• Michael Inman

Jan - March 2022 A wee Home project growing willow:

Whilst the centre was closed over the Christmas and January, I decided to start a small project growing wonderful willow for the centre wich turned out to be surprisingly easy!

Willow has for millennia been used to create everything from walls to baskets and even fishing traps, with examples at least going back as far back as the Bronze Age! It’s a flexible and fast growing tree that thrives in the cold damp northern hemisphere (so perfect for Scotland!) being one of first trees to establish quickly in our forests willow is fast growing and with over 400 species of willow known globally there's a wide range of shapes, sizes and colour of willow.

As a plus Willow can be grown in small spaces so long as its regularly pruned back every winter therefore doesn't need acers of land to grow or decades and centuries like ment trees to mature with some willows being able to flower within the first few years of planting. So what better plant to start the year off with growing!

Jan 30th - Having a idea! Thanks to some superhero Willow:

On a cold, grey Sunday at the end of January, I was working with willow in the name of conservation at Burdiehouse Burn. Here I helped to create a natural living barrier and river bank along the burn to help prevent erosion and local flooding using woven willow barriers to hold the banks.

This is for willow is a magic plant, where depending on conditions a freshly cut stem in contact with wet ground will often take root establishing a new young tree and therefore in this case a green wall of life to strengthen the riverbank and take in water to help prevent flooding.

From this conservation day I collected a few willow stems of various colours (two velvety green, two gold, and 4 red) and decided to then take them home to begin my very own tree growing adventure wich started that evening.

once I took the willow cuttings home I found that you can encourage the stems to root in water in a series of easy simple steps so here's the guide to what I did...

No1- cut the fresh stems of young willow, trimming the ends so they are diagonal to make a pointed base, as it absorbs water so a pen nib shape is perfect for that.

No2- Crush or chop up the off-cuts and place in a bowl of boiling water. Leave to cool for an hour. This makes a nutrient rich mixture known as willow water.

No3- Place the willow stems in a vase or container of water with a good 2 inches of fresh water

No4- Add the room temperature willow water – this will be the food for the willow to grow.

No5- Place the vase In a sunny location like a table or a windowsill, but away from direct heat (so not immediately on a radiator).

No6- Simply leave it. Don’t be tempted to change the water, even as it changes colour to light brown. If the water level gets a bit low, top up with fresh water as required and hopefully within the next two weeks you should start to see roots growing.

February 4th-7th - We Have Root!

After a few days white bumps appeared on some of the stems. These bumps steadily grew into roots taking in the nutrients and water from the vase and willow water prepared a few days ago. They seem to be doing well with non of them rotting wich was a initial concern of mine although not all of the willow cuttings have roots at this point. I’ve left them all alone after a little inspection and top up of the cold tap water.

Rather interestingly already also a few green leaves have grown, which has been a nice addition to the living room with big pollen catkins bringing with them a promise of spring in a bright yellow pom pom sort of way.

Day Febuary10th -15th Willow Willow Everywhere!

With Spring just around the corner the willow has simply thrived over the last week. The only real effort on my part has been telling myself to leave the willow alone! And a little water top up here and there. By now all the stems have taken root and several bright green leaves have grown. ive noticed the catkins that grew on some of the stems have that started to fall off. But that's okay as I’ve found beneath them green budding shoots, so all is well despite the initial oh no moment.

March 2nd - Already a Job Well Done:

As I approach the 30th day of the willow growing the leaves have all really started to come out now, whilst below theres a huge bunch of roots below. Every single stem has rooted, even a really small cutting that I added last minute, so its been incredibly successful!

I’m now just waiting for jack frost to go away (hopefully by mid March) so it’s safe to plant out. I’ve taken the side of caution with planting out as the tender leaves could easily be destroyed by a harsh frost. But other than a week or so’s wait they are all super dooper and ready to plant out – so I hope to say its a wee project well done!. By the end of march ill be looking to plant these out potentially at the Craigmillar Now gardens if all goes well.

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