Wattle fences and retaining walls can easily be built from the leftovers of pruning, or from coppiced wood. This technique is the most basic form of fence construction, having been in use since Neolithic times.
I continually harvest apple, dogwood, willow, and hazelnut wood from designated coppicing trees in my yard, because these local species happen to grow both quickly and straightly. There are a number of “fences in progress” that are built higher every time I go around and maintain trees. Preparing materials is easy: I trim the bases of prunings down to sturdy fence posts of a uniform height and circumference; the rest I trim into flexible pieces for weaving the rest of the fence. The leftovers from all of this are piled up in #hugelkultur mounds. I hammer the posts down 1/3 of their height, and the rest is just simple weaving back and forth, between posts.
I have used this method for #raised beds, #straw bale gardens, and purely for aesthetic purposes with great success, but then again, I am not one to complain when it’s 100% free!
The year before last, this Corkscrew Willow (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’) was blown over in hurricane-force winds. Willows have notoriously shallow root systems, and this cultivar of a Chinese species didn’t evolve to withstand the challenges of this biome.
Most of the tree was put through the wood-chipper, and became the first wood chip mulch with which I started my sheet mulching terrain conversion projects.
The remaining trunk was propped up, weighted, and allowed to re-grow. In the past two years, it has come back with a vengeance, so a little pruning was in order to balance out the branching, and make sure the next storm doesn’t topple it again.
In pruning off a limb of this size, it is extremely important to cut through the bark and vascular tissue all the way around (pictured above). That way, when the limb starts breaking under its own weight, it won’t take a strip of bark with it: the pruning wound will be clean and will have an easier time healing.
I maintain all my trees with a secateurs and very old old pruning saw: it takes some time, but there are few tasks I’ve encountered that require more equipment.
… and planting some to make “living furniture.” I’m thinking of shaping these cuttings into a chair.
Willow bark contains a natural rooting hormone, so it strikes root from cutting or layering quickly.
Many exotic trees like this need more horticultural care than native species, and need to be kept artificially small in order to withstand the challenges of a different climate than the one in which they evolved. This makes some exotic trees, like this one, ideal candidates for the continuous extraction of timber resources through practices like coppicing and pollarding. A tree like this can be cut back to the ground every year, and will reliably spring forth with new life.
The woods near our house are run as a private nature reserve. The very reasonable owners allow people into the woods to observe wildlife and enjoy the surroundings, as long as visitors are as unobtrusive as possible. Ancient hornbeam trees have been newly coppiced to create open areas and long rides, vastly improving diversity of flora and fauna in the woodland over recent years.
The countryside in England can often feel like it is either hanging on by the skin of it’s teeth against encroaching development or that it is inactive, suspended in time and literally ‘set aside’, to use the agricultural term. The woods in these pictures are alive in every sense. There is a rare, but discrete, feeling of purpose, industry and respect for the land and its inhabitants.
The wooden structures and shelters dotted around the woods have a playful and light touch and I feel encouraged to become part of the landscape when I visit.
The heart shape – probably itself derived from a seed pod
– is ubiquitous in Denmark, even making it on to Danish coins. Therefore, a
little heart-shaped tree seemed like the sort of thing my very Danish in-laws will
appreciate having in the forest garden.
The fruit will be bourne on spurs, but I’ll allow branching growth towards the outside.
A mature heart-shaped espalier like this can take a variety of forms, but I am considering aiming for something along these lines:
A UK-based furniture company called Full Grown, started by furniture designer Gavin Munro, doesn’t take wood and make them into furniture. They grow them on trees. Their bizarre furniture farm is located in a one-hectare field in Wirksworth, about 24 km north of Derby, where Mr. Munro is currently growing rows upon rows of tables, chairs and lampshades which he hopes to harvest in a couple of years.
Mr. Munro’s technique lies in coaxing the young saplings of willow, oak, ash and sycamore trees to take the shape of any furniture by training them to grow along predefined routes. This is achieved by using plastic moulds and through years of pruning, coppicing and grafting. The final product is either a chair or a table or a lampshade that has been grown out of a single, solid, joint-less piece of wood.
The leguminous trees grow faster than the fruit trees, and can be pollarded or coppiced for firewood or mulch with some regularity. In the meantime, they provide shelter from wind and excessive sun or heat for the young fruit trees.
In agriculture, this strategy is sometimes used in a silvoarable system(agroforestry): coniferous trees are employed as nurse trees in order to stimulate rows of long-term hardwood timber crops grow uniformly.
There area number of benefits to this approach, but if has to be accompanied by aggressive and careful tree maintenance, and good planning. A system like this can thrive if the right species are chosen, and care is taken to avoid overcrowding in the face of limited solar resources (frequent pruning is necessary).
Generally, however, a high-density planting system–done right–will produce higher yields, while increasing biodiversity, and reducing problems with pests and disease inherent to a monoculture planting formation.
Holt Island Nature Reserve, St Ives, including a picture of a recently harvested osier bed. Osier coppicing was once a mainstay of the local economy, and is regaining popularity as a source of materials for traditional crafts. New beds are now being planted all over Cambridgeshire.