No Wind in the Willows

Every March Mr P reminds me that there is a large heap of willow whips that he has harvested from our coppiced willows the previous November. These tend to be laid in a fallow part of the garden, waiting for the leaves to fall and for me to craft them into something useable. In most cases this is a large stack of plant supports which are then installed, over the top of any herbaceous plants likely to need support and protection from the wind. As the season progresses the plants grow through the supports until they almost disappear. These willow supports seem to have several benefits over the usual metal or plastic versions as they can be custom sized and and are infinitely more attractive in a country garden. However, until everything has reached it’s seasonal lushness, there does appear to be a swarm of willow UFO’s hovering above the borders.

This year, willow support making has coincided with lockdown and at a time when the world has been in such an unprecedented situation, I have found it strangely calming and therapeutic to sit, in sunshine, at the potting bench and make a pile of plant supports. 

They are simple to make and very rustic. I don’t use any fixings other than the willow itself which is just twisted around and the ends tucked in. I start with three lengths which are usually between 80cm and 1m and twist them into a circle, using the longest piece to secure it. I then keep on wrapping further pieces around, twisting and tucking in until the circle has some rigidity. Once the circle is formed, I use four or six, less flexible pieces to push through as the horizontals, securing them in the edge of the circle. Once these are in, they give further rigidity to the structure. Mr P then ties them into place on four vertical pieces of willow pushed into the ground around the plant.  By this time next year, I will try to remember to do a video tutorial. Hopefully the photo’s below give some idea. The first is just one of the willows with early summer growth. Later in the year these are cut back to their winter height of two feet tall, storing the whips for spring. The second shows a newly installed support and the third is a delphinium which has grown through and all but covered it.

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