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Connecticut gardener Thyrza Whittemore uses dark-gray beech branches in big containers to support colorful sweet peas (or try growing other tender twiners, such as morning glories or black-eyed Susan vine). While any hardwood cuttings can be used, a beech's flat branching structure creates a conveniently tidy form. Sweet peas can reach 6 to 8 feet in height, so size branches accordingly.

Step 1

Put in the largest supports

Photo by Karen Bussolini

Insert four tall branches firmly around the edges of a container filled with rich potting soil. Beech branches are especially graceful, but any woody plants with lots of side branching—butterfly bushes, Japanese maples, birch, high-bush blueberries—can be used.

Step 2

Add smaller branches

Photo by Karen Bussolini

Insert smaller branches into the soil between each of the large ones. Any that are too short to meet at the top can be woven in. Make sure there are plenty of fine twigs for tendrils to grasp. Weave in or snip any that stick out.

Step 3

Tie the top

Photo by Karen Bussolini

Gather the tallest branches near their tops and tie them together with twine. Stand back and take a good look. Adjust the top if the whole structure leans. Tuck in any unruly branches or cut any outward-facing ones.

Step 4

Fill in

Photo by Karen Bussolini

Insert another round of little branches to fill in any holes. Tuck in, tie, or trim stray twigs on the inside, as needed. Plant sweet peas (or other vines). Thyrza also plants the center with lettuce, which fills the space quickly and can be harvested before the sweet peas take over.

Step 5

Enjoy the show

Photo by Karen Bussolini

Placed in a vegetable bed, a container of sweet peas adds summer-long color even as the edibles planted around it come and go. To keep the pot looking tidy as the plants climb up, just tuck in any stray shoots. Water frequently. Thyrza mixes moisture-retaining granules into the soil to help keep her pot from drying out.