I love the look of sweet peas and climbing beans growing up natural wigwams of sturdy sticks from the garden. Borlotti and purple tepee beans look great winding their colourful way up smaller ones too, especially if their scarlet and purple pods are surrounded by the very easy to grow calendula and red/purple orach.
Not having hazel in the garden but with a willow tree along the drive that regularly needs coppicing to keep it in check, we decided that willow sticks would work just as well. We turned a blind eye to the fact that they grow so easily themselves, in our eagerness to build our free and beautifully rustic looking plant supports.
Surely using sticks that we have an abundance of, that bent conveniently and looked great was much better than spending money on imported canes? Enthusiastically we got out the twine and began bending and weaving.
Of course the very dead looking sticks came to life much easier than the beans. As the beans, faced with harsh weather as they emerged from the ground, began to slowly creep up the supports, the willow erupted into fertile life. Shoots burst out everywhere, giving the poor beans some fierce competition.
Feeling quite foolish, but ever optimistic about the efforts of the beans (by now the painted lady runner beans are covered in lovely red and white flowers) I looked with envy at other people’s hazel trees.
But a visit to my wonderful pig guru Carol left me a lot more cheerful about my willow teepees. Carol took Ruby and I through her orchard to see some new Berkshire piglets. Thinking of the sow who was no doubt in need of a treat, let alone extra nutrition, she tossed her some willow, explaining how good it is for pigs.
Ever since, I’ve pulling shoots from my teepees as I potter around the garden, enjoying another free way of adding to the pig’s healthy diet. Stripping the willow has never been so satisfying.