Chilly willow workshop

Gardens Team constructing willow obelisks

Looking for a fun and informative training opportunity, the gardeners got to thinking about embellishments for beds and borders and in particular the supports we use for clematis and sweet peas; wigwams made of hazel or bamboo. We wondered if willow work might be more attractive and in keeping with the Arts and Crafts style of Wychfield House in particular. Willow could also be a more sustainable choice and something we could harvest from the gardens.

Willow hurdle and hammer
Willow hurdle and hammer

I looked into our options and one snowy morning in late January our workshop took place. We were chilly but fascinated as Deb, our tutor, showed us the tools and techniques involved. We learned pairing, which is a method of weaving often used to start and finish a hurdle or fence panel, maintaining the shape and structure of the finished item. We also used this weave to make our obelisks, using a rapping iron, which is a sort of mallet, to beat down the weave, making it more dense and durable.

As well as giving us a thorough grounding in basic weaving techniques, Deb was able to explain to us how to harvest our own material from the garden; we have a ready supply of Salix alba chermesina, a type of willow suitable for weaving and we also grow several species of bamboo, which will make suitable uprights. I think the effort will be worthwhile to have a truly home grown product which has such rustic charm.