Tulips are what attract visitors to the Skagit Valley every April, and sometimes into May like this year. The tulip fields have generally reached full bloom. This week is the last one to appreciate the stunning view of large blocks of various colors. Don’t forget to stop by Dunbar Gardens!
Greetings from the Skagit Valley on Groundhog Day. Or is it Candelmas? Or a celebration of the Irish Goddess Brigit? Or Saint Brigit? It is certainly a point in the year when we are thinking about the coming of Spring. Indeed the willow is beginning to swell its buds. Some of the earlier varieties are even showing their first catkins. I thought I would upload these photos Katherine took of a potato basket, or skib, being made. She took a series of step by step photos to use as a handout for an upcoming basketry class. An Irish basket seems appropriate to the day (since I don’t have any “Brigit’s crosses” to show – Update: we do have a Brigid’s cross post now). There are good photos and descriptions of skibs in the Irish basketmaker Joe Hogan’s book “Basketmaking in Ireland”.
We have been growing willow for basketry since 1994 at Dunbar Gardens. As Katherine became interested in willow basketmaking, she realized she would need to grow her own materials since very little cultivated willow was available to purchase in our area. In addition, it gave her more choice in selecting the size, color, flexibility and other characteristics of the willow she weaves with. As a result, we have tried quite a number of species and varieties of Salix here and currently have 60 varieties growing. We have planted over ten thousand willow cuttings on our Skagit Valley farm. Willow is easy to propagate in most soils. An eight to twelve inch cutting taken from a dormant one year old rod is planted directly into the ground in Spring. March thru April is an ideal time to plant. We have willows that are useful for basketry, garden trellises, living fences, furniture, and ornamental hedges. Willow is a very useful family of plants!
We have a list and descriptions of some of the varieties that we have had success with on our website. We are now cutting our willows and will begin shipping orders for cuttings next month.