Living willow structures enhance children's play environments.
By Sharon Gamson Danks
Many landscape architects and restoration ecologists in the United
States are familiar with the use of living willow whips for creek
restoration, bank stabilization, and related environmental remediation
projects. Not as common in this part of the world is the use of
freshly cut willow branches to create living fences, archways, domes,
and other outdoor structures to enhance children's play environments.
Whimsical living willow play structures are common in many schools
and parks throughout England, southern Scandinavia, and other parts
of Europe, where they are a relatively recent adaptation of traditional
Living willow play structures are dramatic focal points of parks
and school grounds where they are installed, due to their dynamic
and creative forms. Children love the dappled yellow-green light
cast inside the structures as sunlight filters through the willow
leaves. The seasonal changes evident in these deciduous structures
are also quite appealing to children and adults, and encourage year-round
play. Leafy branches in the spring and summer allow the children
to feel "hidden" inside the living structures, although adults can
see them clearly enough for proper supervision. Fall brings colorful
leaf changes to many willow varieties that brighten the structures.
Bare branches in the winter reveal a structure's interesting woven
patterns while continuing to enhance outdoor learning environments
and children's games.
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