Monday, 9 April 2012

The making of a Willow Fedge

After wanting to do this for years, finally I had an opportunity to create a willow fedge.  The first time Management sat on the bench near the top pond he asked if we needed a windbreak, he knew I wanted to make a willow structure and I didn't need asking twice.  As is always the way with Bag End, the decision was made rather late, willow rods should be planted when completely dormant, not mid-April after a warm sunny spell when the sap was rising and buds breaking.  Not ideal but hopefully it will do what willow does - root easily and grow fast.



It took the best part of two days to turn the large pile into lots of smaller piles.  Not unpleasant, not difficult, but time consuming.  Management had the idea of storing the cut willow in water until I used it - certainly kept it all tidily in one place.





A bit of ground preparation to remove perennial weeds and make it slightly easier to hammer in an iron bar, wriggle it around and make planting holes.



I laid long rods out for use as uprights thinking I might be able to bind the tops together in threes when the fedge was finished.  First (of many) times finding out that this project would have been a whole lot easier with the right material*.  No way these rods were going to bend at the top so I might as well use the set that were even thicker.



A bit of rain, much cold and a dose of irritable frustration means there are no in progress pictures of the large uprights going in or Management helping to tie the binders in place.  All of a sudden, however, it starts to look slightly fence-like and quite exciting.  The process of weaving the binders across the top was difficult* but wonderful.  When the rods did co-operate and flex easily it was a lovely feeling to go 'behind, in front, behind, in front' and feel the structure begin to knit together and gain some solidity. 



The willow that was flexible enough to be used as weavers wasn't long enough* to reach where we want the binder to be so the structure developed a second (lower) binder of living willow.  Over time I can link new growth to the top binder (which isn't living) and I think the fedge is better for the change in design. 



A very healthy dose of compost bin contents to suppress weeds and TA DA!   It looks pretty good in pictures, in real life it looks absolutely gorgeous.  I am in love both with fedges and with the process of making them.



There is a little more to do, the top binder needs its permanent tubular ties which will look a lot better than bright green temporary twine, and the ties connecting the weavers to the uprights need their ends trimming. When LP gets back from  holiday I will borrow his large loppers and trim all the uprights to the same height.  After that it's down to Mother Nature.




* insert: because the long rods were too thick to bend easily and the flexible whippy ones were too short.



Over the last couple of years I have seen willow fedges I admired coveted at RHS Harlow Carr and at Garden Organic, Ryton.  All had been created by Steve Pickup and I found his DVD a perfect introduction into the techniques.  Highly recommended:



(if you're looking at this in Google Reader, the link to the DVD isn't displayed)

I deliberately haven't described every step of the process here, if you fancy making one yourself, buy the DVD :}


25 comments:

  1. Well done - it's fun isn't it. I too decided on the 'make it low and extend it in future' strategy - knowing how quickly willow grows. I do think you are a big cheat using twine to tie it off though, what's wrong with using willow?? ;-)

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    1. Sure thing CB, just like you did on yours??

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    2. Yep - although mine is way shorter, smaller and less complicated than yours!

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  2. Oooh, am very, very jealous!
    I'm very impressed too. It looks gorgeous.

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    1. Hi Scarlett, shame you can't plant one on the edge of your allotment - do you think 'certain neighbours' would have a conniption fit about the roots of willow?

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    2. Funny - I thought about exactly that when I read your post. it would be great at the plot but for sure those neighbours would cause so much (more) trouble. They had 'concerns' about a two foot high plum bush!! It's all just nonsense and s**t stirring!

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  3. What a beautiful creation!!! I'll be excited to see how it takes and grows through the summer.

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    1. Fingers crossed FFG, am now looking around to see where I can make another one!

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  4. Oh wow, that's gorgeous, can't wait to see it leaf up!

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    1. Thanks SewAli, there is always a danger it will 'leaf up' a little too enthusiastically, willows can be triffids at times :}

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  5. I love it! It looks fabulous and right now I am looking round my garden to see where I can put one! Think it might be too dry here though. I used to go to basket making and we always had to soak the willow to make it bendy, is that the same! Making something that is going to grow is fascinating and I am looking forward to seeing it in leaf too.

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    1. Jill, I "think" you only soak dead willow. The live stuff can be made more flexible by rubbing it gently - you need to watch the video! Hope you can find somewhere for a fedge. We've had to be very careful to avoid underground water pipes, of which there are far too many on this plot.

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  6. The design is beautiful - so what is next a willow cave/arbour?

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    1. Sue, we've planned locations for another fedge and an arbour but it will be a while before the ground is ready for me to create either of them (and by waiting until winter 2012/13 I will be able to get a fresh supply of dormant rods).

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  7. Lovely lovely job on that fedge design, like making the sides of a very large (and ornate) Easter basket. You made most of it yourself? If you can still move your arms, reach back and pat yourself on the back! I had a friend who once bought a willow chair and put it in her garden. Darned if the thing didn't sprout! LOL While I have 3 Nishiki willows, I've never gotten a single cutting to root. *sniffle*

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    1. Apart from Management holding the binders steady whilst I tied them, yes, 'fraid I did all of it :} Hope you have better luck if you try willow cuttings again.

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  9. That's quite an achievement - well done! (although we all have come to expect no less - determined Hobbit being a Thing To Behold!)

    Love the wheelybins full of willow whips - and the first pic of budding willow just gorgeous!

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  10. It is beautiful! Just what I was thinking!!

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    1. Thank you Eve, hopefully later in the year I can take photos of new willow growth (she says quietly, fingers crossed ....)

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  11. Wow! Looking good! I have to confess I quite like your wheelie bin sprouting willow too ;)
    Trouble is, having seen your windbreak... I want one! :)

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    1. Mo, thanks for your comment. Getting a bit late in the season but I'm sure you could find a place (or two) on your smallholding that needs a living hedge :}

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  12. By 'eck Bilbo, you have been busy whilst I've been swanning around France!
    I'm actually quite envious too - I made a fedge about 3 years ago to hide the compost bins, but I went by the bung-it method of shoving them in the ground in 2 lines with each line of whips set at angles to the other. It worked, but it's nowhere near as pretty as yours!!!

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    1. Morning Mrs Gnome, welcome back from far-flung places:} I am sure your fedge is just as good as mine - you could always tie some of this year's growth in as a binder if you wanted to.

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