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!