Hooters Hall

Posts Tagged ‘willow’

Blue skies and a weekend in the garden

  We’ve been really lucky this weekend in South London, blue skies all day even getting warm enough to be gardening in a T shirt. The purple sprouting broccoli has finally sprouted and we had some very tasty broccoli together with some baby leeks with our tea on Saturday.

Here’s the freshly harvested veg.

And here’s the end result in the kitchen

Very tasty, especially the leeks which had a really intense oniony flavour. 

Now the broccoli has been harvested I can start getting the long bed ready for this years veg. To stop the foxes trashing the bed, they dig massive holes in any bare soil in the garden, I’ve put the cloches down. This also helps warm up the soil.

Salem our cat decided to supervise my gardening

I spent most of the weekend tidying up bits and pieces around the garden, putting a bark mulch on the comfrey patch so i don’t have to do so much weeding.

I also discovered this lovely little flower that’s appeared in the comfrey patch and the fernery. Do you know what it is ? If so let us know in the mystery flower number 2 thread in the gardening forum.

I spent sometime sorting out the fernery and some of my native plant seedlings which I’ll post more about during the week. The willow arbour has burst in to life so hopefully it’ll make a nice greenery covered seating area. Here are some pictures.



New Year Garden Update

Happy New year everyone.

With the snow and Christmas celebrations today is the first chance I’ve had to do a bit of pottering in the garden. I’m continuing my battle with the foxes, the gorse that I planted to dissuade them from sunning themselves in the garden has had some effect but they have dug up three of the gorse plants; so I’ve replanted them with extra protection from some logs and metal pipe. Here’s a pic of the fox excavations fortunately (as you can see in the pic)they left the gorse plants neatly by the side of the hole.

Most of the broccoli seems to have survived the cold snap as have the carrots and there’s still a lot of winter greens in the patio pots.

My Viola tricolor (Heartsease) which I’ve used to edge the new herb garden has more than survived the cold snap and is still in flower !

The indoor chilli plants are still being very productive.

The chickens (Monica (on the left) and Rachel) are happier now the snow has gone but haven’t started laying again yet. Last year they carried on laying throughout the winter but this year they stopped as soon as the worst of the snow arrived and we’ve only had one egg since then. Hopefully they’ll up production as the days lengthen and it gets a bit warmer. 

Some of the native spring bulbs I planted around November are starting to make an appearance.

And the seedlings that I started off in the greenhouse are doing well.

Over Christmas I started experimenting with making things out of willow. Here’s a pic of the wreath I made using live willow and some Christmassy red and gold ribbon.

My plans for making a living willow arbour have been delayed by the snow but hopefully we’ll get this done over the next few weeks.

2011 will (fingers crossed) be the year that Hooters Hall becomes a reality and we move from backgarden to full size smallholding. As well as posting about our progress to a full size smallholding we’ll still be growing our own fruit and veg, reviewing smallholding / agricultural shows and finding out about native plants and how to use them in the garden.  

Willow project

Over the summer I’ve developed a bit of an interest in using willow, particularly living willow. Every one’s familiar with basket weaving using dead willow but did you know that you can make all sorts of interesting and useful structures with living willow in the garden. Living willow is basically willow that is planted in the ground and so continues to grow. You can make all sorts of things from chairs to outdoor rooms and even viking long boat sculptures !

For those with a decent size smallholding or large enough garden you can also use willow as grow your own fuel for wood burners. Willow is particularly useful for this because it is so fast growing, a characteristic that also makes it an ideal choice for establishing a shelter belt should your smallholding be in a particularly windy spot.

There are about 300 species of willow worldwide and many hybrids. Species native to Britain include: 

Salix alba – White Willow – green and white downy leaves. Young bark growth is brown. Grows to 25m.

Salix cinerea – Grey Sallow – A waterside shrub. Downy leaves and young branches. Grows to 5m.

Salix daphnoides – Violet Willow – violet purple stems  Grows to 8m.

Salix fragilis – Crack Willow – A waterside tree . Fast growing to 25m.

Salix nigricans – Black Willow – Young growth is black and green. Grows to 10m.

Salix purpurea – Purple Willow – A spreading shrub with delicate branches grows to 4m.

Salix pentandra – Bay Willow – Glossy leaves. Native in the north of Britain. Grows to 15m.

Salix phylicifolia – Tea-leaved Willow – Chestnut coloured wood and shining leaves. Grows to 5m

Salix viminalis – Osier – A waterside shrub. Very fast growing . Grows to 8m.

Salix alba britzensis – Red Willow – Bright red branches in the winter. Grows to 25m.

Salix alba vitellina – Golden Willow – Yellow branches on the young growth.

 The stem colours of willow can vary from bright yellow to deep purple, being most vibrant on one year old growth. Heavy pruning promotes new growth thereby maintaining the vibrant colour. Plants in direct sunlight will show the brightest colours.

The speedy growth characteristic of willow can also be exploited to make a natural plant growth hormone soiution by extracting the relevant chemicals that promote willow growth. In spring take 6 inch long cuttings of willow tips with swollen buds . Crush them slightly with a hammer or other   tool and soak in boiling water (1 thick handful to 2 litres of water) until the water has cooled. Strain the willow debris out and use the remaining solution to water plants, dip new cuttings in and soak seeds. It’s best to use it straight away as the chemical compounds will breakdown over time but if you need to store it you could try freezing it.  

I’m going to be making a living willow arbour in the garden over the winter, probably in December ( you can only buy living willow rods November – March) and we’ll post the details of that and pleanty of pics of the construction.

In the meantime I’ve decided to try planting some willow in pots. I’ve been given 20 or so cuttings from a fellow smallholder and this weekend I planted them out. The cuttings had arrived a few days earlier so I’d kept them in some water and the buds were already starting to open when I planted them 3 days later, so it really does live up to its reputation for rapid growth. 

These cuttings won’t be big enough to use for the arbour but if it does well I might have enough to make some screens or edging for the raised beds. I’ll definitely have enough to make some home made plant growth hormone solution. 

Here’s some pics of my willow cuttings. As you can see I’ve simply stuck them in some soil and given them a good watering.