Salix is one of a Forest School Leaders best friends, and if you don't know enough about this ever-giving tree, read on to become enlightened.
Like many other plants and trees, the dormant period (roughly November until March) is the period of time when you can uproot, move, prune and shape. Willow is no exception.
The growth of a willow structure, such as a dome or fedge, is truly something to behold. Yes, not every length you push into the ground will take root and flourish, but the majority will and, hence, you will be treated to a plethora of useful, long, straight sections.
With these lengths, you can fill gaps in your structure, create a new living willow something or use the whips for projects in your Forest School.
Use of willow whips
Lets imagine that you planted a length of fedge ( the word is a mix between fence and hedge). This living structure will set root and, within a couple of years, will need a good trim. Every point at which you place a cut - imagine you cut it at 1.5m tall - will generate two or more lengths the following growing season. That's right, it just keeps growing.
So now you have 30 or 40 lengths, let's say, to work with. What could you do?
Well the possibilities really are almost endless. You could begin by weaving a few defined items, such as stars, hurdle, trees, wreaths and move on to creating larger willow sculptures such as rabbits, pigs and dragonfly. All of these ideas have been shown at Willow Weaving workshops, run twice yearly at our training centre (more info here)
Most importantly, if the resource is grown and cropped on site, it is carbon neutral. With this in mind, those Forest School participants should not fear getting things wrong; the willow is forgiving. And, if all else fails, you can save and dry the mistake for use on the fire!
Helen Lomberg runs a Willow Weaving CPD course @Inspired Forest School
If you have no willow growing already on your site then look no further than our supportive (and non-judgemental) Facebook group - Inspired Forest School Leaders - where you will find people chatting about, and even sharing willow locally!
Any other questions then please feel free to email your questions to [email protected] If we don't know the answer then we probably know someone who does.