shady spot that it wasn't thriving (can you imagine?) ha. Last Spring I moved it and it's doing very well. I didn't realize it would grow so large, so I'll be trimming it a bit this Spring. Thanks for the info. You are GOOD for reminding and teaching about propagation! 🙂

  4. It's very creative Dave…I like the look now and when it leaves out it will look even more amazing….gail

  5. Amazing. It will look great.

  6. You have a good eye to spot that. Can't wait to see how it looks when the leaves come out.
    I have a Red Ozier Dogwood that we trimmed. I stuck 42 pieces around a small sinkhole in the backyard. Right now the ground is soggy because of all the rain, but usually it is fairly dry.
    We are trying to plant around and in between some of the trees in the back to cut down on mowing.

  7. Oh Dave, that is just wonderful! Your creative juices were really flowing there. We always coppice our dappled willow to the ground each late winter. Haven't done it yet because we are enjoying the colorful branches from last year. It does seem only one year old wood shows the orange, red and yellow, another reason to coppice. I look forward to seeing what other projects you come up with for the cuttings. We have always wanted to do a a living fence, the cuttings put into the ground as criss crosses and then pruned to maintain that shape.

  8. Dave,
    Thank you for the information about this lovely plant. Do you have any updated photos you can share with your readers? I'm eager to see how it looks now.
    Keep up the good gardening!

Comments are closed.

Close Menu