How To Make A Garden Obelisk

Back in February we cut our very own hazel for the first time at Pig Row. Though they may not be the straightest poles ever cut we still took time to remove all side shoots and cut them to the required length of six feet (1.8m in new money). For us they are a thing of beauty, because they were free and today is all about free things. We're going to show you how to make your own obelisk/wigwam* (*delete cultural appropriation as you see fit) and save pounds (see also euros, dollars and yen depending when in the future you are reading this). The making of a tripod** (see obelisk/wigwam and dated reference to a eighties UK TV series) is rather easy, it is so easy that you will weep at how much money you've paid for them over the years when you can make them with any wood that is easy to weave, see beech, hornbeam, hazel and willow. Heck, we've even made wigwams from ash. You always start with an odd number of poles, in this case you will need seven, some garden twine, a pair of secateurs and the patience of a saint.

Garden obelisk, life on pig row, how to make an obelisk

The first thing to do is to push the poles into the soil where you plan to have the wigwam. Space the poles so they form a circle and they are equally distant. It may be at this point that you notice that the poles are not straights and look like they have suffered from a bad case of rickets. It doesn't matter because these supports will soon be covered with your weapon of choice, peas, beans or annual climbers. They will romp over this and by late summer you won't even know there's a wonky looking support there. Remember, we have all embraced wonky vegetables, this is just another step towards realising that gardening doesn't mean perfection. Take a long piece of twine and bring the poles together at the top, tie them in together tightly, a good figure of eight will do this or just a simple O going round and round all the poles until they are all nestled together. Now, do you remember all those side shoots we cut off to form poles? They've not been thrown away, instead they have been transformed into whips, and we have only selected those that are particularly bendy. Whips are simply bendy side shoots, stripped of all foliage or lateral shoots/branches. It's then a matter of getting to grips with your inner weaver. Think of it as a series of S's going round the poles. In. Out. In. Out (don't at this point shake it all about). If you find that your whip runs out between the poles just wrap it around the pole and thread/twist it back around the weaving you just did. Basically, I now realise whilst writing this that this blog would have been better as a film, but you gets what you gets. So, look at the photo below see that in-out weaving. Shall we move on?

Weaving, garden supports

You want to do this initial weaving around 6-8 inches (15-20cm) above soil level, you want to go round and round the poles weaving in and out until you build up a layer around 6-10 whips deep. If any break, don't worry, if end bits stick out and threaten to give you a nasty cut, snip them off with the secateurs. Weave with your eye and if you're happy then move on. You then want another layer of weaving around halfway up the obelisk, this gives additional stability but also gives plants something to cling to. Finally, you should have something like this.

Wigwam, obelisk, garden obelisk

It's cost us nothing but time and weaving on a warm spring day. It's rather a nice way to pass an hour or two. The obelisks will be on either side of the path in Geoff's Garden (our new potager), this again builds on the idea of symmetry but in the end they just look fabulous, will last a year before we repurpose the hazel poles into something else for next summer. So if you have a tree that has been pruned over winter and you have the wood just waiting for the bonfire, maybe you could have a go at making your own supports. Just so you know that some supports after cutting will continue to grow but they won't have the energy to root.

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