We have been growing willow for basketry since 1994 at Dunbar Gardens, located just west of Mount Vernon, Washington in the Pacific Northwest, USA. As Katherine Lewis became interested in willow basketmaking, she realized she would need to grow her own materials since very little cultivated willow was available to purchase in our area. In addition, it gave her more choice in selecting the size, color, flexibility and other characteristics of the willow she weaves with. As a result, we have tried quite a number of species and varieties of Salix here and currently have about 60 varieties growing. We have planted over ten thousand willow cuttings on our Skagit Valley farm.
Fortunately, willow is easy to propagate in our alluvial soil. An eight to twelve inch cutting taken from a dormant one year old rod is planted in early Spring. March thru April is an ideal time here in the Skagit Valley to plant.
We are now planting using rows spaced 32 inches apart with 6 inches between plants. This spacing allows us to use our walk behind tiller and mower to cultivate between the rows especially when establishing new plantings. Although plastic mulch and ground covers are often recommended for planting willow beds, we do not use them because of the potential problems with voles (field mice) taking up “residence” underneath as well as potential fungal disease problems exacerbated by the fallen leaf litter on top of the plastic or weed block fabric.
We harvest our willow in the winter by hand with a pair of loppers. We cut the willow stools close to the ground for most varieties. After harvest, the willow is graded by length, dried in bundles, and then stored in our barns.
Here are some of the willow varieties we are growing:
You can read more about the willow varieties we grow and our willow planting tips by following this page link to Willow Cuttings. Please note that we do not currently ship dried willow for basketmaking. Cuttings are for planting to grow your own.