We are in the 3rd year of cultivating our Forest Garden. A forest garden is an old method of agriculture based on the ecosystems of forests that utilizes fruit and nut trees, berry shrubs, and other perennial useful plants and fungi. The whole entity should work to sustain itself so that there is low maintenance - meaning no tilling and little watering.
Pat began the Forest Garden by defining its perimeter. It’s important to have strong defenses against hungry deer. He built a thick wall from the cutting down of honeysuckles, an invasive weed shrub. If the deer can’t see where they can land, they won’t jump. So far, it’s been pretty effective at keeping away our dear, deer friends.
In his first round of planting which included pawpaws, strawberries, raspberries, perennial onions, herbs and flowers, he planted a couple of rows of willow. The intention for the willow was to develop living hedges. Now after a couple of years getting established, our little shoots have grown into beautiful, long branches.
And after getting inspired from the likes of Mary Reynolds and Monty Don, we really want our gardens to embody a sense of magic and wonder. Our gardens have the potential to give us so much more than their fruits. We want our forest garden, in particular, to be a place for Spring Bird guests to experience and connect with the cultivation of food and beauty.
So, getting back to the willow, springtime is the best season to work with willow because the plants are still dormant and cuttings will have the whole growing season to become established. Over Spring Break, as a family, we decided to harvest some of the willow to make living willow arches.
First, Abe prepared the ground by clearing away the grasses.
Then, Penelope bore a hole in the ground as Pat cut the longest willow he could find.
We planted the willow in the hole - firmly pushing it into the ground.
After planting three willow branches on each side, I twisted the willow together and secured them with cotton string.
We did the same thing for a second arch that leads to a different path.
It’s my intention that these two arches will be a focal point and add a level of sacredness to the garden. I hope the birds will enjoy them, as well. Now all I need is a bird bath to complement them!
Anna Lentz, artist, writer, and creativity coach who blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.