Califonia Bountiful

Gardening: How to make a willow obelisk

June/July 2012 California Bountiful magazine

For years, I carried around a tattered piece of paper with instructions for making a willow obelisk. I envisioned it as a stand-alone piece of art for my garden, or perhaps I would put it over a plant or a vine. Only recently did I find the time to actually read the instructions; I immediately realized it wasn't going to work. The directions were for English gardeners and required the local nursery to cut and prepare willow withies, or branches.

Surely, I thought, any sort of straight, strong, yet not-too-big branch would do. So I made changes. Because I like the combination of metal and plant material in the garden, I chose rebar and grapevines for my obelisk. Then I dove in, with my husband offering an extra pair of hands as needed.

The beauty of this project is you can change it and use what you think will work. Use almond branches and honeysuckle, willow and jasmine, alder and morning glory, whatever you have. Make it twice as large or half as small. There are no rules.  


  • 6 (4-foot) pieces of rebar (3/8 inch)
  • 1 (12-inch) piece of rebar (3/8 inch)
  • 2-inch hose clamp
  • Pot or tray to support obelisk while working
  • Vines for winding, 4 to 6 feet long, very pliable
  • Raffia (available at craft stores)
Step 1: For a decorative touch, we bent the top of each long piece of rebar. To do this, we drilled a hole in a sturdy piece of wood, put the end of the rebar in the hole, slipped a piece of PVC pipe over the rebar (so it would bend only at the tip), then bent the pipe down until the rebar was the angle we liked. It took several tries to bend it enough.
Step 2: Arrange longer pieces of rebar around the 12-inch piece. The shorter piece should stick up 4 to 6 inches above the longer ones.
Step 3: Slip the hose clamp around the rebar below the bend and tighten.  
Step 4: Put the obelisk in a pot filled with soil or on a pot tray and spread the legs to the width you want. Make sure they are evenly spaced.  
Step 5 and 6: Wind vines in and out of the rebar, starting about 2 feet from the bottom. It will take two or three lengths of vine to get enough to look good. Start the second piece of vine in a different spot than the first. Repeat a few inches higher, then once more nearer the top.



Step 7: Tie raffia around the hose clamp.

One final step: Please share a photo of your obelisk via email ( or Facebook (



Pat Rubin

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