Jim Long is the author of 22 books on herbs, gardening and historical subjects. Reader's questions, tours of his garden, and more of his recipes can be found on his website at longcreekherbs.com.

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How to Make a Bentwood Fence
by Jim Long       #How to

Several trellises, such as this one in Jim’s garden, can be installed side by side to make a tall, decorative fence for growing vines.

A bentwood fence adds charm to gardens of any size. It seems at once ancient and Old Worldly, yet vividly contemporary and in high fashion.

Bentwood is best made from recycled materials – limbs pruned from trees in the yard, saplings that are out of place in the back fencerow, or even prunings left over from tree trimming after winter storms.

I like using natural materials in my gardens because they blend into the landscape in harmonious ways that metal, plastic and manufactured fences never can.

You don’t have to know how to identify wood in order to make a fence for your own garden. The one rule that I suggest following is, “If it bends, use it.” That’s pretty simple and straightforward, and that’s just about all you need to know about the wood you use.

Low, decorative fences aren’t made for keeping cattle or deer out of the garden, but rather to keep little pets from running through the flowers. It makes a visible border that says, “Wait, important things are growing inside, don’t walk here!”

My fence is 36 inches high at the highest part of the arches – that’s just above knee high. It’s made of a variety of woods, held together with small nails and wire. The only parts that must be green and flexible are the bent arches. You can eliminate the arches if you wish, or add more (which makes it even more stunning).

There are many designs of small fences for garden borders.




Graceful Loops Fence

This is 28 inches tall at the peak and each fence section (built separately) is about 4 feet long.


Arched Fence

This arched fence is a bit more complicated but the little gate makes a charming entryway to any small garden area. It is pretty easy to make and requires little green, flexible wood. The gate probably is best propped open, saying “Welcome to this spot. Feel free to enter.”


Simple Loop Fence

This is a simple loop fence, made of bending green, flexible wood into arches and inserting them into the ground about every 30 inches. Be sure to wire them together where the wood crosses the next arch.                        


Setting Sun Fence

This fence can be made either as a single, low trellis, or several attached together for a charming fence around an herb bed or perennial border. It’s 26 inches tall and about 5 feet long





Fences are just small trellises, made in sections, beginning with the basic rectangular shape.


Nail and then wire each major structural piece where it crosses another piece.


A secure, finished joint



When attaching several fence sections to the posts you’ve put in the ground, use a spacer stick, about 14 inches long and the diameter of your other pieces in the fence, and attach it with wire as shown above.


(Click on images to enlarge)


Step 1: Gather the tools

The first step for making a fence is to assemble the tools. You will need:

• A comfortable hammer (meaning one that isn’t too large or too small but that feels just right)

• Pliers to bend and cut wire

• Hand pruner

• Loppers

• Gloves, optional


Additionally you will need:

• About 30 sheet rock nails per fence section

• A small roll of soft, pliable, 16-gauge wire (called “tie wire” in any hardware store)

• Wood


Step 2: Select the wood

You will need twigs or saplings that are about the size of a mop handle or the size of a small broom handle.

• Two pieces 5 feet long

• Two pieces 18 inches long (for the two shorter upright posts)

• Two upright pieces, about 34 inches long (for the two posts that go in the ground)

• Nine pieces that are about 24 inches long (for the sun’s rays)

• One piece about 7 feet long, flexible and green, to make the arch


Step 3: Get started

Choose a place on a picnic table, ground or floor that is comfortable to work on. Lay out the two longest pieces, side by side, about 16 inches apart.

Next, lay out one of the shorter posts, crossing the two long pieces. Where it intersects the wood beneath it, nail through both pieces. Do that at all four corners. You should now have a rectangle that looks like this: put Fence-First.step.tif after this sentence

Before you go further, stop and use the soft, black wire on each of these four intersections. (Yes, you have already nailed those; the wire holds it more firmly in place. Don’t skip this step.)


Step 4: Set the sun’s rays in place

Next, divide the distance in half and place the middle spoke of the setting sun wheel in place. Nail it like you did the previous intersections. You are now ready to place the remaining spokes of the sun’s rays. You don’t need to measure, just place them where they look good. Nail each in place.

Once the rays are in place and nailed firmly (remember to bend over the nails where they stick through), you are ready to add the bent piece. Lay it over the spokes and wire it in place.


Step 5: Install the fence panel

You are now ready to install your fence panel. Take the two larger uprights that you are going to use for posts. Dig a small hole, or drive the post into the ground with a hammer. It needs to be in the ground about 8 or 10 inches and firmly in place. Have someone help you wire your fence panel to the post, then drive the remaining one in the ground at the other end. Wire the fence panel to the two in-ground posts. Add more panels, side by side, to make the fence as long as you choose, wiring each section to the previous one, and to the in-ground posts.

Mark off the length of your trellis on the ground with a little stake or small stone. Note that the short posts that hold the fence section up don’t need to be exact in spacing.

With a trowel, dig a small hole about 6 inches deep and 2 to 3 inches across. Then, with your hammer drive the post in the ground another several inches (you may want to sharpen the post first if the ground is hard).

Do the same with the other post, driving it into the ground so that about 8 to 10 inches of the post is in the ground.

Get someone to help you hold the fence section while you attach it to the posts with wire. (You can also use wood screws and an electric screwdriver if you wish.)



Your fence is now done! You can add more sections over time if you want to extend the fence.

No other maintenance should be required, other than making sure that the wires are tight (the wood shrinks a bit over time, so after about two to three weeks, check to make sure the twisted wires are still tight, and if not, tighten them).


(Photos and illustrations byJim Long. From Alabama Gardener Volume III, Issue II.)






Posted: 02/16/11   RSS | Print


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