Caging the Veg

Way back in 2009 when I ordered 24 sheets of colorbond, rolled to my specified diameter, it was my intention to organise the consequent 12 raised vegie beds to define an inner space.  I suspected that it wouldn’t provide quite the sense of enclosure that the location required, but was prepared to give it a go first, and respond accordingly.  

It’s always worth doing this if you can.  One of the biggest faults of professional garden design is that it invariably forces these decisions to be made from the start, rather than allowing them to accumulate organically… But I digress.

I cut eight of them down so as to leave the corners higher.  That added to the sense of corner framing, but it wasn’t enough.


Then I added tall tepees of locally cut sticks, which helped (along with some growth), but it still wasn’t enough.


Though in the meantime, I had fun with the sticks, playing with a bit of weaving etc, largely to keep out the cat, and sometimes to protect the seedlings from crazy north winds, in this very exposed site.

At best it looked good, but it still didn’t provide the sense of enclosure that made you want to go and sit in it.  There was no avoiding some sort of fence.

Only a couple of months back, in an itchy moment, I launched in and decided I’d make it out of sticks cut from the local Eucalypt forest – in this case seedling Pinus radiata that has invaded, and threatens, the native bush.

This, of course, has no durability in the ground, so I used ‘perfect round’ 75mm treated pine for the uprights, and painted them with fence black.  Everything else was cut within 2km of home.


I played with a few configurations, unapologetically copied from the unsurpassable Prieure d’Orsan in Berry, France, which had also been the inspiration for earlier stick-work (and I wrote about at length here).  I loved the upright weave, but it was very stick-intensive, and there’s something simple and charming about the trellis.  Being by nature indecisive, I posted the above pic and called for some decision-making assistance on Facebook (and if you haven’t checked out The Gardenist on Facebook, you should.  I often chuck stuff on there when I’m in a hurry. Click here to do so).  The vote was in favour of trellis, which was how I was leaning anyway.


The result is better than I imagined, and does exactly what I’d hoped it would – provides a sense of containment without constriction, and consequently draws you out to sit.

Now I just can’t wait to get something growing over it…

The pics below were added to this post later, in response to Jennifer’s comment.  I knew I’d dodged illustrating it properly (partly cos the vegie beds are empty (water saving measure), and party cos it’s impossible to capture the sense of enclosure – of transparent shell – around you in a 2-D pic).  Anyway, these are as good as I can manage



  1. I have enjoyed following the development of this aspect of your garden but would like some photos of the more finished product – the trellis surrounding the planters – to get the final effect !

    1. Fair enough, Jennifer. To be honest, I’ve tried, but it’s so hard to take a pic that truly communicates the final effect. I’ll see what I can do today once the sun has dropped below its current, unflattering harshness. Then I’ll stick ’em on the end of the post, so watch this space

  2. I love the evolution, I agree its great to let things evolve sometimes BUT I really like the Micheal Franti footwear in the last construction shot!.. “all the freaky people make the beauty of the world!”

    1. I’m claiming and owning the Michael Franti association. Makes me seem way cooler than I really am..

    2. Dang. As I was writing this, I looked down to discover I was wearing shorts (v torn and dirty) and thongs with thin orange dress socks. Sounds much more like Michael Crawford playing Frank Spencer than Michael Franti.
      Then again, they are Calvin Klein socks of a rather fetching shade of burnt orange, so that’s gotta be worth something…

  3. Absolutely lovely – something really special happening there.

    1. Yeah, I’m sensing it too Patrick

  4. Looks stunning Michael. Patrice would approve! I am a great fan of Prieure d’ Orsan and of using sticks for defining spaces. Really works well in your situation.

    1. Thanks for that. Don’t know that Patrice would approve of the way I went about fixing it together, but you don’t have to stand very far away before that becomes entirely invisible, thank goodness..

  5. Hi Michael, I think that by simply providing that arched gateway the garden immediately becomes inviting. Almost like a cat having to sit in the cardboard box I want to go through that arch and enjoy whatever is there. I’d even go as far as to say that it doesn’t matter if nothing grows over the trellis the sense of enclosure exists.

    1. I know! The arch was an afterthought, but the moment it was done, I couldn’t help walking through it. Then back the other way. Then through it again.
      And I agree that it doesn’t need growth to achieve the sense of enclosure. It’s more that greenery adds value to it, and the sticks add value to the greenery. You should see it looking the other way ie back at the green of the vegies through the trellis. It’s astonishing what it does to add value…
      But I’d like something to wind gently through it, just to add a random, organic tracery to the geometry of the trellis. Nothing too dense. The thinner the better, in fact.

    2. If it doesn’t have to be edible, I reckon a creeping gloxinia would fit the bill. It looks so delicate, but is in fact quite hardy, never asking for water, feed, nor any other pampering. It’s very light-weight and climbs pretty fast. Sorry, I cannot remember it’s botanical name..

    3. I had no intention of restricting myself to edibles, Adele, though did consider using the trellis for espalier. I googled your recommendation, and realised that it’s a plant I knew as Asarina. Have you seen this creeping gloxinia for sale here in Aus?

    4. Asarina looks like a good, lightweight (winter-deciduous) choice for the trellis. Try

      How about Cobaea scandens? May potentially be too weedy and/or vigorous, I guess.

    5. Yeah, I reckon Cobaea could bring the whole thing down! Having said that, in this frosty climate with a relatively short growing season, all those frost tender climbers are tricky. You’ve only got a very short window of opportunity to sow them between the time when frost is past and then when it’s too late to bother. Of course I should sow them inside so that they’re strapping young teenagers by the time frost is finished, but that takes more attention than I’ve yet been able to provide..

  6. Thanks so much ! Love the final photo and also enjoyed the discussion about the arch….

  7. I love it Michael, It look terrific. And I love that it is built with weeds. Not even d’Orsan can boast that!

    1. Great point. Their’s may be sustainable in that their sticks are largely cut from coppiced woodland, but I can claim environmental side-benefit.

  8. Absolutely beautiful! I want to come and sit on that chair and catch the last of the afternoon sun with a good book and a glass of wine!

    1. And you’re welcome to, anytime, Janna

  9. Absolutely gorgeous! An inspiration.

  10. Looks like a great beginning for your vegie garden Michael, why not try some scarlet emperor (lady?) beans on your trellis. Gorgeous red flowers, lovely young beans and they come again if your lucky. The trellis takes time and effort to match stakes, twine and tie etc. Great effort!

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