Weaving Willow Magic.

Firstly we must ask our regular readers to forgive us for only writing one post so far in August. Our family is going through big changes with two of our daughters spreading their wings and starting College in September. It has been a month of waiting for exam results, waiting for offers from the Colleges, happiness when both girls got into the courses that they wanted and time spent organizing their accommodation. Our other daughter is starting her Adult Services and she is looking forward to devoting more time to her interest in photography. We are glad to be getting stuck back into the garden work now after a couple of weeks organizing for the future.

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What we would like to discuss here today is our living willow dome. We planted it quite early on in the development of our patch of land and in less than five years it has grown into a living, sturdy, beautiful and very useful feature in our garden.

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We started in the winter of 1914/1915 with only a few sticks of rooted willow pushed into the ground, some at an angle to allow for side shoots to develop. We wrote about the construction and the early days of the project back in 2016 and you can find that post here.

The winter storms had caused the dome to be quite blown apart in April and we started this years’ maintenance work by cutting off a lot of long shoots on the top of the structure and giving them away to a couple who wanted to build a living willow fence as a windbreak along their field.

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In June work continued and in the middle of the dome we pulled the four uprights closer together to keep the space inside the same as before. Over the years we have come to realize that having these central uprights are crucial to creating a dome that is big enough to use by a group of people. If you only plant a circle of willow and tie the tops together, you will end up with a small children’s play house at best.

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We pulled in and tied together the braches that had been separated by the storms. We made the roof stronger by weaving in some of the upright shoots and twisting them around each other. We took our time over this step, and because the trees are strong and have large branches by now, hopefully we will not suffer any storm damage in the future and the branches will stay in position.

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The round woven window frames needed replacing and we also wove in a lot of the side shoots to further strengthen the walls. The shoots that were left after that we simply cut off and it is our hope that next year the structure will be mature enough so that a hedge trimmer can be used to cut the new long shoots without too much weaving in and repair work.

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We have had many merry gatherings in our dome and it can easily accommodate 15 people sitting on chairs in a circle. Whenever we open the garden to the public or have visitors, the willow dome is much admired and we believe we have set more than a few individuals off on the path of constructing their own wild, lush and marvellous outdoor room.

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Oh, and we almost forgot to mention that the local bird population love spending time in the green canopy where they can rest, sleep and snack on berries from all the nearby shrubs, safe in the knowledge that they are hidden away from any potential predators.

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5 thoughts on “Weaving Willow Magic.

  • How wonderful to have such a living structure in your garden that can be enjoyed by all who share it, I love the fact that it is so big! My only experience of a willow dome was a small one in the grounds of a school where I taught, a lovely idea to celebrate the new millennium but as is the way, a lack of time and resources meant it was never properly cared for – and, as you’ve proved, some time and effort are needed. Good luck to your beautiful daughters, what an exciting time for your family. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know of several willow structures like the one you describe that have been planted with good intentions but after that a lack of time and resources has left them to grow too big and messy. We rescued one at the local preschool after a few years of neglect but it is so much easier if it gets a little bit of maintenance each year. I hope that our post will be of some help to people who are looking to maintain a living willow structure. We love our dome and for the work involved you get so much enjoyment back. Thanks for your good wishes! It is busy and exciting times. 😃

      Liked by 1 person

  • Figs work nicely for fences and walls, but will need to be pruned down. I put mine where I wanted the wall. If I wanted a roof, I would not have put the trunks in the middle, but would have put them around the perimeter instead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thats a very interesting concept. Figs are a bit to unpredictable here as you would need to protect them from frost in cold winters. I think they are great where you are for walls and would probably make lovely roofs as well. Imagine a fig dome! 😃We have one in a big pot but it needs to be sheltered every winter.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, I did not think of that.
        Ornamental species of Ficus that do so well in Southern California are not as aggressive as fruiting figs, but can have rad roots (where they can be allowed to grow without damaging anything). We used to stop at the historic Moreton Bay Fig in Santa Barbara on the way south, but it is not so easy to pull off the highway there now that it is a freeway.

        Liked by 1 person

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