Growing willow baskets in the garden
I get excited about old-time crafts very easily, especially if they require no cash outlay and my own two hands are the tools. I’ve been known to bite off more than I can chew, but sometimes the excitement leads to marvellous new adventures in sufficiency!
A sally garden is a willow (salix) garden. Next to growing food, I think growing basket willows is about the smartest thing you can do with a bit of soil. Chair caning led me to basketry, and weaving baskets led to wanting to grow my own basket willows.
Now, you should understand that I’ve never woven a basket from willow, but I didn’t let that little detail curtail my enthusiasm. I hooked up with a couple of wonderful women via e-mail and one offered to send willow cuttings to me. Sixty-six of them. For nothing. And with a detailed planting diagram.
What would you do? Same as me, no doubt. I high-tailed it out back and after some pondering and measuring, decided on the best site for my future baskets. This was autumn 2008. I followed my benefactor’s directions and prepared the bed before winter set in.
The package arrived in March last year: 11 varieties of gorgeous, fantastic basket willows! I kept them in their black wrappings on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator as instructed. When it was time to plant, I set them deep into the ground with just a node or two poking out, less than one foot apart and piled on the mulch. This is what the sally garden looked like at this stage.
It’s a naturally damp, sunny spot. Last summer was very cool and wet but my new willows grew
beautifully — I didn’t lose a single one! It’s a terrible shot, but the next picture was taken in October.
I’m going to get out there any day now and harvest the first year’s growth. In the top photo you can see some of the colours. This summer more shoots will grow from every plant and soon I’ll have enough to make lots of baskets! Simple, natural and sustainable — that’s what it’s all about!
Oh yes, another idea was to plant and weave a living willow fence out front to replace the rotted white picket fence that I removed last year. I’m now thinking that I may put that off for a couple of years…