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living willow structures

A Step By Step Guide To Building Willow Structures - Igloo

The Igloo is a perfect size for children to walk or crawl into as a refuge from their parents, or vice-versa, maybe?

There are two sections that make up the Igloo, the tunnel and the dome. Below we show how to create each and join them to create a seamless structure.


Step 1: Mark out 2 lines to the length your require. Dig two trenches about a spade's depth and width, mix the soil with compost and refill the trench.

planting of a live willow tunnel

Step 2: Insert a pair of the 2.5m poles opposite each other along the length of the trench at a spacing of 25cm.

willow sculpture tunnel 2 (12222 bytes)

Step 3: Bend each pair of poles together to form an arch to the required height and tie at the end of each pole with string. Our tunnel gets lower as you reach the entrance for additional protection against invading adults!

planting a live willow tunnel

Step 4: To increase horizontal stability we have secured a pole(s) along the length of the tunnel at the apex of curves.

planting a live willow tunnel

Step 5: To bulk out growth on the side of the tunnel we have woven two rods from the base of each hoop up the length of the structure towards the end which will connect with the dome. Keep you longest weaving rods for the end of the tunnel that is to join with the dome. Half way along the tunnel the  weaving will start to extend beyond the end of the tunnel and you should stop weaving until the dome is constructed. These ends will form the join between the two structures. You can use your weaving skills to create your own design on the walls of the tunnel and dome. Our kit contains enough weaving material for you to experiment. 

planting a live willow tunnel

Step1: Mark out a circle using a stick and string to the diameter you require. The diameter should be about 2/3 the length of your longest rods. Ours is 1.5m wide to create a dome height of about 1.7m. Dig a trench about a spades depth and width and mix the soil with compost and refill.  Leave the doorway between the two end posts of your tunnel uncut. 

planting a live willow dome

Step 2: The main frame should consist of an even number of your longest poles.  For our dome we have used 8 pairs of 2.5m rods planted at 25cm spacing. Create a hole for them with a bar in the trench insert the rods vertically. Place pairs of poles on opposite sides of the dome.  The larger the dome the more pairs of poles you will require.   

planting a live willow dome

Step 3: Bend a pair of opposing rods over into an arch to the required height and twist around each other to form a hoop across the centre of the dome. Tie each end with string. Repeat this for all the pairs except the one next to the tunnel which is to for the doorway.

planting a live willow dome

Step 4: Collect all the hoops together at the apex of the dome and tie them together. The two remaining poles that will form the doorway and connection to the tunnel should be bent over and twisted to form a hoop at a mid point between the final hoop of the tunnel and the structure of the dome.

planting a live willow dome

Step 5: Go back to the tunnel and continue weaving the sides and run the weave through the rods of the dome for their length to create the join between the structures. 

planting a live willow dome

Step 6: Continue your weaving pattern around the sides of the dome. We chose a diagonal cross weave pattern around our igloo. This involves planting 2 rods either side of each supporting pole ( 4 rods per pole) and weaving away at about a 45 degree angle in and out of alternate support poles and inside and out of other cross weave rods. This has created a very solid structure and good coverage.

planting a live willow dome

Step 7: Walk round the igloo adjusting the cross weaving to ensure it creates coverage across the whole structure. We had to do some adjustment to angles around the roof at the join between tunnel and dome.

planting a live willow dome
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