Bentwood Trellises for Your Garden

Bentwood arbor entry to my lower garden area.
I've been making and writing about bentwood gardens for several decades. Actually I started making things out of saplings and limbs clear back when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. Somewhere I have some photos of the elaborate trellises I hauled in my pickup to Washington, DC in 1992 to serve as the entryway into an Inaugural Brunch for the Clintons I was involved with. Over the years I've given programs and demonstrations for a lot of State Master Gardener conferences, herb festivals and so forth. In other words, I love making bent wood trellises!
My second bentwood book, this one from Store Publishing.
My first little book, Tea and Cakes Under the Trellis netted a mention and review in the New York Times, which led to Storey Publishing offering me a contract for this book, above. It's available on my website, as well on Amazon.

The fun thing about making trellises is how useful they are in the garden. Roses, beans, clematis, all grow well on trellises. They are the first vertical gardens! You don't have to build stuff on walls in order to make a vertical garden, just use a trellis and plant upward.

"Bentwood" is simply any green wood that will bend. Limbs left over from ice storms or tornadoes, all work. Saplings cut from fence rows, saplings thinned from the woods, even wood from back alleys, all can be turned into fantastic trellises.

Currently I'm working on designing a new cover for my 3rd book on bentwood - Romantic Bentwood Garden Trellises. That one's been on the market for several years and has always been a good seller but in order to list it as an e-book, I think it needs a new look and new cover. It has the basics for making trellises, but not the amount of projects and designs of the bigger book from Storey.

$5.95 from my website.
This trellis is made from bent cedar saplings.
Any kind of wood works for trellises as long as it bends. The one above is long, slender cedar saplings. I also use birch, hickory, elm and others but my favorites are willow and cedar. Willow is easily renewable, cut it off and it grows back with more good trellis wood!
Adam, our garden intern last year, made this handsome trellis and planted gourds on it. Clematis loves trellises, too. This trellis will easily last several years outside.
This is one of the trellises I made some years back. The photographer thought it would look good in this spot where a gate was so we stood it up for the photograph. The posts kind of overpower the trellis and you can't quite tell that it's actually an arbor you walk through.
This is Adam, making another trellis a couple of years ago.
The method is the same, whether you are making a gate, arbor, trellis or fence. (My book bigger book gives the steps as well as variations on how you make other projects).
Here's the little arbor on the left (where the photographer stuck the trellis for the photo). Notice the bentwood arbor on the right side of the photo. Our friend George and I built that years ago. If you see me and the garden in reruns of P.Allen Smith Gardens, this is the view you see in the show where Allen and I are strolling and talking.
Now would be a great time to build a trellis for your garden! It's a great way to recycle trimmings you might otherwise throw away.


vermontflowerfarm@outlook.com said...

These are great, Jim. I'm getting ready to make some arbors with cedar using mortise and tenon style. Too cold to think about it today--snow is falling, wind is blowing.

George Africa

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Sweetie Pie,

YOU KNOW I ADORE YOUR BENTWOOD garden architecture. It is wonderful.



Anonymous said...

Hey Jim, this is something I've always wanted to try, but just can't seem to get done. I have one of your books - might be a good time to take it down and read it again! Thanks for this post!

trellis said...

I love this bentwood garden architecture. I gotta check out your book I think.

Unknown said...

I just bought your bentwood trellises book and am considering trying some. However, I have a few questions. I do powerline clearance so have accses to quite a few types of trees but I might get some branches early in the week, but not be able to do anything untill the weekend. What I want to know is, can a person steam branches to make them more supple, and have you or any one reading this tried steaming ?
Thanks, Rod.

Jim Longs Garden said...

Rod, I hope you check back here in the Comments for my answer. As I say often on my blog, I have no way of reaching people when they leave questions as I have no access to email addresses or contact info. So...to answer your question:
It's important to use bendable wood when it's green, usually within 24 hours of its cutting. If you do nothing but bent the curved portions, then add straight pieces later.

Steaming (or soaking) would be a difficult process it would seem, and with questionable results. Green wood loses 25% of its moisture in about 5 days, and when that happens the wood shrinks, so steaming won't do much to make it limber again. If you could email me through my website: LongCreekHerbs.com, I can give you a more complete answer.

It sounds like you have great access to perfect trellis material! Thanks,