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Eastern Tennessee (Zone 7a)
Nominix
Mar 9, 2017 9:35 AM CST
Earlier in the year I planted 20ish Weeping Willows along the length of a creek that runs through the property with the intention of weaving them together as a living fence. I actually just cut limbs off of another willow that I had planted 3 or 4 years ago and drove a pipe into the ground to make a hole and immediately placed them about 18" deep and it seems they are all going to survive the process. What I want to do is on the side facing away from the creek weave them together as a fence but on the side facing the creek I want to allow them to grow but create a tunnel effect as Ill plant more on the other side of the creek next year after my stock tree has replenished its limbs.

My question is, do I need to create some kind of framing or should it be possible to just weave the limbs across the creek to the others?. Since it is a weeper the limbs are very very limp and flexible but as they grow they tend to get much stiffer capable of at lease supporting some weight. I should also mention that I intend to plant wisteria between each of the willows and allow them to grow on the fence and across the creek using the willows as their frame. Im not sure if I will need some kind of framing underneath that goes across the creek or if I can just use the willows to support the wisteria? the creek is no wider than 6 or 7 feet across so its not going to be a lengthy stretch.
[Last edited by Nominix - Mar 9, 2017 9:40 AM (+)]
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Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
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porkpal
Mar 9, 2017 11:21 AM CST
Wow! It sounds as if you are going to create a potential jungle. I think the wisteria will pull down your willows along with anything intended to support them. The woven willows are a really neat idea, but the wisteria (depending on the variety) could easily get out of control.
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plantmanager
Mar 9, 2017 11:26 AM CST
All of those willows will suck up all the water. You may no longer have a running creek!
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Mar 9, 2017 12:03 PM CST
I agree with Porkpal and Plantmanager

We plant willows in the west to get rid of boggy spots.
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Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN, USA zon
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Leftwood
Mar 9, 2017 12:28 PM CST
So you must already know that weeping willows grow to be very large, and so do not make good hedge trees on their own. Weaving branches together isn't practical, because as the tree grows in the future, upper branches will grow out over the lower weaved ones, which will then naturally die due to low light. Adding to the problem is the fact that your weaved branches cannot reach out for the light as upper branches overtake. Adding even more to the problem, wisteria climbing on the weaved living fence is surely going kill to these weak branches, first by light deprivation, second by strangulation (see below).

If you want the bayou effect over the creek, there is no need for weaving at all. Branches will easily span the creek on their own. Weaving will cause structural problems and make the branches (and possibly the whole tree) more vulnerable to storm damage.

Wisteria climb by twining around the host's branches. As host's branches grow in width, the vine does not lengthen to accommodate the this growth. This is how the vine strangles the tree. Consequently, the host branches are often killed and even the entire tree may succumb. At the very least, there will be disfigurement of your willows.

It's hard to say what might happen to the water level of the creek. Probably nothing, in my opinion. But it would depend on the water source.
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Mar 9, 2017 12:32 PM CST
Willows get rid of boggy spots? I didn't know that! Boy, do I have a place to plant some!
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Name: Rick R.
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Leftwood
Mar 9, 2017 12:54 PM CST
woofie said:Willows get rid of boggy spots? I didn't know that! Boy, do I have a place to plant some!


Again, it depends on the water source. If your "watershed" is only a few acres of dry land, than yes, it likely will work. Be warned though, that drying up the wet spot will have similar consequences drying the dry spots even more.
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Mar 9, 2017 2:02 PM CST
Well, I don't want to hijack this thread. @Leftwood could you T-mail me if you have additional information on the subject?
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Eastern Tennessee (Zone 7a)
Nominix
Mar 9, 2017 2:21 PM CST
ok where to start, lol

There wont be any issues with the willows drying up the creek. I could only wish for such a thing. One of the big reasons for doing a living fence was to have the roots help with erosion.The land I have is very wet, just this side of swamp and in the spring its a running joke to not plant anything but rice. We have a number of springs that will randomly pop up during more rainy years and its technically considered wetlands. So we always have to look for plants that like thier feet wet. I have a couple of pussywillows, the first is 24 ft tall and roughly 20 feet wide, the other is about 35 feet tall and about 30 feet wide and it still puddles around them during every rain in the spring. Water loving plants do very well here as well its handy for the garden as I rarely have to water except in the higher spots during high summer.

I have 2 other willows on the property, the first is a bit over 50' tall and easily 30 to 40 ft wide. its a monster but its literally cathedral like under it as the lowest branches are probably 15 to 20 ft up but the ends of them are about 4 ft off the ground. I thought it would look really good if it had some blooming wisteria in it which is where the idea for wisteria came from. The second willow was a test tree and my stock for the ones I planted. I let it get about a 4.5 to 5 inch trunk then topped it at about 4.5 ft tall. I took every limb off of it to where it was nothing but a tall stump and the next year POOF the most beautiful mini willow tree I have ever seen. I have let it go now for another year and its still, even missing all those limbs, leafing out and looking great.

So if I let all those I just planted get at least about a 4 to 5 inch trunk then completely top, then let the creek facing side selectively grow on up and either use some type of frame or start weaving it to the other side hopefully I can get a good tunneling effect. I probably wont let the willows get very high as Im going to need to train everything for a while and I really dont want them any higher than 15 feet max. So Ill be topping them every few years on the creek side. The other side Ill keep very pruned and woven as Ill be mowing and gardening right next to them.

I had originally thought about using some grape variety instead of wisteria but those vines get very big, in comparison to the wisteria I have thats about 75ft long but the vine is no bigger than my index finger. I really cant think of anything else other than wisteria that will get long enough, and look as good. Anyone have any ideas? I do want to get some kind of color up in there.



Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN, USA zon
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Leftwood
Mar 9, 2017 3:34 PM CST
If you are planting trees for erosion control of the creek, it will only work if the ground vegetation (grass, sedges and perennials) along the creek remains uncompromised. If they die out (because of shade or tree root competition), creek erosion will be worse. Our Minnesota Dept. of Ag. has done extensive work on this, as erosion from farmers fields into the Minnesota River is a big problem. Unplanted field ditches as creek waterways were the worst. These ditches line with trees worked great for erosion, until the grasses and forbes that had been seeded in with the trees were shaded out. (But the trees were still better than nothing.) But allowing grasses (and whatever might grow with them) without trees is the best erosion control by far. In addition, water filtering is greatly enhanced and more importantly, biodiversity in the water system increased many fold.

Also, research was done with creeks that had banks of grasses and forbes. Trees were planted along the creek. As the perennials dwindled due to the shade and tree root competition, erosion increased due to the greatly reduced amount of biomass as a component of the soil. Also, it was found that the speed of the water flow increased, which of course added to the erosion problem. And again, the biodiversity of the riparian ecosystem dropped dramatically.

Keeping a willow tree in a wet area at 15ft when it wants to grow 60ft will be quite a feat. You will hate me now, but I just sayin', it ain't gonna work.
Eastern Tennessee (Zone 7a)
Nominix
Mar 9, 2017 4:39 PM CST
Leftwood said:
Keeping a willow tree in a wet area at 15ft when it wants to grow 60ft will be quite a feat. You will hate me now, but I just sayin', it ain't gonna work.

I allready have one growing - its very possible - it does work - whether or not it will work is a forgone conclusion - It does. All anyone has to do is keep it pruned and weave / train it. Im not sure you have ever seen any examples of living fences but many are willow, all do just fine growing even with heavy pruning. You can easily control the size of any plant by simple pruning.Ill add some pics for reference.

There is nothing along the creek bank but grass atm and it gets mowed everytime the yard does. I have let it grow up along the bank and added a variety of grasses and shrubs and this does not stop the erosion.So since they didnt do the job I took an excavator and removed all the shrubs, reworked the creek and widened it, and now I will add in the living fence. The willows are planted 6 feet from one another and our garden runs very close to them. This will force the roots towards the creek. If the shade from the willows kills the grass (which it wont as we have to mow under our current willow trees every year multiple times) - good - this will not be an issue as it didnt work well enough to begin with to care.We are in Eastern TN the soil is heavy clay, not caliche but pottery grade clay mixed with a lot of rocks. Not sure what type of soil you have where your at but I suspect the soil differences would account for the local issues you have in Minnesota.

Lol and I dont hate you, I do however think you are using information from local sources and applying it as the way things work globally. There are too many differences between Minnesota and TN to start making blanket assessments of what will and wont work, especially since I allready have an example, working fine, growing right outside my window.

Thumb of 2017-03-09/Nominix/da34b7


Thumb of 2017-03-09/Nominix/faf947


Thumb of 2017-03-09/Nominix/1db7a1


Thumb of 2017-03-09/Nominix/0efc5d

Im not using the exact methods shown in the pics but the end result will be somewhat close, with the exception of the creek facing side will be allowed to grow to a selected height and will be woven in with the others on the other side to create a tunnel effect.

My only real question was whether or not the limbs would be strong enough by themselves to support an arch with the addition of wisteria or if wisteria was to aggressive then perhaps someone may have a good idea for an alternative.


Thumb of 2017-03-09/Nominix/e70851

[Last edited by Nominix - Mar 9, 2017 4:41 PM (+)]
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Name: Rick R.
near Minneapolis, MN, USA zon
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Leftwood
Mar 9, 2017 5:33 PM CST
Oh, this is very different from what I envisioned! Yes, a good portion of what I said does not apply.

I'm not saying you won't have problems, but good luck!



Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Mar 9, 2017 6:16 PM CST
Not arching, but this is a video showing a 3 year old 'living fence' :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?...

Artist Bonnie Gale works with living willow:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?...

This video applies the name 'fedge' to a living fence hedge:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?...

Good luck with your project and hope to see lots of photos.
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Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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DaisyI
Mar 9, 2017 6:26 PM CST
Nominix,

Back at the top, where this conversation started, we suggested the wisteria was a bad idea. I love your living fence idea but the wisteria will pull it down. I'm surprised your wisteria is only finger width. I have seen them with trunks that would rival trees. I planted them on my corral fence and they took it apart.

The question was about adding color. How about Clematis? Or interspursing tall flowering shrubs or trees, like Crepe Myrtle, that would not be part of the fence.

If you really want wisteria, I would suggest you build them a trellis - a big hefty trellis.
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming...."WOW What a Ride!!" -Mark Frost

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Eastern Tennessee (Zone 7a)
Nominix
Mar 9, 2017 8:22 PM CST
@greene Bonnie Gale does some great stuff. I wish I had enough space to grow her type of willow rods. I tried using the weepers using her methods...but saying it didnt work well is a pretty large understatement,lol. I have seen a number of pics of her stuff and its quite amazing what she does with those willow rods. Ill try and post a few pics once I start weaving them later this year.

@Daisyl Last year I happened to drive by a wisteria plant that had gotten away from someone and climbed about 70ish ft or so up a tree and was blooming. Its vine was only about a good thumb size so maybe its just they dont get too big around here or the varieties I have seen are such that they have a smaller vine.I am glad you mentioned that though, as I am pretty sure the willow limbs will not like a lot of weight on them so the lighter the better. The Clematis is a really good idea and I think Ill go with them instead of the wisteria. Looking at all the varieties I should be able to drop in several different for a lot of color. Thank You!

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