Pussy willows are a popular and attractive decor element that can add to the atmosphere of any occasion! Whether you are after an interesting visual effect to celebrate Easter, the holiday season, or a wedding event, the addition of fresh or dried willow branches is sure to make for a dramatic centerpiece!
The secret to creating wonderful art out of willow branches lies in proper storage and preservation. So, if you want to learn how to preserve willow branches this spring for your own decor, this guide is for you!
Common uses of willow branches
The sky is the limit when it comes to the varied uses for willow trees. In their natural habitat, these trees provide shelter and food for native wildlife. In the garden, they can serve as a living fence or barrier to divide different areas. Even willow bark can be useful to humans since it contains salicin, an active ingredient used in aspirin that naturally relieves pain and inflammation.
Willow branches, on the other hand, are most popular as decorative items. The unique and attractive patterns they make can turn a boring space into something extraordinary. Most often you will find willow branches sold in florist shops or craft stores, such as this FeiLix brand from Amazon. That is because they are so widely used in arts and craft projects, whether they are fresh, dried, or even artificial.
For festive events like weddings or Christmas holidays, you can use the dried branches as garlands or beautiful centerpieces for your dining table. Dried willow branches give your room a natural and elegant look that will impress friends and visitors. You can even use the dried, curled branches as picture frames, or to accent your floral arrangements!
If you like the idea of a unique, three-dimensional centerpiece in your living room, you can use dried willow branches for that, too! Since they usually come in different sizes and shapes, you can arrange the branches to create spirals or patterns – just let your creativity run wild!
If you are into crafts, willow branches can be used for your weaving or basketry projects. You can also weave the dried branches into mats and vases. The thicker branches can be reserved for structural or sculptural projects, too. Whatever type of art interests you, willow branches can always be included in the recipe – it just comes down to your own imagination.
Thankfully, you do not need to spend money on willow branches if you know how to preserve them. You can harvest them quite easily, since they are available in so many places, such as on a nearby riverbank or roadside. There are several ways to preserve these branches to make them last longer, depending on how you plan to use them. All of these methods are discussed more in the next sections.
How to preserve willow branches for decorations
Willow branches are an attractive and versatile material to use for crafts and decorative projects, and they are also super easy to work with. Cut willow branches can last for weeks, as long as they are kept dry. If they are kept in water, the branches might start to grow roots or develop mold. The latter may also happen if the branches are stored in damp areas.
These steps should give you some ideas on how to make willow branches last longer as decor inside your home:
1. Gather your tools
First, make sure you have all the tools you need before going out to find willow branches to use for your projects. Always have a sharp knife or pair of scissors ready to cut the branches according to your preferred size and shape. Also, prepare some wood glue and string or thick twine, so you can easily tie the branches.
2. Harvest good quality willow branches
As mentioned before, willow trees can be found everywhere, although you are most likely to find them in wetter areas. Using your sharp knife or scissors, gently cut the branches to your desired length. Try to make sure they are all about the same size so you can dry them evenly later on.
3. Soak your willow branches in water
Willow branches can easily become dry and brittle after they are harvested. To keep them in tip-top shape, they should be soaked in water for 24 hours per foot. So, for example, if your willow branches are four feet long, then you need to soak them for about four days. This will ensure that the branches have absorbed enough water before you use them for your crafts.
Another great tip is to avoid exposing your soaked willows to direct sunlight. Cover your container until your branches are ready. If you are living in an area with hot and humid weather, you might need to change the willow water occasionally to prevent the branches from rotting and developing a stinky smell.
4. Drain and dry the willow branches
After giving your foraged willows a good soak, remove them from the water and rinse them carefully. Let them stand in an upright position to allow the excess water to drip off. Now that the bark has absorbed enough moisture, it will be easier to shape the branches according to your preferences.
Let your willow branches dry outside on a sunny day. It should take about two weeks to air-dry the branches before they are ready to use.
5. Apply a waterproof sealant
Once your willow branches are dry, spray them with a waterproof sealant or polyurethane varnish. By doing this, you can preserve the branches and keep insects from getting in. Waterproof sealants will also increase the strength of the branches, prevent cracks, and mitigate other waterborne damages.
Let the sprayed willow branches dry completely for a day before using them in your projects. If you have any leftovers, you can store them in bundles by tying them with string or twine. Hang them in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area. You can re-soak the stored branches if you plan to use them in the future – just avoid doing it frequently. Also, keep an eye on them to prevent molds and insects from settling in.
How to preserve willow branches for floral arrangements
Looking for beautiful, DIY elements for your special occasion? Then you can use willow branches to add a natural touch to your flower arrangements!
Preserving willow branches for floral arrangements is almost the same as preparing them for decorations. Here are some tips to ensure your willow branches are in the best shape before using them to this end:
- For the best quality branches, it is best to cut your willow in early spring or late winter. This will prevent any milky sap from running out from the tree.
- Make sure the branches are free of any leaves. Use a sharp knife to remove the leaves and bark.
- Soak the willow branches in water for at least 24 hours.
- Take the branches out of the water and let them dry for a few hours.
- Once they are dry, arrange them in a vase with your chosen flowers, according to your liking.
How to preserve willow branches with glycerin
Another great way to preserve willow branches is by using glycerin. Through the process of osmosis, soaking the branches in a glycerin solution will replace their moisture content. This will keep your willows looking fresh and in great shape.
Follow these steps to preserve your willow branches using glycerin solution:
- First, create your glycerin solution. The recipe requires a mixture of one part glycerin with two parts water. For example, if you are using 200 milliliters of water, you should add 100 milliliters of glycerin.
- Carefully stir the mixture using a stick. It should begin to look cloudy, but do not worry – it will clear once the solution is thoroughly mixed.
- Pour the glycerin mixture into another container and add latex paint. Mix thoroughly until the two are well combined.
- Apply the latex paint and glycerin mixture to your dried willow branches. If you have a large container, you can also submerge the branches into the mixture.
- Allow the branches to absorb the solution for about three days. You can also add food coloring to the mixture to enhance the color of the branches.
How to preserve willow branches in resin
Resin is an excellent substance to use if you want to create durable castings from your willow branches. All you need is resin, water, a silicone mold, and a bit of isopropyl alcohol for cleaning.
Before creating the casting, make sure that your willow branches are completely dry to prevent rotting. One way to do this is to use silica gel to suck the moisture from the branches.
These steps should help you achieve amazing resin art with your willow branches:
- Clean your silicone mold using alcohol. Make sure that it is completely free of dust and dirt.
- Combine one part resin with two parts water and mix thoroughly.
- Add the mixture into your silicone mold. Using a blowtorch, pop any bubbles in the resin mixture to ensure a smooth finish.
- Layer your willows into the mold according to your liking.
- Let the willows and resin dry in the mold overnight.
Creating decorative items using willow branches can be a fun thing to do with family members, especially when spring is in the air! Thankfully, you do not need to buy willows if you know how to preserve them yourself. Just make sure to clear the branches of leaves, bark, dirt, and pests before using them for your crafts. When done correctly, your natural willow decor items are sure to be a head-turner when visitors arrive!
Image: istockphoto.com / AndreimLazar