Thursday, January 7, 2010

Don't take a fence

I've realised reading other people's blogs that I've really no right to complain about the cold spell we're having at the moment. There are lots of people around the world gardening in much more challenging conditions and getting on with it.

I suppose, in my defence, we are in the middle of the longest cold spell here since the 1960s and if the forecast is to be believed - another two weeks of it at least - it's going to be the worst for a hundred years or more. Our local lake, Lough Graney, which is a pretty large lake - about 100 acres in area - is now almost completely frozen over which no-one can remember happening before.

Lough Graney almost completely frozen over

So, we're just not used to it, but day by day we're settling into a different routine. Normally at this time of year we'd be out pruning and doing other winter jobs and this time last year I was weaving my first willow wattle fence to protect my veg plot from the dog and the occasional deer and stray cattle that find their way onto our land.

It's great to see that a year on it's still looking just as good and has encouraged me to do some more adventurous things with the large amount of willow we have growing around our land.

The fence is a simple structure of uprights of trimmed three year old willow stakes driven into the ground with willow withies - one year old shoots - woven between them. It took quite a pile of withies to make this fence, but it's sturdy and animal-proof and should last a few years. The great thing is it didn't cost a penny and it gave me a great deal of satisfaction making it.

Most of the withies used were the common osier or basket willow, but we also have stands of a number of different coloured stemmed willows which I must make an effort to identify this year. One of them has beautiful orange- yellow stems which turn almost red on the side facing the sun.

I used these to make my first living willow fence. It produces lovely straight shoots six feet and more long which are ideal for the kind of lattice-work fence I wanted to create. This is the fence I 'planted' in March last year.

I say planted because holes a little wider than the withies are made at an angle in the soil with a thin metal pole and the withies pushed in to a depth of about six inches. Alternate withies are pushed in at opposing angles and they are woven into each other to create the lattice of sticks. The tops are tied to a horizontal withy to give some stability to the top and that's about it.

The withies root readily as the soil warms up and they come into leaf. I didn't lose a single one in this fence. During the summer any side-shoots are rubbed off to keep the lattice work of the fence clear of growth, but the top three or four buds are allowed to grow out. These shoots are trimmed back to the top of the fence in the winter - that's the next job I have to do on this fence as well as tie in some shoots along the top to provide a more stable fence.

After three or four years, the fence will look like this:

And after 10 or more years a well-established fence will look like this:


BT said...

I particularly love the willow wattle fence, I'd like these all down our back garden - only taller! Did you mean to write 'in my de-fence'. Groan.

Word verification: actor. How did they know?

Leatherdykeuk said...

I love these fences. Utterly beautiful!

Moonstone Gardens said...

What a beautiful and practical alternative to standard metal fencing. Good Job!


Oh my! How beautiful these fences are and how clever. It's probably your very wet (normal) weather that allows the willows to grow like that. Delightful.

debsgarden said...

I really enjoyed reading about your willow fences, especially the living one. I haven't seen anything like that in my area, and I'm wondering if I could adapt something to a similar look. I don't have willows, but I'm sure they would grow here. I like your blog a lot, and I look forward to reading your future posts.

Twisted willow said...

BT - I think I used enough puns about fences without adding to them!
Thanks LeatherD - there'll be a lot more by the the time you come again.
Probably a bit harder to maintain than metal fencing,Moonstone, but more satisfying.
Willow certainly does grow well here, Coneflower, but it's happy enough in places where it's not quite so wet!
Lovely to have you visit, Debs. I'm sure living willow fences would be worth trying. If willows are a bit marginal for you, the important thing is to give the cuttings the best chance to get established. After that they should be OK.

Peggy said...

I have heard of these willow fences but yours is the first I have seen stage by stage photos of!The Kinsale Adult Ed, college have a lot of sustainable ideas and some willow seats and fencing too.The cold weather has certainly given us other things to think about so we all learn something new.

Twisted willow said...

The living willow seats look fun, don't they Peggy, but they take a lot of work to form them and maintain them. You should have a go at the fences. They're pretty easy. You're right about the weather. Our water froze up 4 days ago which means the wonderful wood pellet boiler won't work because it's on a pressurised water system. So life's a bit primitive here at the moment!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for commenting on my blog and I just had to come over and see yours.

I love the Willow fence.

My nickname is Willow. When I was little my Mom could always fine me under a willow tree reading a book, so that is how I got the name.


Anonymous said...

John and I are fascinated by your lovely fences. What an interesting post!

miss m said...

I love it !

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

wow wow wow oh wow!

I love this living fence!

Meghan said...

Question: Do you use a regular weeping willow, hybrid willow, or what? And if a weeping the branches that grow from the fence eventually get a weeping droop? Can they stay cut shorter for a more hedge like top so the bottom design can show? -thanks

M. A. Bland said...

Please can you tell me if hazel can be used instead of willow for making a living fence?

Anonymous said...

The Hybrid Willow is a very strong and hardy tree, and perfect for any first time tree owner.Tn Tree Farm Nursery

Jeannie D said...

So happy to have stumbled across your blog...your living willow fence is beautiful as is the wattle fencing. Can't wait to try over here in the states!

Ariciul said...

Hello! We are thinking of planting a willow fence on 200 m area. As we are such beginers, and we would love and need your thoughts about this kind of fence. Here, in Romania, temperatures vary from -20 Celcius in the winter, up to +42 in the summer. My email address is

alex amarxon said...

Although I don’t have pictures right now, Dave and I put up a white lattice on the garden implement shed that faces the road for my morning glories to grow, and they are thriving.vinyl fence pricing