The Woven Garden

Traditional Woven hurdle at Woodhill, NZ Photo K Mackay

I once read an article in my favourite UK Magazine, Country Living, about a gardener who described his garden as “woven’. He used willow and hazel to edge the beds and create wind breaks and other garden structures. That magical combination of almost hinted-at structure that is neither solid nor permanent and the way it gently contained the exuberant plantings seemed a very natural way to work with nature. One that I find very appealing.

We have our own woven gardener here in New Zealand near Oamaru. Mike Lillian would be the expert we have here in that regard and although his garden is private, you can see some of his great work at Riverstone Kitchen, the garden of Dot Smith on the northern side of Oamaru.  Here is the link. Go and visit if you are down this way.

Our Scottish forbears would traditionally have used this method to  make hurdles to coral their flocks  – a bit like Prattley gates are used now in New Zealand.  They were moveable gates and fences that you could join together to make yards for the animals when they needed some attention. You can also use willow of course and that’s a whole other artform as well.   Depending on what you use, don’t expect them to last forever – that’s part of the appeal.   They will break down naturally eventually and you will need to make them again.  So use what you have available to you and have a go at doing some woven edges.

My sister who is in the art department side of the film industry has worked recently on a job where hurdles were imported from the UK. She managed to acquire some after the film ended so I was fascinated to see the real traditional way they were made.  They look fantastic in her garden and I am very jealous! 

Garden at Woodhill NZ showing woven hurdle and stone edging. Photo K Mackay

The Chook Run Project.

I love the idea that anyone can make a woven edging using what they have. I don’t have a lot of oak or hazel poles to hand but I do have plenty of macrocarpa and lots of cherry root suckers.  So with the idea of using what I have and doing what I can, I tidied up around the chook run. This area had been overrun by evil invasive paddock grasses and just about killed the berries also planted there.  So much mud too as we’ve just had a very wet July and it was getting a bit dire trying to get out and feed the hens.  So with a bit of muscle provided by my husband, a  section was cleared,  raspberries and rhubarb rescued, and blackcurrants rescovered.

I gathered up some macrocarpa branches of about the right size to make some pegs and hubby kindly helped by cutting them to size (40cm) and even making points on them to make it easier to bash into the ground.    We had tons of cherry suckers so I got the loppers out and went round cutting them back. They had to be cut out anyway so always very satisfying to be able to find a use for what would normally be a burned.

And I did my very own bit of weaving!  Its not a perfect art so I just did what I could and I love the result.  I definitely got up a bit of a sweat pounding the pegs in – but who needs to go to the gym when you are out there getting your exercise in the garden!   I put the pegs in about 40 cm apart and used different sizes of wood to weave.  The smaller ones I bunched together as well. Can’t wait to finish off the job, get some more berries in there for baby Elderflower to graze on so roll on summer! 

Woven edging at Bellbird Hill NZ Photo K Mackay

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