Weave Some Support

Sunday, September 15, 2002

Woven wooden trellises have always been popular in cottage gardens, but now these rustic garden accessories have made it into gardens of every style.

Plan for your trellis to be at least eight feet tall.
You’ll need green wood:
two side pieces that bend easily, one inch diameter, tapering to half inch at the top.
two crosspieces, three feet long as big around as a garden hose.
whips, six feet long and flexible, half inch diameter at the larger end.
sheetrock nails, roll of strong and flexible wire hammer, pliers, small saw, tape measure, and hand pruners.

Favorite woods for trellis-making include sturdy and durable cedars, junipers, redwood for the sides and supports; supple willow, wisteria, privet, beech, and bamboo for the whips. Find them in your garden and undeveloped areas around subdivisions. Get to know an arborist,  or a public garden supervisor so you can raid their trimmings. Look for sprouts around old stumps, water sprouts on crepe myrtle, and vines coming up where they aren’t wanted.

Use the driveway, picnic table, or workbench to lay out the wood in the desired design. Attach crosspieces first, then create a heart, criss cross pattern, or upright fan with the whips. Put the bottom cross eighteen inches from the large end of the sidepiece. Nail securely straight through and reinforce with wire woven crossways, leaving enough wire hanging to twist for additional support as the wood cures. Put the second cross where the wood begins to bend easily, about four feet further up the side. Cut a couple of pieces of wire and form the arch, bending the pieces together and securing them. For stability and a center support for plants, add a long piece attached to each crosspiece and the arch. For hearts and other details made of vines or willow, assemble first, wire together with fishing line, then attach. Paint or stain will extend the life, but at the cost of a rustic, aged wood.

To install in the garden, sink two lengths of pipe into the soil, then wire the trellis to the bars.    
For more detailed bentwood trellis designs, look for books by Jim Long.

This is the unedited version of an article that appeared in Garden Almanac, a publication of GroGroup.

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