Willow Sculptures in the Garden

willow snail and me

Making willow sculptures is fairly straight forward for everyone to do, but it does help if you have a good visual memory and spatial awareness.

I started because I’d been pruning some honeysuckle and trees in my parent’s garden about 15 years ago; this was well before the advent of green recycling bins and so I didn’t know what to do with all the twigs. In the end I made a cow and then a sheep because I pruned next door’s contorted willow and it sort of looked like wool.

willow cow

willow sheep

It’s possible to make sculptures from green willow; I used prunings from a willow maze. This was autumn in the middle of a newly planted orchard.


Though I used green willow, I stripped the bark off the bottom so it wouldn’t grow when placed in the soil to support the sculpture, but I could have used ash or hazel branches instead. You don’t need to use a lot of willow either…this was winter from the same set of seasonal sculptures…mainly a bundle of twiggy and spiny branches with a bit of willow holding it together. Good fun, although it didn’t last long. Most willow sculptures decay after two or three years.


When creating a sculpture I usually draw myself a quick plan of what I intend to create with some rough dimensions. Then I make a base shape out of whatever I can get my hands on (here it is some sort of conifer)

snail unfinished

and then finish off with basket making willow that has been soaking for a couple of days (without bark) or a week (with bark). In this sculpture the shell was basket making willow and the snail bit was from cut branches of a dark-stemmed twiggy willow (I thinned the bush rather than coppicing it) I noticed growing where I was working at the time. You could make sculptures with cut dogwood stems as well as willow.


If you are making animals then do try to add a bit of movement to your willow work – too neat a finish can look a bit clinical and static.

willow pig

Having said that, there’s a limit to how dynamic you can make a hedgehog.

Willow hedgehog and rabbit

And be inventive….try something different.

 Willow Angel

I usually leave the living willow structures for dens or for play areas. This was one made in a reception class garden.


Two of the three dens are linked by a tunnel that varies in height so even the little ones have to duck. I was told that the larger den area was great for play; it could be used equally happily for role-playing assemblies or just spaceships.

Green lane school 1
But dens can also be made from (non-living) basket making willow. Here a den in a community garden has a framework of iron rods (from the DIY shop) and is shaped as a snail shell to form a feature for the garden, but with a hole so children can stick their heads through…I tested it on a passing small child to make sure it was just the right size.

me and the snail den

This entry was posted in The I.Pot. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Willow Sculptures in the Garden

  1. VP says:

    Much food for thought here, thank you. I’m about to acquire a mass of prunings, the size of a small house, mainly of dogwood. I do fancy the idea of a few giant snails roaming around the garden in its place 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s