Willow is perfectly suited to our wet climate here in the West of Ireland. We are growing many different varieties ready to coppice for basket making, living fences and plant supports. You can read about all our projects in the willow category.
In the winter of 2014/2015 we decided to plant a living willow dome. The willow we used is a fast growing variety with green stems. We got it when we helped the local preschool cut back their willow structure. We planted the off cut rods beside our stream for a few months and ended up with lots of rooted cuttings ready for planting.
Here you can see the first rods planted in a big circle with a few in the middle as well. We picked the longest ones to tie together and create arches from the centre to the outer circle. In between them we planted a lot of shorter rods in a criss-cross pattern to create the lower section of the wall. It is good to add a bit of manure or nice compost to the planting holes and mulch with anything available, cardboard works well. The mulch works as a weed suppressant as well as creating a moist environment for the new plants.
Here you can see the dome in the background in the first summer, when it was settling in and putting down strong roots.
We have now entered the second summer and our dome has put on lots of new lush growth. We added a few ropes around the walls in spring to keep the saplings in place and today it was time to tie and weave in some more branches to create relatively even walls. We use thin jute twine that we twist with our drill and fold in half and twist again. This creates a good strong rope that works for about a year before disintegrating. By that time the branches will stay in position.
We created a small window today, by weaving the branches into a circle. You can play around and add lots of windows or doors to your structure. There is no need to be too neat or precise when you work on your structure as a few imperfections add to the overall feel of your dome. On each side of the doorway we have planted a twisted willow that will grow into an arch. We will later connect this arch to the main structure.
Inside the dome is a lovely green and restful space with sunlight shining through. We are planning to add a table made from an old cable drum with a mosaic top and some rustic chairs. It is very simple to make a willow dome and if you have a moist or boggy spot in your garden you will not regret giving it a go. It fills in surprisingly fast and we have only spent a few hours in total on ours. If you get some willow off cuts it costs nothing to make but adds so much to your outdoor space.