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How to weave a willow crown

Trinity’s Wild Crown has wowed passersby, College members and people worldwide, with significant interest on social media.

Conceived and created by Trinity’s gardeners as part of the College’s celebrations of the Coronation of King Charles III, the Wild Crown is wildlife friendly, sustainable and recyclable.

The Wild Crown unveiled prior to the Coronation. Photo: David Rose/Trinity College

But how did the Wild Crown come about?

Deputy Head Gardener Karen Wells was pondering on the College request for a floral tribute on Newton’s Lawn at Great Gate.

There are 25,000 crocus bulbs in lawn facing Trinity Street and we knew whatever we came up should be sustainable.

I had just bought ordered the hazel pea sticks we use as plant supports and suddenly thought … “Why not weave a crown.”

The four gardeners who created the Wild Crown had various crucial inputs.

Tony Harte, who has willow-weaving experience, suggested using golden willow rather than hazel; Karen, with a stint in graphic and web design, transferred the image in her head to the computer; Sarah Squires, who has a degree in fashion, made a maquette from pipe cleaners.

Pipe-cleaner model made by Sarah Squires

Then, hidden from view in the College’s plant nursery, the team practised weaving to get a feel for the flexibility of the willow rods.

Gardeners doing a practice weave

An essential piece of advice came from Guy Lambourne of Wassledine, who supplied some of the willow, the remainder coming from coppiced willow at Trinity. ‘Don’t bend the uprights until the band of the crown is woven,’ he told us, said Karen. This is important because it provides stability when you later bend the rods,’ said Karen.

Here is the gardeners’ step-by-step guide to making a Wild Crown.

  • Mark out a circle, in this case, with a two-metre diameter and divide the circumference into ten equal sections.
  • Push three upright willow rods into the ground at those ten points on the circle edge.
  • From inside the structure, start weaving a band around the edge of the circle, incorporating the uprights. Ideally, you need two weavers, two rod ‘selectors’ and two people feeding in the willow.
  • When the band is tall enough, bend two alternating uprights towards each other and tie to the third upright to create the top of the crown. Remember to step out of the structure before tying!
  • Trim and attach previously woven willow balls to the tied willow tops.
  • Decorate with wool from, in our case, Bluefaced Leicester sheep, and succulents. We used Aeonium and Echeveria because as ‘crown jewels’ they will callous over – perfect for propagation after the crown is dismantled.

Every part of the Wild Crown will be rewilded in Trinity’s gardens: the willow rods will become plant supports, the succulents will be propagated, andthe wool will be stuffed into the willow ball finials and hung from trees for birds to take as nesting material.

You can watch a time lapse of the Wild Crown’s construction and find out about its genesis and impact.


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