Using hazel, willow and birch as materials for natural supports you can create stunning structures in the garden that offer a sense of grandeur in places where a permanent building might be too much of a commitment. Their temporary status can also be seen as a great opportunity to experiment and have fun. Here you’ll find some ideas and advice for using willow in the garden and inspiration for three natural garden structures.
One of the joys of creating your own structures is that they are never the same from one year to the next and can be both decorative and practical. This short arbour supports climbing beans and also forms the entrance to a hedged enclosure within a kitchen garden. It can be made each year by pushing diametrically opposed pairs of birch branches into the ground. These are then arched over each other and held in place by loosely twisting the twiggy ends around each other. Birch can make particularly soft-looking structures that are pleasing to both the eye and the gripping tendrils of climbing plants.
Kitchen garden arch
In the kitchen garden of Rockcliffe House in Gloucestershire, head gardener Thomas Unterdorfer and his gardener Rommel use hazel to build a series of arches for the kitchen garden. Rommel creates the pleasing vaulted shape by using four hazel rods to form a square footing, which is complemented by the simple decoration of the straight horizontals and lower single arch on each side that enclose the ‘roof canopy’.
Woven hazel tunnel
Finishing flourishes, such as the loops that join the woven rows and crown the end arches of this woven hazel tunnel in the walled gardens at Attingham Park, Shropshire, can add a wonderful element of whimsy. Such covered structures work just as well in a small garden, because they make great use of vertical space.
Words Kristy Ramage and Jacky Mills
Photographs Jason Ingram