Fusion fence?


I like when people think outside the box. This question from Bob in Vermont certainly qualifies.

 

Greg

I had a non bonsai related question for you. We grow a hedge of willows by yearly pollarding them back to a club-like trunk. Each year we get 5-10 whips off of each tree ( 300+) some as long as 15 and 2-3 in diameter.

Do you think it is feasible to line up cuttings side by side and make a solid plane of live wood, like a fence, 5-6 feet tall?

Bob

Bob,

I like your idea. There are no rules that say we have to fuse trees in a circle. Why not a straight line, or a 90 degree turn or even a maze. How about a living tree 100 feet wide, 1000 feet wide or even the Great Wall of China wide. The only limitations here are imagination.

This project would be a challenge but is possible. If we do what we’ve always done, we will get what we always got. Let’s try something different.

Let’s look at how we might approach this project.

First we need to root the Willow cuttings rather than just stick them in the ground. I have found that trees with more root will have a better chance of survival competing side by side. It is easier to assemble live trees than it is to replace dead trees.

Willow width Bob’s willows. Willows root easily but I don’t know how easy it would be at this width.

Second, just sticking them side by side in the ground will create inosculation ( trees growing together) at the base of the tree only (read more on inosculation at Wikipedia). We want total inosculation from bottom to top of this fence. To do that we need to attach the trees with pressure every few inches. I have used paper wrapped twist ties successfully on trees less than ¼ inch in diameter, trees wider than that are too strong and break the ties before fusion occurs. We need something stronger. My friend Shane Martin has used a brad nail gun with success. We could use a few deck screws for even more strength.

Willow fence

We could assemble the fence one cutting at a time in a pre dug trench or assemble in manageable sections of one or two feet and attach like an alternating board fence. Since Bob already has an existing row of 4 year old willows planted 5 feet apart we could just fill in between existing willows.

This solid living fence would become a giant wind sail and would need serious support until it is firmly established. We could also add sections at a 90 degree turn every 5 to 10 feet on both sides to offer more permanent stabilization.

We could leave a 5 foot section open as an entryway for a future gate to be added. The whips at the end of these sections could be bent at the top to create an arbor.

Of course you will have to be patient and let the tree grow with absolutely no pruning until fusion is complete. Then you can prune back all growth on the trunk up to 5-6 feet, leaving a crown of 3-4 feet on top.

Bob, I hope you give this project a go. If so, please photograph and document the process. I would like to know how this works out. If anyone else would like to try this project please give credit of the idea to Bob from Vermont.

As far as not being a bonsai question, the only difference between bonsai and regular trees is scale. I like this idea and plan to try it out next spring on a much smaller scale with a 2-3 foot width.

Have fun Bob!

Greg Logo

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