Stone Soup Gardens is finding new creative ways to create custom permaculture playscapes, this time with a LIVE WILLOW DOME!
Willow is an extremely fast-growing and quickly rooting plant. For this reason, it provides a great opportunity to create custom living structures using its branches.
Our clients thought a living willow gazebo was just the kind of clubhouse they could all enjoy for years to come. We designed the structure to be a bird blind for a nearby green space. There was an existing garden in the location but instead of removing a nearby weeping spruce and hydrangea, we wove them right into our plans.
We needed plentiful fresh willow branches, and luckily we were right down the road from the Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands. Our friends there gave us a few pointers and allowed us to harvest some of their abundant willows. We harvested over 100 whips from our native Scouler’s Willow, planted them in a circle in our client’s yard and weaved them into sturdy walls to create a custom living playhouse. Throughout the winter these branches will put their energy towards sending new roots into the ground, so that come this spring, the structure will be able to create its own brand new leafy canopy. Over the years this structure will continue to grow and weave together, creating a beautifully dynamic garden and play feature. Our willow dome features custom bike rim windows, a bamboo roof and the Weeping Norway Spruce that is both a mock “fireplace” and a “secret passageway”.
This dome is but one example of the shape a living willow structure can take. Willow whips can be planted and trained in all sorts of styles, including fences, archways, tunnels, gazebos, pergolas, and playhouses of all shapes and sizes.
Do you have a vision of a living structure in your own garden space? We love creative challenges and have created a variety of plant based play structures, including edible versions. Contact us today to set up a consultation!
Thanks to our awesome clients for trusting our process and the awesome folks at Tilth Alliance’s Rainier Beach Urban Farm for their insight and collaboration on this project. We have been so thrilled to get to work with the beautiful and resilient Salix! We’re excited for more opportunities to create living structures for children, families and communities.
The Power of Willow
Fun fact: because of their very high levels of the growth-promoting plant hormone indole-butyric acid (auxin IBA) as well as the antifungal salicylic acid, willows can be used to create homemade rooting hormone for your indoor and outdoor plants.
Create willow water by harvesting young willow branches in their first year of growth, the width of a pencil or smaller. Young shoots have the highest levels of auxin IBA. Remove any leaves from these branches and then cut into small segments around an inch long. Fill a heat-proof container, such as a large mason jar, with these willow pieces until it’s about half full and then pour boiling water over them. Let this mixture steep for around 24 hours, strain out the willow twigs, and then use your willow water where needed! Willow water can be used to stimulate root growth on new cuttings, or to water plants that have recently been moved to soil. If soaking a plant directly, be sure to dilute the willow water to half strength. It can also be used to water new seedlings. Store any unused willow water in the fridge for up to two months.
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