Building a Bentwood Plant Tepee

Create willow tuteurs in several
sizes for your garden.

This willow tepee makes a wonderful garden accent, even when it’s not supporting a climbing plant. The formal name for this type of structure is tuteur, from the French meaning guide and instruct. A tuteur literally guides a plant into a pleasing shape.

Crafted from flexible willow trimmings, this tepee can be made in one afternoon. See below to learn what you’ll need to make your willow plant support and how to put one together.

To find a source of willow, check with tree trimming firms or local nurseries. You might also try checking with local craftspeople who teach bentwood furniture classes.

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Tools and Materials List

  • 8 willow posts, 7 to 8 feet long, 1 1/2 inches in diameter
  • 25 feet of 14-gauge wire
  • metal macrame ring (or other type of ring), 18-inch diameter
  • 50 thin willow rods, 5 to 6 feet long
  • eight 1-inch brown ring-shank panel nails
  • hammer

Step by Step

1. Gather the eight willow posts. About 10 inches from the top of the posts, wrap 5 feet of wire around the bundle several times. Twist and snip the wire ends.

2. Working with a helper, space the posts evenly apart, forming a teepee. Insert the metal macrame ring inside the posts to about a third of the way up the form. Use wire to secure the ring in place temporarily. You’ll remove the ring when you’re done weaving, so don’t snip the wire ends.

3. Trim eight willow rods to equal length. Nail the base of one rod to the inside of a post just above the metal ring. Weave the rod over and under the next two posts counterclockwise, leaving the end free. Nail another rod to the next post clockwise. Weave it over and under the next two posts counterclockwise, placing it just above the first rod. Leave the end free. Continue in this fashion until each post has a rod nailed to it. Repeat the weaving technique: One at a time, weave the rods over and under the next two posts counterclockwise, until all the rods are woven. Weave eight more rods directly above this first section. No need for nails now; simply wedge rods between posts.

4. Repeat the process 20 inches above the weaving, using 16 more rods. Finish by twisting the willow rods to form a ropelike strand. Twine the willow rope around the tower until you reach the top. Tuck the ends into the wrapped post tops.

5. Conceal the top wire using a willow rod. Remove the metal ring spacer. Trim the post tops. Push the tower into the ground. Anchor it using a metal rod, if desired.

Plant supports can take many forms, but all can add a vertical note to your garden. By choosing decorative supports, you ensure that they accent your yard all year long.

This rickety old wooden ladder gets a rustic makeover with the addition of bent grapevines. Be sure to anchor tall structures securely. If young children are a common sight in your garden, be sure to let them know that these are not play structures for climbing. But they can make wonderful shady places to play under.

For a more formal garden, consider adding a traditional tuteur like this one. Standing unadorned by greenery, this structure adds an outstanding visual element to your garden.