You might think it’s a bad time of year for planting living structures outdoors when trees are shedding their leaves and nature is encountering frosty nights. But the best time to plant willow is during the winter months, once the willow is dormant, after a few frosts between late November and February. Then it will grow into lush green domes and natural fences from spring onwards.
Sylvan Skills has already had the opportunity to realise several living willow structures this winter. At Ravensworth Terrace primary school in Gateshead we erected a large dome with a child-sized tunnel and a tall entrance tunnel into the woodland with an enthusiastic set of helpers. The pupils eagerly supported the grown-ups in building their future play and outdoor classroom. Denise Thompson, head teacher said: “They worked their socks off and demonstrated fantastic teamwork“.
Freshly harvested willow is a beautiful material to work with. It can be woven and bent into various shapes and will be transformed into enchanting green spaces by early summer. Working with willow is also a great opportunity to get children and young adults involved in creating their own hideaways like labyrinths, tunnels and domes.
The latter can provide social spaces varying from one metre to four metres in diameter. Living willow structures promote outdoor play and provide shade on hot summer days.
At Humshaugh first school we connected two raised beds with a living willow arch. This structure doesn’t take up much room while adding lush greenery to the playground. The children can’t wait until it grows leaves in the summer.
St Oswalds – Tunnels, screens and natural fences
Our Sylvan Skills team also planted living willow at St Oswald’s Hospice in Gosforth, where rounded tunnels and screens animate the children’s garden and encourage patients and their families to enjoy the outdoors.
Last but not least we want to share some images of a living willow dome we built by the River Wear at Low Burnhall wood, a Woodland trust site in County Durham. Its cosy nest-like appearance will surely attract both human wanderers and wildlife over the coming years.
Are you interested in having a living willow structure, natural fences or privacy shield created in your garden? We are happy to discuss your ideas. Please get in touch.