CFR

Constructing A Plant Hut or Tipi

This summer, why not plant a hut, tipi, or other shelter? These are easy to make and fun to cover with a variety of fast growing, annual vines. Here’s what you need:

  • Stakes, sticks, or poles – green/fresh wood is best because it’s pliable but dried canes can be used if you aren’t making a rounded shelter. You’ll need several that are 6 to 7 feet tall for the main structure.
  • Sticks, vines, large roots or other flexible materials for weaving and attaching on the sides. These should be 3 feet long or longer.
  • Cord or wire to bind things together. If you want to use something long lasting, look for waxed lashing cord that is commonly used for building bamboo structures.
  • Your creativity and a spirit of fun.

1. Decide how big around your structure will be. Do you want adults to be able to go in and if so, how many? Ditto children. Or will this structure be open to nature spirits only?  Remember that once the plants grow there will be less space inside so when in doubt, make it larger than you think it needs to be.

2. Place several sticks or canes into the ground around the diameter of your future structure. Plant them into the ground deeply enough so that the framework will be sturdy. If you’re going for a tipi shape, bring all the upright supports into the center and lash with cord. If you’re going for a more rounded framework, curve the branches over and tie them in place.

3. Once the uprights are in place, weave in horizontal branches, roots or fine sticks.

4. When it’s time to plant annual vines, place seeds all around the structure. Some suggestions for such plant shelters are runner beans, morning glories, dipper gourds, or moonflowers. Don’t be afraid to mix and match!

5. Be sure to go out to your shelter sometime in the summer and just sit inside for an extended period of time, letting the entire structure speak to you.

Here are two frameworks that Roberta and I made one summer at the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden. The rounded one on the right made good use of the many large and long Smilex roots I pulled from Poison Ivy Acres that spring. They were woven in and out among the twigs and sticks.

Here are two frameworks that Roberta and I made one summer at the Master Gardener Demonstration Garden. The rounded one on the right made good use of the many large and long Smilex roots I pulled from Poison Ivy Acres that spring. They were woven in and out among the twigs and sticks. The tipi structure on the left used cord for the horizontal elements that would support vines.

Here is a tipi frame made of assorted bamboo canes and strips of wood.

Here is a tipi frame made of assorted bamboo canes and strips of wood. The horizontal sticks are recycled bamboo garden stakes.

Looking from the other direction we see the entry to this shelter.

Looking from the other direction we see the entry to this shelter.

A free-form structure made of branches. Note how the person who put this one together used the natural curve and bends of the branches to create some of the structure's lines. In other words, go with the flow!

A free-form structure made of branches. Note how the person who put this one together used the natural curve and bends of the branches to create some of the structure’s lines. In other words, go with the flow!

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