Monday, 29 December 2014

Fedge (or is it a wedge?)

High drama today. Late afternoon as I was watching the fieldfares, redwings and blackbirds hopping around in the flooded sheep paddocks, now frozen, suddenly they scattered in all directions. The distinctive shape of a huge female sparrowhawk cut through them, zigzagging in search of a weak one. It cut back and chased one to the ground, but flew up into the hedge without prey. Three raucous crows as ever were on hand to see off this audacious attacker. Minutes later it passed back through the garden, passing close to me about 3 foot off the ground, before it headed out over the fields and disappeared into the distance.

Anyway, as I stood ankle deep in icy water watching this event unfold, it put me in mind of one very, very cold winter's day back when I was a student. I was part of a conservation group and we were cutting back willow. Instead of just burning or piling up the wood we'd cut, we were cutting it into lengths and poking them into the ground to stabilise a river bank.

Little did I realise it at the time, but this was my first experience of taking hardwood cuttings. Willow is amazing in that every part of it seems genetically determined to throw out roots when in contact with damp ground. You literally poke it into the ground or leave it in a bucket of water and you'd do well to stop it rooting.
Other plants are more tricky and I'm gradually learning that there are many different techniques for propagating plants by cuttings, some better suited to certain plants than others. But still, I've spent a large part of the past week taking cuttings of willows, dogwoods, buddleia, privet, wild roses and more. Some I've just poked in the ground and hoped for the best, some are better protected in pots, currently in the polytunnel.

My fedge doesn't photograph well at the moment.
But just wait till summer
when it's hopefully in full leaf.
For today, I'm not going into the detail of which wood to take, where to cut, how to use rooting hormone. Instead, I'm concentrating on the cut and poke in the ground method. You can only really be this haphazard with plants such as willow which are determined to take root.

These days there is a trend for planting neatly geometric screens of purchased willow withies. The idea is that they root and grow into a living hedge/fence... a fedge.
I decided to take this idea, but to rusticise it, so my fedge (I think it would more appropriately be named a wedge, a willow fedge) is more rough and ready. It consists of stems thick and thin, long and short, straight, branched and crooked. I've created three wedges altogether, two of which will hopefully one day form a corridor. I also created a woom - that's my word for a wedge in a circle with a gap for the door. A willow room. Hopefully as it grows it will become a den for me. I intend to prune in the future to cultivate windows to overlook a pond and one to look out over the fenland landscape.

If it all works, it could be amazing. If it doesn't then it's only cost me a few hours work, which I enjoyed anyway.

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