Creating a Living Willow Trellis with Clematis

Sheena Adams offers simple instructions to create your own living willow trellis, perfect for supporting any container grown clematis and a great conversation starter.

Credit: Sheena Adams

There is nothing lovelier than a clematis container planting for your backyard or balcony.

Many clematis thrive in containers and there are just four rules to follow: choose a container that is 45 by 45 cm (18 by 18 in.) or larger; make sure it drains well; select a container-suitable variety; and provide a structure for the vine to climb on. A great solution for the latter is a living willow trellis.

Any type of willow plant has a natural ability to self-root. Some gardeners root willow sticks that grow into thick privacy fences and hedges, nicknamed fedges. Garden artists also twist rooted willow into living trellises, arbours and even chairs.

Follow these simple instructions to create your own living willow trellis, perfect for supporting any container-grown clematis and a great conversation starter. Ideally the willow will root and grow upward, providing continued support as the clematis grows.

Among those clematis popular for containers are ‘Dr. Ruppel’, ‘Nelly Moser’ (suitable for shade), ‘Pink Champagne’, and ‘The President’. ‘Cartmanii Joe’ is a delicate early white bloomer that is evergreen and well suited to a container; protect in winter.

• Container with good drainage, a minimum of 45 by 45 cm (18 by 18 in.)
• Sterilized potting soil
• Access to willow stems, pruners and container of water
• Plant ties
• Clematis suitable for containers

CUT 6 WILLOW WHIPS (young, soft growth), about 1.5 m (5 ft.) long. Place them immediately in water.

TRANSPLANT THE CLEMATIS into the container, placing it 7.5 cm (3 in.) deeper than the soil line and burying the woody stem. Top up with potting soil, nestle the clematis in and water. Be careful not to snap the stems.

CREATE THE TRELLIS by inserting the cut end of the willow stems 20 cm (8 in.) deep into the damp soil, placing them evenly in a circle around the clematis. Tie the tops of the willow stems together to form a teepee shape.

ATTACH THE CLEMATIS to the willow stems and water the whole container. Keep it well watered and prune whenever needed to tidy it up.Clematis container


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