How To Make A Garden Obelisk Using Willow

More and more gardeners want to make or have made, bespoke things for their gardens as opposed to buying garden centers, catalogues or online. Making your own sculptures and structures is immensely satisfying and original. What is more, making structures with willow, a highly organic looking material, means it doesn’t have to look picture perfect.

Pliable, young willow stems are the perfect material to use for making a plant supporter. Easy and quick to assemble, willow supports are attractive features in their own right, before they are eventually hidden by lush plant growth.

Materials

A supply of flexible (one year’s growth) willow needs to be up to a diameter of 5cm (2in), and ideally 120–150cm (4–5ft) in length.

Preparation Of Materials

Willow needs a few weeks to dry a little before they are ready to use. If you are using ‘green’ willow sticks for the uprights they will be likely to root when they are put in the ground. By pointing the ends of ‘green’ sticks you are taking the bark off and this will prevent them from rooting, or you can dip the ends in boiling water.

Alternatively, you can use brown (or dry) willow. For 120 - 150cm (4-5ft) length rods, Soaking time of five or six days will be necessary before they are flexible enough to weave with. To test that the willow is ready, bend it at the thick end (this is called the ‘butt’ and the thin end of the rod is called the ‘tip’) and it should bend at 90 degrees without the bark splitting. Soaked willow can be kept wrapped in a damp cloth and should be used within five days.

What You Needed

  • 15 to 19 willow rods (5ft in length)
  • Stakes – 12 equal lengths. Length needs to be longer than the height of the plant supporter
  • Weavers – At least 20 long, thin bendy rods.
  • Twine
  • Secateurs
  • Willow stems for weaving (must be pliable)
  • Scissors

Time needed: 2 hours

How To

  1. Prepare the garden area by clearing any weeds and unwanted plant growth. Level the ground in the area with your shovel.
  2. Stand a number of rigid rods together in the ground to form the shape of the plant supporter. Temporarily tie a short length of twine around the rods near the top to secure them while you complete the rest of the construction process.
  3. Wrap two or three pliable willow stems around the group of rods about 4 inches down from their tops to bind the rods tightly to each other. Push the willow securely into the wrapping to hold the willow in place. When a tight binding has been formed, if you feel the plant supporter is stable, then remove the temporary twine.
  4. Twist two pliable willow stems together loosely before wrapping them around and weaving them in and out of the upright rods to make bindings about 2 inches wide in two places roughly one-third and two-thirds of the distance between the top binding and ground level. Trim, and tuck any loose ends of willow to the inside of the plant supporter as you work. For a decorative finish, wind a thin withy around the top to hide the string and tuck in the ends.

Note: If you are planting a climber, for example jasmine or ivy, then do so before you place the plant supporter.

Aftercare

Your plant support is best used during the summer months only. You can give it an annual coat of wood preservative to prolong its lifespan; a traditional method is an equal mix of linseed oil and turpentine. Store your plant support indoors during the winter months and it should give you several years of good service.