Friday, February 10, 2012

you wanna build a what?

Early this morning Mr. D took off for 5 days of golf in Arizona. It's been a mild winter, hardly any snow. Naturally, the morning he leaves the snow began falling and blowing. It's also the morning of "Donuts with Dad" at the ol' PS, and the boys seemed despondent not to have a special man in their life attend. Dad en route to his golf trip, one grandpa too far away, another grandpa too ill (plus the roads are crap), the neighborhood surrogate grandpa in Florida. Team Testosterone couldn't agree among themselves on who to invite, so this morning we did "Donuts with Dad at Rico's with Mom." I treated them to breakfast and brought them 45 minutes late to school so they missed most of the event. I generally don't promote skipping school, but in this case I think we made the right call.

Yesterday I mentioned a new project around here. As you know, I'm kind of a nut about my gardens and I really want some fencing--more to add structure than for any other purpose. Among my favorite gardens in the Whole Wide World is Anne Hathaway's garden in Stratford-on-Avon, England. It's rustic and charming, full of pretty flowers and practical vegetables and a small orchard. Sweet little paths wind through the property and occasional benches and trellises provide cozy spots for reading a book or watching the birds.

I've studied many books about garden design to try to figure out how to flesh out the bare bones of my own garden. I keep coming back to those English Cottage Gardens, and even with my informal styles, I need some fencing. I've been hankering for the white picket kind of fence, but I have a lot of garden to fence around, so the price tag on such a project would be substantial.

I kicked around the idea of planting hedgerows, but they take eons to grow, and while I think I may plant some, I want more immediate gratification. Like the kind that happens this summer.

And then I remembered (reminded by Jen on the Edge's recent post) how Anne Hathway's garden was framed out by very rustic-looking fencing and edging. Since Medieval times, gardeners have constructed wattle fences to provide structure, shelter and support for their plants.
I did some research and learned that to build a wattle you need a lot of "green" sticks, preferably live willows since they are flexible, durable, straight and don't have too many excess branches to clip off. As it happens, we have a prodigious amount of willows growing on our property. To build a wattle you need sturdy branches for posts. As it happens, we have enough fallen branches to heat an entire European village for two years.

So, the materials to build a wattle are plentiful and free. I can build any size of wattle to suit my needs. All I need is time--to gather the sticks and branches and pound/weave/shove/tie them all together. We've hardly any snow on the ground and there aren't any bugs or stinging nettle at this time of year, so yesterday I began Project Wattle. Armed with a pruner, Jax and I attacked a berm of willows and dragged several loads up to the garden. Then we scavenged the woods and found a good supply of sturdy, straight branches and logs measuring at least 3 1/2 inches in diameter.

For the next month or so I'll continue to cut willows and find fallen trees for posts. It's great exercise tromping around back in the woods and dragging loads back up to the house. Then, when the ground thaws, I'll be ready to pound in my stakes and begin weaving the willows between them.

Project Wattle. It's the perfect solution for this dry winter weather. Besides, I've always wanted to say "I'm going to get all Medieval on your asses" in a meaningful way, so now I can while I wield my pruner at those willows encroaching on our fields. Plus it's a unique conversation starter--"What've you been up to this winter?" "Me? Oh, I'm building a wattle."

23 comments:

  1. You know - I've never seen wattles before. Interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Excellent! A friend of mine did it in her garden (a Dutch postage stamp sized garden though) and it looks fantastic! And it is indeed the perfect winter weather to start gathering your supplies and do the prep work.

    ReplyDelete
  3. A wattle in the yard is better than a wattle under one's neck.

    ReplyDelete
  4. So envious! There is a cool nursery (Willowglen) outside Decorah where the owner is focusing on willow of various sorts. Lots of great ideas :D
    We're a little too north to grown it reliably -- so will enjoy yours vicariously! Ann B

    ReplyDelete
  5. I've never heard of a wattle before-I'm excited to see what you can do!

    I'm going to build a new garden in a diff part of my yard this year to get more sunlight and hopefully have better luck. I prob need to start planning soon!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'd never heard of a wattle either, but it sounds like a great idea. I'm looking forward to pictures as it takes shape. It sounds like a great way to grow something like sweet autumn clematis.

    ReplyDelete
  7. OOoooo. I love those gardens. Beautiful. And they look magical, somehow, too.
    What a great idea! A wattle! And it's fun to say too. :)

    ReplyDelete
  8. So fun.
    I don't think a wattle is my answer though- I need some retaining walls, perferably out of some sort of stone.... Darn that hill.

    ReplyDelete
  9. oh, good, I like to use the tried and true as long as it doesn't cramp today's lifestyle. willows grow wild here along the river banks, so plenty of that available.
    my garden gets no fence, cuz if it did, farmguy wouldn't be able to get in it to do the digging with his big tractors and machinery. this year is looks like I will have a communal garden. some neighbors have no land, so they will help weed if I plant enough for them too. plus they will let me ride a horse now and then. seems a fair trade off to me.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh, so THAT's what a wattle is ("and a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made...").

    I want to know where I can get one of those figures to put in my garden, so that I can fool the neighbors into thinking I am working hard doing weeding in the garden, and so all those weeds are not my fault.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I love this! You definately need to update with pictures when it is all done.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Your wattle. My belt/blanket. Your project is more fun to say.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I have ALWAYS wanted to build a wattle. I'm so excited that you're doing it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Sometimes you exhaust me.

    I am sure it will be lovely.

    ReplyDelete
  15. What a great idea! I love the wattle fence and actually think it is cooler than a picket fence.

    My sister used to have an English cottage garden. They're my favorite also.

    I think you made the right call with the boys. Really, why would they need to sit around and watch the other kids with their dads when their own can't be there. What a good mom!

    ReplyDelete
  16. The only wattle I have ever heard of is the tree type of wattle..........

    ReplyDelete
  17. So THAT'S what a wattle looks like! Neat!

    I think it's just the right sort of fence for your gardens. Well, for what your gardens look like in my head, anyway! They will add structure but still look organic and not fussy.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I would love to roam your land to find sticks for the wattle fence. That sounds like so much fun!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Your yard will look like Heritage Hill. :) We built wattles around the kitchen gardens at Fort Howard when I worked there. It's fun work....but not when dressed in a corset and long gown. :)

    ReplyDelete
  20. I love that you study gardens. I wish I had the ability to landscape our yard better.
    xoxo
    SC

    ReplyDelete
  21. I love the look of cottage gardens...mine never turn out that way, but whatever.

    I always thought a wattle was the flappy skin on an old persons neck, oh well...yours are much more attractive ;)

    ReplyDelete
  22. "Project Wattle." Very, very impressive-- and no small job. Can't wait to see the finished photos.
    xo jj

    ReplyDelete
  23. The first thing I did after seeing "wattle" was look at my saggy chin/neck!

    And I love that you took your boys to school late under the circumstances, that's a good mom!

    ReplyDelete

Spill it, reader.