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How to Weave an Arbor from Vines and Branches

If you prefer a casual, rustic garden, you might enjoy adding completely natural decorative embellishments--such as an arbor that you make yourself from woven vines and branches.  This is called bentwood.  So don’t throw that pile of pruned twigs and branches into the compost heap just yet!

Choose the location for your arbor.  Be sure that there’s approximately seven or eight feet of vertical clearance, and about four feet of horizontal clearance.  This is particularly important if your arbor will be located near trees. 

When choosing the type of wood to use for your handmade bentwood arbor, you want flexible varieties.  Birch, willow, mulberry and privet are good choices.  But you should avoid conifers such as pine or redwood, because the wood is not pliable enough.  You should also use freshly cut branches or vines--within 24 hours of cutting them. 

Now put on your gardening gloves and grab your sharp pruning shears!  You want to find the longest branches possible; cut them off at the base.  They don’t necessarily have to be thick, as they will gain strength when they’re woven with the other branches.  Snip off all leaves and offshoots. 

From your pile of branches, choose the longest and thickest ones; set aside the smallest and thinnest branches for decorative embellishments to be used later.  Now bunch some of the longest and thickest ones together and bundle them with bailing wire.  Create another bunch.  Now attach the second bunch near the end of the first with bailing wire so that the entire length is about 15 feet.  Repeat this same process to create four separate 15-foot-long bundles.  Don’t worry if they don’t look identical--that’s the whole idea!  You want your arbor to be natural and unique.   

Now grab a hammer and four pieces of rebar that are four feet long each.  Hammer each piece of rebar two feet into the ground where the arbor posts will be inserted.  The front two holes should be at least four feet apart; the back two holes should be about one and one-half feet from the front holes. 

Now tie each of the four bundles of branches to each of the four pieces of rebar with wire; the bundles of branches will stand vertically.  Now take one of the branches from the left front bundle, gently bend it toward the right front bundle, and attach it with wire.  Work gently with the wood, and be careful not to overextend it so it doesn’t snap in two.  If you need to make the branches more pliable, cut very small notches into them where you need them to bend.  Continue bending branches one at a time and wrapping them with wire to achieve an arch.  Repeat this process from the right bunch of branches to the left bunch, then again with the two bunches in the back.  Make sure the arch of the back bunches is the same height as that of the front two bunches.  If you like, you can weave in some of your smaller set-aside branches and vines to make the arbor thicker. 

You can also use the smaller branches and vines to connect the front and back arches for more structural stability.  Wind vines around the top center, and about halfway up on the left and right sides; you’ll have three small connecting sections.  If you like, you can add even more natural beauty to your bentwood arbor by twirling branches and vines around the front and back arches.   

Now stand back and admire your handiwork!  What a fun and creative way to increase your enjoyment of the natural world in your garden. 

Now that you’ve handcrafted your very own bentwood arbor, you might be itching to try your hand at other adding other bentwood elements to your garden, such as chairs, woven vine fencing and bentwood gates!  Some ingenuitive gardeners have even fashioned entire outdoor rooms of woven branches and vines, complete with woven furniture! 

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