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Mini-Projects - The Beekman House, New York, New York 1820-1875
The Beekman House, New York, New York 1820-1875
Mini-Projects - Fredericksburg, Virginia 1700-1820
Fredericksburg, Virginia 1700-1820
A nice spring
project to try for your garden is making a bentwood trellis. Although there are many trellises to choose with a variety of prices, why not try a project that has a more colonial look to it. You can use trimmings from your own back yard with little or no cost. Cedar or hickory branches that were recently cut and still green bend well for the project which is certainly one of the harder steps to the project.

Some of the more colonial styles trellises were of a simple rustic design with rectangular patterns, crossing one to two inch wood strips with the sole purpose of supporting a vine. As the colonial period moved into the Greek Revival period, trellises became more intricate with lattice work and blended well with the design and architecture of the house. Peter Joel Harrison has written a book, Gazebos and Trellises (1999) that has many styles of trellises to choose from. A few examples are attached to this article. A period example for a colonial garden would be from Fredericksburg, Virginia (1700-1820). Another example would be a trellis from the Beekman House, New York, New York (1820-1875).

Materials Needed

  • Twigs or branches of different diameters. Cut the same size diameter and branches as long as possible.


  • Carpenter's Framing Square


  • Wire or Rope


  • Lineman's Pliers or snips


  • Pruning Shears


Mini-Projects - Bentwood garden trellis
Bentwood garden trellis
Choosing the Branches

Use branches that are very flexible. Wood that is to be bent for trellises should be used within 24 hours of cutting. Wood begins losing its flexibility after 24 hours of having been cut. Dry wood should be used only for straight pieces. Use branches of different diameter.

Sorting

Place the same diameter branches together. You can now choose if you want the thickest branches to run latitudinally or longitudinally. Place the branches either way and space them one to three inches apart.

Layout Pattern

Choose your pattern and lay it out on the ground. Whatever pattern you use a carpenter's framing square can be helpful to keep a 90 degree angle along each side of a trellis section.

Mini-Projects - Another bentwood garden trellis
Another bentwood garden trellis
Forming

Remember that the wood will shrink as it dries. You will need to tighten the joints that are wired after the shrinkage occurs. It is best to use branches that are very flexible and taper from the size of your index finger down to the size of a pencil. Experiment with two similar-sized pieces to make sure they will bend well. Nail or wire the end of one piece in place, then bend it into one half of the shape you want, wiring it in place as you go. Repeat with the other piece to form the other half of the design. Once you get a feel for bending wood, you will be more comfortable creating more elaborate designs.

Weaving

Begin by weaving the thin diameter twigs over and under the larger branches. Tie vines or twigs where they cross the branches you laid with either wire or rope. Cut the wire with the lineman's pliers or snips.

Trimming

The ends can now be trimmed with pruning shears.

The trellis can now be stood up and placed in your favorite area of the garden. This is a wonderful addition to a colonial garden. Now you can plant your favorite plant -- clematis, peas, grapes, wisteria, morning glories, honeysuckles, and jasmine. Once you get a feel for bending wood, you will be able to create more elaborate designs such as a arched heart or two heart design. Another good book to read on the subject is Making Bentwood Trellises, Arbors, Gates & Fences by Jim Long.Source: compiled by Bryan Wright
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