I'm possibly going to install a living willow fence in my front yard. In researching this two things have struck me. 1, why are there not more of these fences? I cannot recall ever seeing one in person. 2, what other possibilites present themselves in willow structure sculpture? I could not find a single real structure designed to serve a purpose beyond kid forts. Could you, for example, build a living stable to keep animals? How about a barn or a shed? I cannot imagine a greener building than one that is alive.
Time is usually the factor for why people do & do not do things.
Willows though are very greedy for water. Making a living wall out of willow where pipes go into the building to water animals would be a huge problem. Willows love water, they are greedy for it. They will break through pipes constantly over years. Something to think about when designing a structure.
If hawthorn grows in your area, it would do well.
It makes 1 inch thorns and excellent though small berries, which happen to be a herbal remedy good for the heart.
That said, my ex has made a living fence for part of his place. He just used the young trees of various kinds that had naturally grown up between the garden and the road, and bent them and wove them together. He started that probably fifteen years ago, and now I don't think it would be possible to separate the trees. Don't know how animal-proof it is, as I haven't seen it since I left New Hampshire. It would be difficult to make anything goat-proof unless you used something they won't eat (osage orange?), and chickens can go through small holes or fly up into the branches, but it shouldn't be too difficult to fence sheep, cattle, or horses that way.
If you want a picture, PM cedarlili (she's my DD and is living with her dad).
Willow, especially woven looks great and is (if youre in the right climate) really fast growing - trouble is its so fast growing you yield masses of willow each autumn that you have to cut back - basically only use them if you have goats to eat all the browse. !!
The best is - what I thought most people did anyway - a "fedge" thats a cross between a fence and a hedge. Start with the minimum short term fencing your requirements call for and plant a mixed native hedge along it. Climbers and scramblers cover the fence in the first season and the long term structural plants take over as the fence rots away over an approx 5 year period.
Best thing I ever did was learn traditional hedge laying - if you see a course definitely take it stock proof / vandal proof hedging is easy ..................... it just takes a few years
An idea is to make a "shell" of intertwined willows around a building. These would be planted 4- 8 inches (1- 2dm) away from the wall and would then create a buffer of air and temperature between the building wall and the living willow. This has already been made with ivy. As it is evergreen, it still works in winter, which is a major + if you are on northern latitudes.
Other ideas include trellises for other plants. Let it grow the way you want it then either ring-bark the willow to kill it, or keep it alive with other things growing on it.
Just my 2 cents or whatever the expression is
Very interesting idea.
Just make sure you factor in the increased or trapped humidity that will be in that air envelope.
One reason people can have early degradation of siding and window sills is from plants close against a house.
As long as you factor that in you might have something interesting.
Also remember that repairs to the building will be very difficult.
When it comes to repairs- yes repairs would be more difficult, but then again damages might not be as common since you essentially have a regenerating, living "hull" around the building. So if there's ever a storm, the plants take the beating, and not the house. And then it regrows.
The version that seems to be most popular is a stainless wire trellis arranged as a netting on the walls on which the plants grow, that keeps the roots away from the actual wall which would otherwise cause damage. I know that some people go the extra mile and cover their walls with hard plastic or aluminium sheets- this is mostly when using other plants than ivy, that may have more aggressive root development.
Sorry this is borderline OT, but I think you could do the same thing with willow. And there's the added benefit that willow grows extremely fast.
Check out their site. Sorry, it's in swedish, but I'd gladly translate if it's not too off topic.
I am totally with you on the idea. I have always loved the look of ivy covered buildings.
You just need to do it properly.
I am planning to start installing trellises on our house this summer. The purpose being to add shade to the house. the thing is that I will be running the trellis about 24" away from the walls, from the eave straight down to the ground or possibly angled from the eave out a bit. I want a good amount of constant air flow behind the vegetation to encourage evaporation. Initially it will do nothing for the winter, but that doesn't really matter, summer shade is more important.
In our old house I had Hops growing in a couple of spots and it found every little hole or nook in the siding it could. Big problem if it wasn't for the fact that it was vegetative and not woody.
There are tons of living building in the world. Willow, Hemp, Hawthorne, and many other species can be used in a technique called 'pleaching' I believe, sometimes called 'espalie' (french sp?). You tie two living pieces together and the wind causes them to rub on each other, eventually wearing away the bark in that spot so the tree must heal itself only by welding the two pieces together with new cells. It's really ingenious stuff.
I've made several sculptures out of trees I've woven in the woods. But they require attention and maintenance and take years and years before they mature into nice sculptures.
I've gotta read up on these cool things
I already had dozens of ideas in mind, but now, I am thinking of a lifetime's worth of projects. With time and patience, many projects can be accomplished with a budget near zero.
I would definitely love a course in hedge laying
So..the other thing about green ash is that (at least mine) are terrifically easy to propagate..I have some plants in pots and every one of them ends up with several sprouted green ash seedlings. I have been wondering how to use them, since I can't dig holes to transplant things and now have a plan!
Next year I am going to spread a strip of dirt along the fenceline and sprinkle the seeds along it. I am hoping enough sprout that I'll have to pull out some for reasonable spacing but the tree gives off thousands so that's not a problem. The soil over there is very sandy though and here it is clay, so may need to water them from time to time until they get themselves set. In potted plants I have found roots 6 inches long in a couple of month old seedling showing just over an inch above ground. The roots have all grown straight down like a tap root, with short fine feeder roots. The tree that was barely over a foot tall at my front door 4 years ago is now 8 feet tall and wide, so it should be easy to coppice them at an earlier stage to make a thick and healthy living hedge.
Just wish I had thought of it 4 years ago! (btw..the seeds that don't sprout seem to just disappear as do the leaves after they fall..the above description makes them sound like very messy trees and aside from maybe a week or so in spring and fall, not so at all.)
Not sure if they have any other special qualities aside from just being a pretty tree.