There’s something magical about tying structures with willow. Watch willow growers use a withy (tough, flexible stem of cut willow) to make their traditional ‘rose’ tie and you’d swear there was wizardry involved. Even the simplest withy tie seems miraculously to stay put and have more strength and beauty than a string tie.
Even with a humble bean pole structure you can build something that suits the style of your garden. It will be visible for a good proportion of its life, until the growth of the beans takes over, so ask yourself what kind of structure you would prefer – a neat affair with finer hazel rods and intricately woven willow, or a wilder looking structure, with twisted poles and protruding ends? Here we selected long, straight, hazel bean poles to produce a simple, repetitive and geometric structure.
Bean pole support (follow images below)
To bind two diagonally or perpendicular crossing hazel poles together use a short slim withy about 60cm in length. Place the thick, butt end of the withy against one pole and wind its length tightly around the junction of poles a couple of times to securely trap this end. Continue winding in a figure of eight motion to form a cross.
Finish up by threading the tip through the back of the woven cross and pulling firmly to tighten and ‘lock’ the tie. A simple pairing weave of two hazel rods can be used to add horizontal support to the upright bean poles and will need multiple spiral ties along their lengths to keep them in place. These withy ties are started in the same way, then just wrapped around and around the joint, before threading the tip back through the tie and pulling to tighten as before.
Words Kristy Ramage and Jacky Mills
Photographs Jason Ingram