Making living sculptures with willow rods is a great gardening skill, that gives you many opportunities to build real eyecatchers in your garden.
You can bring the rods into nearly all shapes, due they are so bendy. The fresh cut willow will root very quickly and leafs start to grow.
I'll show you how to make your first easy project - a living column with a green crown.
It takes about 2 hours to finish and if you take care of it, it will last many, many years.
If you give it a try, I would be happy to see Pictures in the comment field!
Step 1: Harvest Willow Rods
the best time to do this is early spring, but I also did successfully harvest in summer - then you have to take away all leafs on the rods - otherwise they take too much strength from the rods and they won't root properly.
Willow trees are many different species under the "salix" (latin ) family, they are pretty much all suitable for this project.
finding willow here in Sweden is very easy, I don't know about other countries - you may have to ask around - you may buy it from a landscaping gardener.
In some countries it's not allowed to harvest willow in early spring, because insects depend on the catkins in bloom, so be sure to check that before harvesting.
Step 2: Materials and Tools
30 fresh cut willow rods - as long and straight as possible
11 thin and short willow rods
1 bigger, sturdier willow rod
a flower pot - around 20cm diameter
soil - enough to fill the pot
clamps - not necessary if you have a helper :)
Step 3: Making a Hoop and Organizing
fill the flower pot with soil - press it down, it should be quite compact..
sort the long rods into 10 piles of 3 rods
with the thicker willow rod form a hoop with around 17 to 18 cm in diameter
secure the ends with wire.
Step 4: Planting the Rods
take two of your piles ( 3 rods each) an plant them about 7cm deep in a V-shape off center (Picture 1)
Tipp: to make it easier for you, mark the 3 rods in every pile losely with a string or piece of wire (Picture 2)
Go on with the other rod piles, until you have 5 "V"s in the pot - see the pictures for a better idea how it should look.
Leave a space between the Vs.
Step 5: Weaving the Column
Now start the weaving,
it's quite basic: over , under and so on.
the Pictures show it clearly
Tipp: use the clamps to hold down the made weaving - that will make it a lot easier.
tighten the weave by pushing it down with your fingers
go on until you reach 5 to 6 weaved rows - depending on the length of your rods.
Step 6: Adding the Hoop
now lay the hoop onto your weaved column
spread the "3 rod piles" evenly around the hoop, clamp it down - or ask for help
now the decorative part comes in: "the japanese eye knot joint"
- you could use wire as well, but the knot will look way better and is also more gentle to the willow rods bark.
I found this youtube video to help you on your way - it's in german, but you see very clear what to do.
Use the thin short willow rods you harvested.
pull the knots quite tight, they will loosen a little when drying.
Step 7: Making the Crown
this is the last step of the column - we're making the crown of it.
take all the loose tops of the rods an clamp/hold them together - around 15cm from the ends.
fix them with another tight japanese knot.
form the crown by gently pushing it into a nice and even shape.
Step 8: Water It and Watch It Grow
you're almost done with the living willow column, now comes the most important part :
water, water, water!
the first 2-3 weeks of the columns life you have to be very careful to keep the soil moist at all time that the willow will root properly in the pot - you can Place the pot in a larger bucket with water and soak the soil.
then leafs will grow and you can shape it as you desire - i cut away all leafs beneath the crown.
Once the pot is thoughly full with roots, you can plant it directly into the garden or a larger pot.
I hope you enjoyed your stay!
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