Bowles Hybrid Willow before coppicing
It seems counterintuitive to coppice our willow (Salix spp.
) in it’s first year of growing, but coppice it we must! Cutting it back at the end of the first year will encourage multiple shoots to form at the base. Which means that in years to come we will have a denser screen and more willow biomass. That’s the theory at least.
We planted the 500 cm lengths of Bowles Hybrid willow back in December 2011 for a couple of reasons. Firstly to hide the very ugly farm buildings just behind our home, and also as a biomass crop to keep us self-sufficient in wood for heating in later years.
The willow around the farm buildings grew at a tremendous rate, we were really impressed, reaching over 2.5 meters in their first year! The willow in the field did less well. Mainly because we didn’t keep the grass around the small stems down. We think the root competition combined with the grass shading out the young plants were the main causes.
Bowles Hybrid Willow harvest
Now we have a lot of willow cuttings. We are going to use them in several ways;
- to fill in any gaps where the original willow failed to take,
- to extend our biomass plot,
- to make a rooting hormone liquid,
- to experiment with making artists charcoal, and if I have time
- to practice basketry making with.
Nice! Don’t you just love willow!
We are really eager to plant trees, but also want to observe and get to know the land before we really go ahead and do anything. The thing is we have these ugly agricultural buildings and “kennels” close to our living space that it would be great to simply hide.
One tree species we know we’ll want a lot of is Willow (Salix spp). It is such a brilliant tree. Great for wildlife, basketry, as a windbreak and wood-fuel crop to name just a few uses. So as a hiding tactic Willow was an obvious choice as it is easy to establish, grows quickly, and we can take cuttings from it (next year) if we also want to plant it elsewhere on the land.
The only problem was that willow is generally cut in the Winter. Patience, as they say, is a virtue. As soon as Winter was deemed to have started, we placed our order for 1 foot high willow cuttings.
Beautiful Willow for basketry
A few days after they arrived we had planted all 560 stems of mainly Bowles Hybrid but also some beautiful basketry varieties including:
- Salix triandra – Black Maul
- Salix daphandoides
- Salix alba
- Salix purpurea
- Salix viminalis
I can’t wait to start experimenting with these colours.
Craig clearing space for the Willow
Planting took longer than expected as there was more clearing to do than we originally thought. I’m sure there will be a point where we have found all of the discarded wood, plastic guttering, worn tyres and various bits of farming paraphernalia in the long grass. Pretty much everything that we have found so far has been useful though – even if it’s just to keep other things weighed down.
That’s 561 trees planted now and that makes us very happy.