Friday, 24 February 2017

Living Willow Fedges and Archway

19th February 2017to show them how to build a fedge and an arch out of willow. In case you don't know, a fedge is a cross between a fence and a hedge, constructed from live willow poles.

A willow after harvesting.
Believe it or not all these offshoots
have only been growing for one year.
That's because all the energy from the root system
is going into growing these new shoots.
We started off with an instructional DVD before heading out to harvest the willow. Each year I cut most of my willows down to a stump and as if by magic they grow lovely straight new shoots. The more established they get, the longer and stronger the shoots.
These one year old shoots are full of growth hormones. You simply lop them off and poke them a foot in the ground. Nothing will stop them rooting... Well, that's not quite true, for they need to grow away from competition from other trees and they ideally need to be planted through a weed-suppressing fabric, at least until they get a hold.

With twelve little helpers, harvesting and trimming the willow took next to no time. I had done the groundwork with the mulch fabric and marking out and planned to split the group into three teams, two working on fedges and one team on an archway.

We had a pizza break after harvesting before heading out to start the main job. There was stiff competition for the best poles, but the archway team got first dibs as they needed the longest ones.

Building a fedge is just like a giant version of basket-making, but all very simple techniques broken down into just a few steps. I have to say though that teaching adults is much more difficult than teaching primary age children!

Firstly the uprights go into the ground, a foot or more ideally.

Next the binders - long straight sticks woven in to hold the uprights in place. These will eventually rot down and die, but by then the living willow part will have well and truly rooted and should have pressure grafted itself together.

An archway is basically two fedges joined at the top.
With the uprights in place and secured, the weavers go in, thinner whips so they don't pull the uprights out of shape. These are woven in and shaped to however you choose. We tried to follow the example in the DVD.

Finally the tops of the uprights are used to form the top of the fedge.

So that's the basics. Of course, there is room for considerable artistic impression and improvisation along the way.

We didn't quite have time to finish before people had to head back to feed their animals, but I spent the next day finishing everything off.

This fedge will act as a screen for the shed, especially in the summer

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