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Living willow

 
Posts: 36
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A friend of mine tried this and, ever since, I've been fascinated by the idea. He planted willows or tamarack (I forget which) in a circle, with a space where he wanted the door. The idea is to tie them together at the top when they grow long enough.

Has anyone tried this? Has anyone successfully done this? I view it as more of a place to meditate or live in in the summer rather than to live in year round, and I'm very interested in hearing from anyone who has had experience with these.

I'm thinking of something like this (see photo below), only the roof is brought to a point in the center, and I'd like the living willows to be so close together they grow into each other.




Source for photo


Any thoughts welcome.
 
pollinator
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Hi, we've had such a structure, just like the one in your photo. It's not at all hard to make.

Two things to be aware of:

- willow roots easily and grows vigorously, so you'll need to prune - tie - shape your dome often
- ants love willow but tend to lose their footing ... they will dive-bomb you as you relax in what you intended to be your oasis of tranquility :)

 
T Bate
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Crt Jakhel wrote:Hi, we've had such a structure, just like the one in your photo. It's not at all hard to make.

Two things to be aware of:

- willow roots easily and grows vigorously, so you'll need to prune - tie - shape your dome often
- ants love willow but tend to lose their footing ... they will dive-bomb you as you relax in what you intended to be your oasis of tranquility :)



Thanks. So, essentially, all I need to think about is prune often and keep an eye out for falling ants.
 
Crt Jakhel
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Well, that and place it in a generally willow-friendly area - for most willows this means sufficient moisture and some shade usually helps with that but it's not a make-or-break thing.

If you have the opportunity, observe carefully what kind of willow you're taking your rooting branches from as some varieties can grow 30 ft and more. Ours were the kind locally used for baskets that don't naturally become so tall. On the other hand our European pussy willow (salix caprea) doesn't grow in the same kind of shape that most willows do. So if at all possible, don't just pick branches from any old willow to avoid surprises.

Then once you've got it all figured, cut 6-10 foot branches (depends how tall you need your structure to be), stick them a foot or so in the ground, tie them at the top and keep the area extra wet until you definitely see good growth. Then you can keep weaving the young side branches to create a nice living wall of your dome.

Once your willows are growing, things should develop as they do with raspberries...

- year 1: oh, I hope I planted enough of them
- year 2: yeah it'll be enough I guess
- year 3: hey anyone want surplus raspberries? please??




 
Crt Jakhel
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You might also be interested in living furniture: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/forest-furniture-england-midlands-tree-shaping-chairs-tables
 
T Bate
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Thanks for the advice, Crt Jakhel. Very much appreciated.

I have explored living furniture a bit. I find it fascinating, and it is definitely on my "to do" list.
 
pollinator
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I want one of these living willow igloos (or upturned coracle?) too, but it's seeming a lot less relaxing in that future structure in my mind's eye now, under the rain of ants...

Once my basket willows get a little bigger I have several live willow-weaving projects in mind. Woven willow archway and braided willow 'trees' in pots, for starters.

Archway may be more practical than igloo, as one may be less inclined to linger in an archway and therefore be less targetted by the ant jumpers.
 
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Falling ants are not a universal feature of willows. We have mainly willows as our shade trees here, and I haven't had any ants drop off them. ... Perhaps an ant infested tree is a sign that there are aphids or scale insects on the tree, and the ants are tending them?
 
Crt Jakhel
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For sure it would make sense that the ants are after various insects' sweet excretions as they munch on the willow. However in our case I wasn't able to notice any, so I allowed for the possibility that the ants could be attracted to the willow itself. I was open to that possibility because of willow being chemically interesting on account of salicin.

So what makes sense is for the OP to not only check exactly what kind of willows to use but also whether locally there are circumstances that make ants run around in willows.
 
T Bate
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Andrea Locke wrote:Once my basket willows get a little bigger I have several live willow-weaving projects in mind. Woven willow archway and braided willow 'trees' in pots, for starters.



That sounds lovely. Neither of those have ever occurred to me. I have always thought it would be awesome to have an entrance to a garden have an arch. I like the idea of a willow arch.
 
T Bate
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Crt Jakhel wrote:So what makes sense is for the OP to not only check exactly what kind of willows to use but also whether locally there are circumstances that make ants run around in willows.



Excellent idea.
 
Crt Jakhel
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A willow arch(-way) is also easy to make. But .... you may want to consider constructing it with climbing roses. If you do, explore the ones that can do with a low- or no-spray approach and flower throughout the season. Scent is a bonus of course. (Kordes Laguna is one such rose for example - just to give you a starting point. I consider helpmefind.com a very good source on rose cultivars.)

If your area is super wet, I guess it's more appropriate to stick with the willow in the sense of avoding a "why I am rolling this boulder up this hill" flash of realization after a number of years.
 
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Inspired by "The Willow Bank" at Ragmans Lane Farm in the UK I planted two circles of Salix Viminalis to make a dome which I'm told is a shrub not a tree so will not get huge.
They use a stretchy tie cord at junctions to get the crossed branches to fuse in time.
We used a non stretchy garden twine because the stretchy stuff is pricey and we already had some twine.
We had already planted about 1800 of those willows to coppice for firewood so had spare cuttings.
Mulch mat was used because close planting makes suppression of grass and weeds tricky without hitting your willows.
It is quite windy here. I planted some really long cuttings to form the dome on day one, hoping to get the rest to be trained into the same shape.
The shorter ones almost all took, but the big ones, a foot into the ground like the rest, struggled.
A steel pin was pushed/whacked in first to make a hole for the cutting, then firmed all round once in.
Where the long ones were tied high up quite a few just snapped.
The rest and longer survivors now need quite a bit of work to train, trim and tie them again with stretchy twine to get the right shape,
I think the floor inside is about 4m/12' diameter, with cuttings spaced about a foot. Planted straight up or diagonally depending on the required structure.
 
jason holdstock
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Apologies for lack of greenery and lack of weeding of the weed mat :)
It also makes its own shade, so the southern half is growing better than the northern half.
The third pic shows two rings with two rows of saplings in each. Theres a black mat in the centre that may end up with gravel on.
Almost two seasons of growth now. You can also see the fact that on the ones that we kept bent to the desired curve all new growth just goes up.
This winter if I don't reshape it and tie it properly it'll maybe be too solid, then cutting and fresh growth to bend might be needed?
The size of the circle I wanted meant nothing really would meet for a while, so not pretty and formed yet :)
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I love the idea and find it quite beautiful, but I would be very concerned in this climate with mosquitoes.  Weeping willows here seem to be one of the preferred homes of mosquitoes, and millions of them gather under the branches.  I would think that closing the top would create the same kind of warm, humid environment that mosquitoes thrive in.
 
T Bate
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Thank you for your detailed description. That's the kind of thing I was hoping to find here.

jason holdstock wrote:Inspired by "The Willow Bank" at Ragmans Lane Farm in the UK I planted two circles of Salix Viminalis to make a dome which I'm told is a shrub not a tree so will not get huge.
They use a stretchy tie cord at junctions to get the crossed branches to fuse in time.
We used a non stretchy garden twine because the stretchy stuff is pricey and we already had some twine.
We had already planted about 1800 of those willows to coppice for firewood so had spare cuttings.
Mulch mat was used because close planting makes suppression of grass and weeds tricky without hitting your willows.
It is quite windy here. I planted some really long cuttings to form the dome on day one, hoping to get the rest to be trained into the same shape.
The shorter ones almost all took, but the big ones, a foot into the ground like the rest, struggled.
A steel pin was pushed/whacked in first to make a hole for the cutting, then firmed all round once in.
Where the long ones were tied high up quite a few just snapped.
The rest and longer survivors now need quite a bit of work to train, trim and tie them again with stretchy twine to get the right shape,
I think the floor inside is about 4m/12' diameter, with cuttings spaced about a foot. Planted straight up or diagonally depending on the required structure.

 
T Bate
Posts: 36
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Crt Jakhel wrote:A willow arch(-way) is also easy to make. But .... you may want to consider constructing it with climbing roses. If you do, explore the ones that can do with a low- or no-spray approach and flower throughout the season. Scent is a bonus of course. (Kordes Laguna is one such rose for example - just to give you a starting point. I consider helpmefind.com a very good source on rose cultivars.)

If your area is super wet, I guess it's more appropriate to stick with the willow in the sense of avoding a "why I am rolling this boulder up this hill" flash of realization after a number of years.



That's a really good idea. I hadn't thought of climbing roses.

Right now, I'm in a dry part of Wyoming (maybe all of it is dry?).


Trace Oswald wrote:I love the idea and find it quite beautiful, but I would be very concerned in this climate with mosquitoes.  Weeping willows here seem to be one of the preferred homes of mosquitoes, and millions of them gather under the branches.  I would think that closing the top would create the same kind of warm, humid environment that mosquitoes thrive in.


I can see how that might be a problem in a wet climate - or anywhere there is standing water.
 
T Bate
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I really appreciate all the replies (and future ones, really). It's great to have a place where I can get information from those who have had experience with what I am interested in doing.
 
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