Monday, April 12, 2010

Homemade Garden Obelisk

We had some more beautiful weather this weekend, so it seemed a shame to sit indoors at the computer, putting together my new pattern (I promise, it's coming!).  In between appointments for haircuts and trips to the grocery store, we took a nice long walk on the beach with the canines and spend the rest of the time out in the yard, cleaning, cutting and digging.

I've been meaning to start collecting some willow branches to make some garden structures (I make my tomato cages out of branches, instead of wasting money on the cheap metal ones that always break).  It seemed as good a time as any to get out there and do it!  So, without further ado, here is the story of my Sunday afternoon:

I grabbed my trusty-rusty (not really, on the "rusty" part) Fiskars cutters and set off to find branches along the ditches and marshy parts near our house.

I cut about 14 long sturdy twigs - they're actually young birch trunks, which grow like weeds at the back of our property (see photo above).  Then, we ventured further out with the car and found a whole whack of dogwoody/willowy shrubs and did a bit of selective pruning to get an armful of skinny, flexible branches (if you leave 2/3 of the shrub intact, you won't do any damage to it...besides, these are considered weeds 'round these parts and they get totally mowed down every few years):

Then, I grabbed some hemp string:

And I took a few minutes to clean up my branches (snipped off the twigs and cut the ends at a sharper angle, making it easier to ram them into the ground):

The next step was to take a small branch (any one, it doesn't matter) and tie the string to it, leaving an 18" tail hanging from it:

...which I attached to a second branch...

...and used them to score a circle in the ground (I guesstimated the size of the circle - it all kind of depends on the length of the sturdy'll see what I mean in a minute):


That's when I took 12 of my sturdy branches, all nicely trimmed and "sharpened" at the bottom, and stabbed them into the ground, spaced like the numbers on a clock face (I told you to collect 14 of them because you never know if one is going to break on you or be too bendy to work right...):

Next up: take a length of the twine and tie those babies up in a teepee.

This is where I stood back and hemmed and hawed about whether or not my circle was too big (it was) and what I should do about it (decided to do nothing, as I was losing the light and wanted to hurry so I could show you my work):

Then I took one of the thicker willow branches and started the weaving part:

I started layering more twigs on top of it, alternating them and inserting new ones as needed (use only the sturdier ones for this - the little skinny weavers are best saved for the top).  I had to constantly shift my bodily position to see and access the entire perimeter of the structure.

When the bottom branches started to peter out, I had to add new ones to the top of the ring:

Here's what it looked like after a few rounds:

I kept going for another round or two and then started "snaking" the weavers up in a spiral.  I started using slightly thinner weavers, but ganging them two by two to get good stability out of them:

...and kept going...

...and going (giving the bottom portion a haircut along the way)...

...until I got all the way up to the top, where I wound all the weavers around the bundle and jammed the ends back down inside the knot (let me know if you need clarification on that part - I couldn't take a good photo, as my hands were busy):

At that point, I could untie the string and crossed my fingers, hoping it would all stay together (you can always retie it if it seems like it all wants to fall apart - take more weavers and jam a couple down, fat end first, into the top of your knot, twine them around and jam the ends back down through the top of the knot, pulling it as tightly as you can):

The branches got a little trim (but would also look nice, untrimmed):


Now, this is a sturdy little bugger and it's stuck in the ground really nicely, but I can always yank it out and move it if I want to.  They travel well in the back seat of a car (hint: Mother's Day is coming!) and can be re-installed, as long as the person doing to installing takes their time and goes slowly, gently pushing each branch down, one at a time.

This is a great structure for sweet peas or other climbing plants.  It also looks good, naked.  It's up to you, really.  I make simplified versions of this for my tomato plants.

So, there you go!  Now you can do it, too.  Happy weaving!


  1. What a great alternative to those rusty ole cages!

  2. Oh my goodness, I love this idea! Thanks Miss D =)

  3. Thanks and you're welcome, peeps. Yes, they are much nicer than those ugly tomato cages and climbing poles. You can can make all sorts of shapes and sizes, too (like maybe a peony ring or something to hold up your sedums?).

  4. Amazing! Just what I was looking for. I'll be hunting out sturdy sticks and bendy branches to make my own now. Much nicer than those from the store.
    I'm just a little stuck on how to fasten them at the top, without using the string, but I'll figure that out when I get there.
    Thanks for the great instructions.

  5. Hi Deborah,

    I wanted to mention that you could also use a length of wire to fasten them at the top, if you wanted to. It would easily be hidden by the willow branch bundle, which would make it easier to finish up (you wouldn't have to cross your fingers when you untie the bow in the string - that's the part that always gives me heartburn).

  6. Thankyou very much for taking the time and trouble to take photos and post this. I'm going to try it tomorrow in my little garden.

    - Mandy

  7. Thanks for sharing your blessed creativity!
    Just what I was looking for :)

  8. Thank You!! Well done n great Tutoring, I am inspired

  9. Beautiful, just beautiful! Highly decorative & practical, such a rare treat. I don't know what type of wood I will use but I will beaking these for next year. A big thankyou for such a wonderful tutorial❤️