Natural Christmas wreaths using willow-part 1- finding withies

November 30, 2010

in Making natural Christmas wreaths

Common osier (Salix viminalis) great for making christmas wreaths

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Thank you” George Pilkington

George Pilkington of Nurturing Nature made all of the willow wreaths. If you would like something similar for your school, community group, etc, contact me,   01925 452819/mob 0787 – 358 6685


 First you need to find yourself some suitable willow. I usually find a species known as common osier (salix viminalis). It is more of a multi stemmed shrub than a tree and lends itself very nicely to being cut down or ‘coppiced’. It is used today for making baskets and I have seen it planted on a river bank to stabilise it. I have also made a large ‘natural ‘igloo’ from them!

Find suitable willow and coppice, throwing to one side for collection later

It has very long slender leaves and the stems, or ‘withies’ and is ideal for making the basis of natural christmas wreaths. I usually go looking for decent osier specimens around spring time. Their flowers and catkins make them easier to spot that time of the year, making a mental note as to where they are, for when I return to coppice them in the winter months. Before the frosts, I even cut small stems and replant them in certain places for me to coppice in the near future. A truly magnificent shrub!

Cut off suitable lengths and separate into 2 piles

The pile of branches on the left are too thick for wreaths. They are not flexible enough. The pile on the right was cut from the larger stems and are to be used as the basis for the wreaths. Both piles will be put to good use, there is no waste!

Use several smaller flexible withies to tie the bundle

After separating the withies into usable and non usable, I use smaller withies to wrap around and tie the larger withies into manageable sized bundles and carry them off. Depending upon the weather, I will store them outside in a bucket of water, in the garage or shed, ( just in case the water freezes!) to keep them moist and therefore flexible. If they dry out they can become dry and easily snap.

The thicker stem were laid over several logs

The thicker non usable stems were gathered up and laid over some old logs I found in a local woodland. I placed them so that they were resting to one side ( the right) of the logs, like a sloping roof, with a few inches overhanging on the other side of them. Between the logs and stems I left a large gap under the roof. The spacing was such that it would have been suitable for a hedgehog to comfortably use over the summer months and possibly even hibernated, had I completed it a month or two earlier. Then I started to pile old branches, leaves, and other natural material that was nearby over the willow stems and on top of the roof.

When do you want to move in my dear? !

This is only the beginning. As I find more time, I will pile more material on top of the leaves, twigs, branches etc. This will make a suitable shelter or home for many beasties large and small.

Part 2 of this article will appear soon. It will show how to make the christmas wreaths themselves. I am not artistic in any way, so they have to be simple to make!  I show children, students with mental health problems and pensioners how to make them. No plastic! Fantastic!!

If you would like something similar for your school, community group, etc,contact me 01925 452819/mob 0787 – 358 6685



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