Thanks to Nicole Asselin, over on a too-fleeting stay from Brooklyn, we had a brilliant day on Saturday. Nicole, Charlotte Head from Cordwainers, and I ran a natural dye workshop in the garden. We did three techniques – bundling, folding/tying and rust and tea – and everyone produced something beautiful. The hollyhocks and madder were the stars but co-stars were dock, coreposis, weld and other flowers we picked from the garden.
To protect and decorate the pallet shed, we’re planning to weave willow through it. Pearl from Story Storey tracked down a source – right on our doorstep on Hackney Marshes. The huge site is, incidentally, home to the biggest number of football pitches in the world – or at least that’s what the man at the cafe said.
Len the Lop (that’s what we call him) from Hackney Council lent us some loppers from their depot, which is also home to a wonderful array of parks department gadgets, large and small: sit-on mowers, benches, recycling bins, piles of gravel, tractors, an ambulance – and loppers.
Len the Lop let us out of the back gate and we walked down to the River Lea – and into a peaceful, quiet world (apart from the steady hum of the A12 and the echo-y thudding of the Yahoo Wireless festival at the QE Park over the road.) So while we were ambling down an almost rural woodland path by a gentle river, Justin Timberlake was warming up for adulation.
Willow (salix alba) is a wonderful tree. Not only does it attract and support a variety of wildlife, but it is, of course the original source of aspirin. It is also, because of its anticoagulant properties, a natural alternative to rooting hormone. Just cut several 10cm lengths and soak them overnight in the fridge and use the water to root cuttings.
The willow trees along the Lea are ancient and giant. Normally for weaving, we’d use coppiced willow, but we hope the branches have the same bendy properties. We we tugged on their leafy extremities to get at the thicker branches. Snip snip with the loppers and we soon had a large pile of leafy twigs and branches.
They may be too thin for our weaving but we will see… The wonderful Paul from the council is going to deliver them to us tomorrow. Watch this space.
After last year’s deluge, it’s come as a surprise (though it shouldn’t) that we have to water – after ten days of good weather. My general practice is to water a lot, seldom, rather than little and often, as I want my plants’ roots to delve deep into the soil to find moisture, rather than be weakened by regular waterings, which keep the roots too near the surface. Having said that, I have come across a wonderful irrigation system for those plants that really do need a lot of water – squashes and beans for example. My friend Sara told me about it and I’ve been spreading the word ever since as, it’s so simple and perfect. All you need is some old terracotta pots and corks. You plug the hole in the bottom with the cork (the ease of this depends on the quality of the cork. Denser is better for cutting to the right size) or my latest discovery – Sugru. Then bury the pot near the root of your plant and fill with water. The pot being porous will gradually – very gradually – allow the water to seep out providing constant moisture for the plants.