Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Wonderful Willow

After my dip into the world of fedging, I still had quite a lot of willow left over. In fact, enough to contemplate another project.

Not the willow on the left. No that's my little post Christmas present to myself - more on this lower down on the page. But this willow underneath. It doesn't look so neat, but it's perfect for rustic, living willow structures in the garden.
This 1000 litre water butt has been adapted
so I can easily dip a watering can into it
when my carrots get thirsty later in the year.
But for now it makes for a very good place
to store my willow cuttings with their butt ends in water.

I fancy making an archway, or even a dome, or a living chair!
So I took to the world of Amazon and typed in Living Willow. In less than two days, this landed on my doorstep.

And while I was browsing, I came across this one too.

Just before Christmas I went on a willow weaving day at one of my favourite places, the Green Back Yard in Peterborough. We were just making Christmas decorations and I had a fairly frustrating experience. On my third effort I started to get the hang of it and then it was time to go.

Third time lucky!
The willow used for this type of project is not so easily grown at home. To be precise, it's pretty easy to grow most willows - you just stick a stick in the ground and wait. When you and the trees are ready, you chop them right back (to ground level is known as coppicing, to about waist or shoulder level is pollarding - to prevent livestock from grazing on the new shoots). The result is that all the tree's energies go into throwing up long, straight shoots perfect for weaving with.
The most common variety for basket-making willow is Black Maul. Once you are ready to take a harvest, you simply boil the shoots for about 9 hours and then strip the bark. Precisely how you process it and which variety of willow you use gives you different colours and qualities. Of course, it's not simple at all! For 8 foot long bundles of willow don't easily fit into my largest stock pot and I don't have a machine for stripping the bark, which could take quite a while by hand.

I decided I'd like to try some of the projects in the book I'd just purchased, as well as having another go at what I'd attempted at the Green Back Yard. So I ordered myself some willow. All the willow companies seem to be down in Somerset and I managed to find one which sold the various types and lengths of willow in 1kg bundles. Of course, I had to purchase enough to warrant paying the postage!

So next weekend (weather depending) Sue and I will hopefully be constructing a living willow chair somewhere in the garden. I just need to work out where to put it.
And there'll be a fair few evenings in front of the fire mastering the art of making willow dragonflies, birdfeeders, stars, hearts and fish.

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