Sunday, November 18, 2012

One of our less creative volunteers...

I can't watch those make-your-own-tat shows like Kirsty Allsopp's. Firstly, she's rather annoying. Secondly, I'd instantly think that I could make just a good a fist of it as the experts in her show. I would then become very, very annoyed and disappointed when my decoupage* umbrella stand sagged like a wet weekend in Warrington. This blog is suitably named, believe me.

Nevertheless, I decided to make our garden a little more interesting for Thomas as he grows up. So, I thought I'd have a go at making a living willow structure. There aren't many places in the garden which aren't stuffed full of plants, so a rather unpromising site was chosen - well, willow will grow anywhere, pretty much, and we're not short of water in the North-West of England. We did have a raspberry cane patch in one place, but dug it up a couple of years ago as we had so many raspberries at the allotment (which we have now given up, so no more raspberries for us!). Since then, this space has been used for plonking pots of gone-over bulbs and plants.

Weeds, self-seeded Hellebore, gone-over pots and a Fatsia which always struggled.
 
 I bought a willow wigwam kit from English Willow Baskets. It arrived, well wrapped, a week later, with a brief but easy to follow instruction leaflet.

A curious delivery

So, I hacked a few overhanging branches down, and prepared the site. To add insult to injury for the Fatsia, which was cut down to make space, I used its leaves to mark out the spacings for the uprights. They looked like they were waving at me, in a friendly sort of way. Rather more likely they were howling with despair.

 If you look very carefully, you can see the robin investigating the new landscape

 The kit was well packed and it was clear, even to a total beginner like me, what was what. The long ones were the 10' uprights, the not-so-long ones were the 8' diagonals, and the short ones were the weaving whatsits. Ah yes, weaving. More on that, later.

Even I could tell what was what.

Armed with lump hammer and stake, I made 30cm deep holes at 25cm intervals. Well, I did where I could. Our garden has an extensive amount of archaeology in the garden. Despite being in Chester, I doubt it's Roman. Instead, the estate was built on the grounds of an old house. They didn't bother demolishing the structure below ground level, so parts of the back garden are riddled with brick walls. I've tried digging them up. I gave up. We do have a good brick pile, though. Or spider-breeding centre, as it currently seems to be. Anyway, the uprights went in.

Uprights, well watered, despite the very wet ground.

It started to look quite good when I made the doorway - I almost thought I'd get it looking half-decent... I started to get cocky - a piece of cake, this.

Ha - the doorway is a bit too tall - I was thinking adult, not child.

The instruction to weave a horizontal band about 3' up from the ground floored me. I looked and looked for a secret page on the instruction leaflet which would show me how to weave. The diagram made it look simple. Well, not so much a diagram as a hopeful line drawing. It was like making something from Blue Peter all over again. The mothers and fathers might have left the room, but I was entangled in something much more complicated than a toilet roll desk tidy, and I had no double-sided sticky tape to hand.** By the third attempt, I was reasonably adept. I believe the word that is used by art critics when something isn't very good but has critical acclaim is 'naive'. Well, if you exclude the critical acclaim, I achieved naive weaving.

The diagonals went in, again in 30cm deep holes - one arm was now beginning to resemble Popeye's thanks to the lump hammer wielding. Actually, I'm not sure what a lump hammer is. I think I was actually using a mallet, but to be honest, the closest I'd previously come to mallet-wielding was in a particularly vicious game of croquet in Cambridge.



All went well, until I came to the final instruction. "Draw in the rods at the top. Tie in with biodegradable twine." Well, I thought I had it sorted. How difficult could it be? Very, it turned out, unless you were a twine, scissor and serenity-wielding octopus. If I wasn't such an incredibly placid and patient person, I'm sure the air may have turned blue, as uprights whipped out of my hands, out of the biodegradable twine, and out of control.

This was too much for one person. But it was cold and late.

The following week, with Grandma keeping Thomas entertained, I enrolled the help of SomeBeans. Despite being very detail-minded in most parts of his life, he declared, after he had tied a few uprights together willy-nilly, that it was outside, and so he wasn't bothered about the structure being orderly. Well, I did mind, so we undid the uprights, and decided to turn the wigwam into a dome (very similar to the instructions for a wigwam, but easier to do if you don't have a small team of willing helpers and unlimited patience).

We did it. There was a gap at the front, though. This was because I'd made the door too tall. This will have its advantages, however, as Thomas' aged parents won't have to get down on our hands and knees to get in.

To fill the gap, I channelled Kirsty's creative juices, and made a 'T' (for Thomas - geddit?) in a woven willow circle. There's no stopping me on the weaving front, now. I think I'll weave an iPad for SomeBeans' Christmas present. Or perhaps willow socks.

 One of our less-creative volunteers

And so, we had our willow dome. Hopefully living. We'll have to wait til Spring to find out. I'll update on our endeavours then. I'll put down some weed suppression membrane and bark chippings inside, and then as it grows and matures, so will Thomas. By the time he's old enough to (hopefully) appreciate it, the living parts will have grown and thickened and can be woven in to make the structure thicker.




In case you're wondering about the title of the blog post, it is inspired by our visits to Ness Gardens. In a couple of areas, they have woven structures and sculptures. These are usually labelled with a sign along the lines of "made by some of our more creative volunteers." We often wonder what the less creative volunteers (the lumpen proletariat?) think of this implication of their own creativity.

*SomeBeans (possibly deliberately) mixes up decoupage and decolletage. That may well sag, too.

**Maybe I've had a very sheltered life, but I have never come across double-sided sticky tape. And without that wondrous ingredient, you couldn't make anything from Blue Peter. Am I the only one never to have made anything? I'm sure my parents knew they never had to bother leaving the room if a craft project came onto the programme.

8 comments:

Claire D said...

I felt chilly inside when I started to read this post, knowing I would make a huge hash of it if I was doing it myself. Nice work at the end. What are you going to grow up it?

Northern Shade said...

I like the idea of the willow dome in your garden. It will make a cozy little cave when it leafs out next season. With the magic elixir of a few weeks time, you will look back on it as a fun project, and next year you might be weaving the climbing roses and clematis.

Janet said...

A really enjoyable post - made me laugh. Hope it grows for you.

HappyMouffetard said...

Claire - I know how you feel - but I actually quite enjoyed it. Not as perfect as I'd hoped, but better than I'd dared expect! Hopefully, the uprights and diagonals will root and leaf, and side shoots in future years will give a nice solid look once they're woven in. No doubt I'll grow a climber or two up it, too.

Northern Shade - yes, it was a bit frustrating at times, but I'm pleased with the end result and hopefully Thomas will be too.

Janet - thank you :)

Rob Stevens said...

Looks good! Should be brilliant once it starts growing in. You're obviously better at it than you give yourself credit for.

Karen - Artists Garden said...

That is so cool and Thomas will love it.
(If he doesn't then you can take it over and have it as your outside room!)

There will be no stopping you now you have mastered willow weaving :) and I look forward to seeing how it fills out next year
K

Anna said...

Love your willow creation and it's bound to be a big hit with a certain young man. Must make a long overdue visit to Ness soon.

Anna B said...

Wow! I love that! Just stumbled upon your blog today and it looks great! Some wonderful photos, I'll be hooked! I would love to make some willow creations! Great seeing the step by step.