One tree that really thrives in our temperate wet climate is willow (Genus: Salix). There are 400 varieties worldwide. The narrow leaved osier types that thrive in the damp corners of our garden provide good windbreaks and grow in the heaviest of clay soils. They provide nectar in early spring for butterflies & moths and are beloved of the needle billed tit family who thrive on the insect life sequestered there. Willows are the first trees to break into leaf in Spring and the last to fall in Autumn. Luckily none of our plants are near to drains where their tough aggressive roots can cause real problems, cracking pipes or blocking flows. An earlier ‘Country Diary’ entry recorded our coming back from North Devon with cuttings from red and green willows planted in marshland at the foot of friends’ commercial apple orchard. The quickness of these slender sinuous trees is remarkable and their utility to man down the millennia unquestioned. The supple strength and flexibility of withies (rod like cut whips) are perfect for making all manner of containers, from every kind of basket to fish traps coracles and coffins. Living sculptures – domes, tunnels etc – are playful features in many public gardens. Its healing properties too – the active ingredient of Salicyclic Acid in the bark – are well known. (The synthesised form being Aspirin). The wood has also been used commercially for the best quality artists charcoal.
The village post office, newsagent and shop is at the heart of our local community and greatly valued. The son of the owners is keen to make it more relevant by promoting regionally produced products and by being more creative with the two window frontages. Our friend Amanda at Southridge farm got involved in this plan and recruited Kim to help, who in turn got me to join them. We cut and stripped our red and green shrubs, now well established between pond and field boundary, to use as wicker work, fashioning from small bundles a whole batch of stars, in all sizes. Sara and the grandchildren on a weekend visit joined in too so our workshop production rate soared! Great fun and very satisfying, quietly putting the pentagrams together; securing, binding and trimming. A & K and another friend Margaret worked out a design to fill the window in situ and hung it with wires. The largest star was highlighted with LEDs for effect, set in a firmament of tiny stars footed by evergreen holly and firs.