I try to plant fifty trees a year, helped by giving guests a young sapling to take home and at the end of the summer any trees I’m left with I plant around our boundary. This year I’ve really beat my target. On an impulse I bought 100 willow rods to make a living fence at the edge of the outcrop beside the Gallery. It sounds extravagant, but bare root willow at 60c a rod makes a cheap alternative to a wooden fence or stone wall. Planting them on the thin rocky soil was a challenge but I was rewarded when I reached the top of the outcrop by deep, soft soil. Instant gratification when a spade sinks easily into the soil. I’ll be rewarded in the spring too by catkins and the bright green leaves unfurling. In summer the willow will be lush with delicate leaves and in the winter the bare purple stems will give structure to the garden.
Three years ago I planted some yellow willows at the entrance to the drive. They are in the wrong place, shading the raspberry patch, so a couple of times a year I cut them back quite hard. In the autumn I use the bright yellow stems to make wreathes for Christmas. Each wreath is different, depending on the leaves chosen and the suppleness and thickness of each length of willow. My favourite shape to make is a heart, an oval works well particularly covered in herbs or a Christmas star. I have to be careful not to allow my creative ambitions go too far. My ‘dove’ bore more resemblance to a fish, quite a good fish, but not very Christmassy. Having made wreathes for the school Christmas sale, I’ve finally got round to decorating my own front door. This year its winter roses and gypsophilia in amongst the holly and golden sprayed seed heads. Surprisingly the roses woven into the wreath seem to be surviving and in the mornings with the dew on them they look quite lovely.