Build a Rustic Trellis

comments (4) July 29th, 2008

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The author with some of her trellises. Built using scavenged vines and saplings, each is a unique construction.
Twisted bittersweet vines create a sculptural look within the sapling frame.
A power drill makes quick work of attaching the vines to the frame.
The author with some of her trellises. Built using scavenged vines and saplings, each is a unique construction.Click To Enlarge

The author with some of her trellises. Built using scavenged vines and saplings, each is a unique construction.

Photo: John Bray

The question inevitably comes up at every dinner party with new faces. What do you do? When the very successful clothing designer I was seated beside asked, what could I tell him but the truth? I make things with sticks, I said. For the past several years, I’ve been going into woods that are being cleared, cutting saplings and vines, and turning them into trellises. It isn’t a whole lot more complicated than that. Yet the work has fed my soul like nothing else ever has.

I didn’t plan a vocation of making trellises. I went to trade school to become an auto mechanic, and even worked as one for a while. This artistic work sort of evolved from my longtime hobby of making gifts for people.

Go with the flow. I started making the trellises after I saw something similar, except there were no vines involved. I think the vines add an attractive and distinctive touch. Nature does the twisting and turning of the vines, and I get to play with them. That’s why anyone can make this type of trellis. You just need to find a vine that inspires you.

When I spot a vine in the woods, I see right away how it will work on a trellis. I’m inspired 100% by the vine. You can use almost any woody vine, including wisteria and grape vines, but most of the time I use bittersweet. I like the color, and it’s lightweight, flexible, and holds up well.

Vine and sapling trellis
  Framed by braced saplings, bittersweet vines form a decorative pattern.

I don’t really enjoy doing representational designs, although the trellises with hearts are the most popular. I prefer to let the course of the vine dictate its use on the trellis. I think the vine is beautiful as it is.

Eight easy pieces frame a trellis. The frame is very simple. All it takes is eight pieces of wood: two long main stems, two shorter pieces for the main frame, and then four bracing pieces. I’m lucky to have a friend with a few nearby building lots where I can harvest my supplies.

You may not be so lucky, but certainly you’ll be able to find a woodland where you can get permission to take a few saplings. You also might check with landscaping or clearing companies for leftovers. My favorite types of wood are maple and beech, which are quite plentiful here in western Massachusetts.

This is hardly an exact science. After all, mak­ing things with sticks is making things with sticks. Take an afternoon to be wild and creative and make a trellis that will be a unique blend of nature and your own creativity.

After you try it, show it off to other members in the
gardener's gallery.
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posted in: Projects, trellis, structures

Comments (4)

silaswren writes: Great work done..
Posted: 12:50 am on October 10th
kathycat writes: So glad I found this site. I'm planning to make a rustic trellis for my morning glories. Thanks for all the ideas.

Posted: 10:55 am on May 10th
Silverridge0 writes: This was a wonderful teaching!! I want to make a backyard gate going into the woods behind our home, and this will be the inspiration for that project!! I'll use the same guidelines for strength and beauty as you've shown, to create this! Thanks, Janice!! Sherry Zumbaugh
Posted: 11:55 am on March 7th
vickim777 writes: Great timing! I was just thinking of making something like this. I hadn't thought of the braces, so that was a good touch. Thanks much.
Posted: 10:43 am on March 7th
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