Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cleaning out the basket willow.

 Today I began to clean out the basket willow I grew in the past to use as ribs in my rib baskets. The first step was to cut the six to eight foot "whips" that had grown on the willow stools since I last cut them down last year. I am retiring from basket-making, so will not be harvesting the willow again. The willow "stools", such as the one shown above remained after the whips were removed. Then, using a spade and an adze, I dug around each stool, and hacked away at the roots.
Three of the four remaining willow stools were removed in this laborious process. They await by the curb side to be picked up with other green materials on Thursday's pick up. The bundles of whips are also tied and ready for pick-up too.  I will remove the last of the stools tomorrow.

Propagating willow is very easy. From a selected shrub, cut off willow whips (branches). Cut pencil thick foot-long sections of the branches, bury them about half the length of the cutting by forcing them into the ground. Most of the cutting will self-root.  In the spring cut the shoots from the cuttings to just above ground level. More shoots will develop, and six to eight foot whips will grow by the end of fall. Cut them back again, and double the amount of shoots and whips will grow back. Repeat yearly and stools such as shown above will develop with a heavy crop of whips for annual harvesting.

If you harvest the whips in the fall, the bark will not be removable. You can use these as "brown" willow for your baskets. If you harvest the willow in the spring-time, after the first flush of leaves appear, you can then use the whips as "white" willow. At this time it is very easy to remove the bark to reveal the white flesh beneath.

If you do not harvest the willow on an annual basis, huge willow trees will develop very rapidly.

One further use for the willow is in propagating other plants. Place willow cuttings in a bucket of water along with other cuttings from shrubs you wish to cultivate. Willow will add natural rooting compounds  to the water in the bucket, and can stimulate root formation in the cuttings from these shrubs.

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