The Daily Telegraph - Saturday

HOW TO MAKE A SILVER BIRCH ARCH OR TUNNEL (good for climbers)

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Select tall saplings (about 2.5m high if possible) and cut each to a sharp point at the base.

Place them equidistan­t either side of your space and push into the soil to a depth of about 30cm. You may need to pre-make your holes with a hammer and metal peg.

Bend each sapling towards its opposite counterpar­t and wrap the tops of the stems back down around each other. Tie in the centre with string or flexi-tie for extra support if needed.

If making a tunnel, take a long, straight, (but light) birch or hazel pole and secure along the centre of each arch with ties to create extra strength.

Now for the fun part: weave all your laterals to each other by winding and twisting. It’s amazing how easily they bind together.

Trim any excess material to your desired level of tidiness. Now plant up with your annual climber of choice and train in as they grow.

OBELISKS & TRIPODS

Use the same technique as above.

Place six saplings in a circle of your desired circumfere­nce. Again, flex opposite stems towards each other and bind together by winding downwards.

Tie in the centre if necessary. As before, weave your laterals horizontal­ly to create a strong, stable structure.

For a variation on a theme, create a tall tripod using hazel poles, then interspers­e with smaller birch saplings or colourful cornus and weave tightly across the face of the frame.

HAZEL NESTS & CAGES (GOOD FOR BORDER PERENNIALS)

Select well-fanned, twiggy tops and cut to about 120cm lengths. Place around the new young shoots.

Bend the tops over to your required height (about 60-90cm for most herbaceous plants) and snap over horizontal­ly.

Interlace the filigree tops to create a solid cage (see left); weaving should not be necessary. The mesh will hold together if layered well.

Hazel-staking in this way is generally much quicker than birch-weaving, but arguably not as pretty.

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