For the love of willow.

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We have written about willow before. It is truly an incredible inhabitant of the land. We have friends with a river on their land and they have a lot of willow planted along the river banks. They were kind enough to let us coppice some of it for our new willow fence and plant supports. We also coppiced our dogwoods growing close to our cottage and ended up with a selection of beautiful young stems for weaving.

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Fun with rhubarb and willow.

rhubarb casts

In the last week we have been hard at work on our extension but we have managed to fit in a couple of gardening projects as well.

Our  living willow fence by the pond is just over a year old now and had grown a lot of strong upright shoots that needed weaving in. It only took one of us about an hour to do this and we are very happy with the result. Every year it will grow thicker and stronger but it is already strong enough for the cat to walk along!

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fence and cat

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fence with cat

We saw some rhubarb leaf casts at a friend’s place in Sweden recently and wanted to try making our own and use them as bird baths. We used eco-cement, water and sand for our mix and added a little water-proofer to make water tight birdbaths.

rhubarb casts

We placed the leaves top side down on our sand pile and built up the sand underneath to get a good rounded shape. We put the mortar on about 4 cm thick all across the leaf and added a little more on the biggest leaf veins to make them stronger. You might want to add some chicken wire as reinforcement but we did not have any handy and it worked out very well anyway.

rhubarb casts leaves

rhubarb casts

rhubarb casts

We watered them every day for three days and kept them under a plastic sheet to prevent them drying out too quickly and tonight it was finally time to turn them over and pull the leaves off. Some of the veins stuck a bit as the mortar has set around them but in a few days they will rot away and reveal the whole beautiful veined cast. Cement is not a very eco-friendly material but if you consider the small amount needed for this project and the beautiful and practical results it is not too bad. We made three casts that we will place in different parts of the garden for the birds and insects to enjoy.

rhubarb casts

rhubarb casts

Natural plant supports.

Fence for Artichokes

It is that time of year again when a lot of Willows and Dogwoods need pruning. As we like to use as many natural and local materials as possible, we decided to use the prunings to make plant-supports. Our Artichokes and Cardoons grew very big last year and some of them blew over on a windy day. So a low, strong fence to go around the bed was on our wish list.  As we wanted it to last for more than one year, we used Bamboo canes as the uprights. Last year we made a few supports and used willow for the uprights, but even turned upside down, they rooted and had to be moved in the autumn. We put the uprights in quite close, about 20 centimeters apart. You need an uneven number of uprights. We then wove long straight Willow rods round and round for about 8 centimeters, left a space and wove another section higher up.

Willow fence

Fence.

To finish off the top and make it extra strong, we used a slightly different technique, using two rods at a time and twisting them together as many times as possible between each upright. The Dogwood has very pretty colours so we used them as both a decorative and practical edge.

 Fence detail

For our perennial flower borders we decided to use some bushier prunings of Dogwood as natural plant-supports. If they root, we will end up with a lot of new plants in the autumn, ready to give away to friends or plant elsewhere in the garden. If they don’t root they will still have served us well as supports and can go on the compost heap at the end of the season.

planting and willow

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We also planted some evergreen spring flowering Clematis recently, that we picked up in a sale. As clematis love sun but like to have their roots in shade we made a small basket like willow structure to go around the base of each one.

Clematis support.

 One of our cats was adamant to be included in today’s photographs so here goes…

Tea at fence.

Whole bed and Tea.

Tea in action.