Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wow, Willow Tree!

Remember how our Christmas tree was a branch of willow that we had coppiced and were attempting to pega-pega in a bucket of sand? Of course you do.

Well, that minor trim got me in the mood for a major haircut. For the willow, not for me.

When we bought our house our willow was in a bad state. She had been neglected for years and was covered in a thick layer of vines that had killed one major branch and were choking out all of the upper foliage.
Sad neglected willow.

So I gave her a good healthy dose of TLC. I painstakingly removed all of the vines and dead branches to let the healthy ones flourish. Well shoop, baby shoop. My efforts, combined with the nice sunny weather we've been having, mixed with a good bout of rain allowed her to grow, grow, grow.

I was a proud parent, for a while. Then I noticed that our willow was turning into a bit of a glutton, taking over our yard, and a bit of a bully, shading out everything in its path. I had created a monster.
Ferocious willow.

Another problem was that while our willow tree has three primary branches, most of the growth was the occurring on one major branch on the southeastern side. The tree was unbalanced from the weight of this one branch, which was also drawing most of the nutrients from the roots.

There are two reasons behind this. Firstly, our dominant winds come from the northwest, so the tree is constantly being blown toward the interior of our yard, helping that branch to flourish. Also, the primary branch on the northern side of the tree had been trimmed heavily sometime in the past, and the primary branch on the western side was choked out by convolvulous. If left unchecked I was worried that the tree would eventually topple.
Ferocious June.

After a day of bonding with a handsaw, our willow was tamed, slightly. We took off the lower branches from the southeast side which will hopefully serve five functions:
1) give us some of our yard space back
2) help re-balance the tree towards the fence (you can see that it is still leaning into the yard quite a lot)
3) allow the native trees on the eastern side more light and space
4) makes it tougher for convolvulous to climb into the tree
5) provide us with firewood for the winter

Trimmed willow.

I'm not sure if we used proper coppicing techniques, or if what we did will serve the tree in the long run. Looking at the tree and the property, we did what seemed to make sense. It was hard to know just how much to take off, wanting to reap the most benefit, but not damage the tree. I have a feeling we could have pruned even more heavily, but we will watch to see how the tree reacts, and wait and see how quickly the branches regrow before pruning again. I think the tree is healthier now, at least she looks more balanced and the convolvulous will have a tougher time taking over.
We will watch these branches for resprouts.

Our Christmas tree is still sitting in a bucket of wet sand in a wheelbarrow in our living room. She seems to be holding up fairly well. Once we get around to it we will transplant her along the fence next to the big willow. Eventually we are hoping this will become a living fence, from which we will be able to coppice for firewood, and will replace or at least camouflage the existing iron.
Side-benefit of coppicing: fuel.

-June Cleverer

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