My Willow Empire

I’m a long-range planner.  My husband tells an apocryphal story about the time he caught me furtively looking at prices of mulberry trees online.  As he approached, I was trying to switch screens and go back to the novel I was supposed to be writing.

“Syne?” he said, in a wry tone, “Was that a mulberry tree you were looking at?”
“Um, yeah…”
“Are you planning to buy a tree, raise silkworms, reel your own silk, dye it with local plants, weave it into fabric, and sew a shirt?”
“Um, yeah. How did you you know?”

Unfortunately, after about five years, just when it was starting to get big enough to perhaps support silkworms, the mulberry tree died (or was killed in a late-night transplanting, stories vary).  Which put a damned fine plan back a decade or so.

So with that story in mind, I’d like to introduce you to my burgeoning willow empire. Last year I decided that I absolutely must learn how to weave willow basketry in about five years, and thus I neded to create  a willow basketry orchard. I searched around the Internet and found Bluestem Nursery, which has more types of basketry willow than I even know existed.  I purchased 12 starts each of S. fragilis “Belgium Red”, S. triandra ‘Black Maul’, and S. viminalis. Which means that when my willow empire starts producing shoots, I’ll have red, black, and green rods to weave with. Bluestem also threm in three free starts of another willow, whose name I don’t know because the tag faded in the sun.  But it looks like a hardy green variety. I also have some “curly” willow that I bought at a garden show. (It was meant for floral arrangements, but still grew when I stuck it in dirt.)

At my house, there’s a slope that gets a lot of rain runoff from the hills near by, it’s always wet, gets a lot of sun, and I think the willows will love it.  In addition to feeding my future need for basketry supplies, they’ll also hold the ground and prevent erosion. It’s full of potential win.

I’m logging the progress of my willow empire (and other plants such as the madder I started years ago) on Folia.com, which is a cool Ravelry-like site that lets you enter in details about the plants in your garden and record growth and harvests. I love it because it totally solves the issue I used to have with wanting to keep all the information from the plant tags, and yet not wanting a drawer of messy random bits of plastic. That and the “what the heck was this plant again?” question, since you can take pictures of the plant and have it right there in the log.

I totally got my geek on last week entering in a bunch of my plants and chortling over the accumulation of osbcure knowledge. You can see my garden (or at least what I’ve entered thus far) here: http://myfolia.com/gardener/syne.

Which reminds me, I need to order a new mulberry tree.

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