It was when we began putting on willow basket making courses that I realised I had the basket making bug, and so it was only a matter of time before my mind turned to creating a source of willow. It turns out that there are many, many varieties of basket willow and the range of colours is wonderful. As is the way with these things, I was put in touch with Richard Auler, owner of one of Ireland’s oldest organic farms, down in Tipperary. Richard as it turned out had some 32 varieties of willow growing there, and so I trekked off across Ireland to go and collect some cuttings.
As you can see from the picture, the colours are great, from bright yellows to dark browns, reds and greens. We’re cutting these down into one foot lengths and planting them through plastic sheet (willows don’t like competition from weeds). With any luck we’ll end up with some 600 planted, as well as another 3 or 400 cuttings of a larger variety which will go in to become living fences around the vegetable plot, as well as features in the orchard and around the ponds.
I was also lucky enough to bring back a load of dry willow, which when soaked will be made into baskets, giving me some much needed practise. Somehow we are fitting in the planting in between truck fitting and cottage cleaning, as guests come and go from Birch Cottage.