How to Make an Expandable Willow Trellis

An expandable garden trellis made of willow branches is a versatile outdoor accent. With a few simple tools, some basic materials and a little time, you can make this lovely and practical trellis to showcase your favorite climbing plant against a fence or wall, or as a freestanding support for a potted or bedded plant. It can be expanded as the plant grows, too, making this a valuable addition to your garden. Willow is a very durable wood, and your expandable trellis will last for years in your garden.

Gather 20 green willow branches from a growing tree, using the garden clippers and the ladder if necessary. Choose branches that are 3/4 to 1 inch thick and at least 3 feet long. Only gather branches from a tree that you own or have permission from the owner to cut.

Strip the branches of leaves and cut 16 of the branches evenly to 3 feet long. Reserve the remaining branches.

Cut the wire into 50 pieces of 3 inches each. Curl 1/2 inch of one end of each piece, using the needle nose pliers, into a small curlicue. Bend the curlicue to lie perpendicular to the piece of wire.

Measure the middle of each branch and mark. Measure and mark 9 inches from each end of each branch.

Drill a hole through each mark. Pass the straight end of a wire piece through the holes connecting two branches in the middle. Curl the straight end to form a curlicue and bend it perpendicular to the branch, leaving a little slack, creating eight big X's that can be opened and closed.

Lay the connected branches (the X's) out on the ground, with the top and bottom branches of each X overlapping slightly. Connect the matching holes with the wires as before, and curl the end of the wire, bending the curlicue perpendicular to the branch, leaving a little slack so that the trellis will move and expand freely. You will have two extra holes at each of the two X's on the ends, one at the top of the X, and one at the bottom -- four extra holes total.

Cut two of the reserved branches into four 18-inch lengths, and drill a hole in the middle of each. Place the hole of each 18-inch branch to connect to one of the extra holes at either end of your trellis, connecting on top or under the leg of the end X according to the pattern. Attach these short branches to the extra holes in the end X's, with a piece of wire, curling the end of the wire as before. These will form smaller X's on each corner of the trellis. Tighten the wire so that these short branches fit snugly, as there will be only the one piece of wire holding them.

Pull the trellis apart accordion style to lengthen, and squeeze the trellis together, accordion style, to make it shorter. The trellis opens and closes at the individual connections like scissors. It will be 3 feet tall when squeezed together ( the length of the branches) and will open up to be a little over half as tall when fully opened, and be about three times as long fully stretched open as when squeezed together.


You may hang the trellis on a fence using hooks, and expand the trellis as your plants grow. You may secure both ends of the trellis to fence posts. You may use lengths of rebar wired to one or both ends of the trellis to stand it in a pot or in a flower bed. You may hang the trellis vertically or horizontally. As the wood dries, it will shrink somewhat. You may tighten the wires when this happens, if you wish.


Use good, heavy duty garden gloves when cutting and stripping willow branches. Always use safety glasses when operating a power drill.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden gloves
  • Willow tree
  • Garden clippers
  • Ladder
  • Spool of 14 gauge galvanised wire
  • Wire cutters
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Permanent marking pen
  • Safety glasses
  • Power drill
  • Wire gauge drill bit #14 or 3/32-inch
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About the Author

Since 1984, Sandra Carusetta has written advertising copy and promoted custom art businesses to a worldwide clientele. Carusetta's career history includes professional florist, private cook, writer and small business owner. Carusetta has published numerous informative online articles on gardening and cooking.