Monthly Archives: May 2014

Terri and Sue go willow-weaving


We escape from computers, data, pictures, management and marketing. Instead we have willow wands, secateurs, a hunky bodkin and an arm’s length of string. Add to this the hands, the intention of our minds and expert tuition by Christine Brewster. We walk into a large, crammed studio stashed with willow and willow products. Above us a 5-metre long snake looks down. It could unhinge its jaw and imbibe, a woven fantasy. “The kettle’s just boiled,” says Christine, and our day begins.

Settling to the task one realises that you are following a path that’s been there, not just for centuries, but millennia. The line stretches back in time, but also wraps the world. People have always used woven plant material to make receptacles. They carry things and store things. Through observation, cunning and contrivance, techniques have evolved using the most basic tools and ingenuity. “At one time every village would have had a basket-maker” says Christine. The receptacles are ephemeral utilities, generally discarded and replaced, sometimes they are an art-form.

I settle to make an inverted basket – the handle coming from its bottom, a whacky medium for displaying some air plants. The difference between left and right, under and over, can be daunting.

Terri decides to make a plant support. She works with an intensity that is almost ferocious, her wayward wands periodically slapping me. (There is something here for everyone!) Her structure is like a six-foot waisted vase. Whilst weaving, the vertical supports are mounted on a cardboard fruit box – a free available resource. She spirals strands of willow, fingers working furiously as she pokes in further wands. At the top it doesn’t end in a confining point but opens out. It’s not a constraining corset but an enabling structure that will accommodate the plants’ needs. It looks dynamic.

I work on my little basket. The willow can feel silky and there’s the fascination of texture and tints, even in my crude effort. At the end Christine makes the showpiece handle, a combination of fierce use of the bodkin, dexterity, and working willow threads as though sowing silk. I gape like the snake. Terri finishes her plant support, and, being Terri, makes another.

Terri’s garden now has a new dimension with two wild sculptural eruptions. In the future a cornucopia of blossom will spill from them as they are colonised by rampant growth. I contemplate my curious basket with unexpected satisfaction.  My husband stares at it, puzzled, “it’s a new lid for the laundry basket” he concludes.


Thank you Christine, I will see and understand baskets properly now, it’s an added dimension.

Susan A Tindall

Christine’s website:

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An orgy or a diet plan?

home view 16th april 2014 (2)_resized

As the days lengthen and growth in the garden visibly expands, the compulsion to add to the burgeoning foliage is irresistible. Plant nurseries and garden centres can be addictive; I’ve visited more than seven this month, actually.

Confronted by actual plants, each more alluring than the last, the urge to have them in my own garden to watch them develop, day on day, is like a feast for the famished. Each plant is a welcome individual for which there is room in the infinite space of the mind’s garden. I do, just sometimes, think “Where will this go” and buy a plant that is a solution to a problem. Mostly, I just buy plants. There are a couple of dozen of them waiting for a home in the ground here at the moment. I expect they will go – pro-tem – into pots; we had over 70 pots by the end of last summer.

My friend, JP, isn’t like this. She has a plan. Over the weeks the conception of a new border evolves in her mind. She buys several plants of the same variety to maximise the impact. She chooses a core plant and selects those that go with it in accordance with the theme that has already been developed. She takes account of the longevity of the flowering season and deadheads regularly. She combines shapes quite beautifully. She does, in fact, do all the things I advise others to do. The effect, in JP’s garden, is first class, and even better in the second and then third year of its evolution. That is the diet sheet garden and I recommend it unequivocally.

So what can be said for the orgy? My garden has too many plants and an excess of different plants. There is too much going on for it to be beautiful. However, when I am within it I am in the company of a host of celebrities, a smorgasbord of talent and individuality. It’s a visual banquet, assembled just because I love them. It works, but just for me and it is selfish. In one’s own garden one can be an absolute monarch, perhaps, a despot.

Susan A. Tindall

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