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How to Grow a Child's Living Den or Playhouse With Willow

Updated on April 8, 2016

Most children these days don't spend nearly enough time outdoors enjoying the adventures we had during our childhoods. In a day and age when computer games appear to be the top form of entertainment for youngsters (resulting in under-socialised, unfit, and often unhealthy children), it is vitally important to encourage our children to play outdoors more often. Children should learn to appreciate the excitement, magic, and fun that can be enjoyed by simply being in the fresh air, surrounded by nature, running, playing, and using their imaginations.


During my childhood I was fortunate enough to live in houses with good-sized gardens, so I grew accustomed to playing outdoors all summer long, enjoying the wildlife, fields, flowers, and trees. I was a total tomboy and seldom arrived home without needing an urgent bath and change of clothes. I climbed trees, made mud pies, and built dens. Luckily, my parents thoroughly approved. I guess it also kept me out from under their feet, as all they had to do was call for me when dinner was ready.

One of my favourite outdoor activities was building dens. One of the homes we lived in had loads of land and we had our own field—a small area of woodland and an old disused quarry that had formerly been a pig farm. The remains of the old stone pig stys made great dens, hidden away in the depths of the quarry, largely shaded by huge trees which formed a canopy that mostly concealed the sky. My friends and I spent many magical hours there, and when we tired of the pig stys, we created new dens in large bushes or behind undergrowth. Our imaginations were totally stimulated and we were fit, healthy, active, and happy children, more than willing to exercise ourselves by dragging large branches around to conceal our latest creations.

We seldom caught colds or illnesses because we had developed strong immune systems from constant contact with the normal dirt, mud, and germs that most modern (less healthy) children have had removed from their environment. I find this very sad, and hope that I can encourage parents to consider helping their children to spend more time outdoors by growing their very own den or playhouse. This can be done even in a small garden. There are a couple of very simple methods, which I intend to cover in this article.

The Runner Bean "Teepee" Den

Step one.
Step one.
Step two.
Step two.
Final result.
Final result.
Runner beans in flower.
Runner beans in flower.
Runner beans ready to eat.
Runner beans ready to eat.

This is probably the easiest den to create. Your children a great deal of excitement and some tasty runner beans to enjoy eating throughout the summer season.

What you will need:

  • 8 - 10 long bamboo canes (6 - 7 feet minimum).
  • A packet of runner bean seeds.
  • Some gardening string, a cable tie, or similar.
  • A large roll of gardening string or roll of chicken wire (optional).
  • A spare area of garden, either on a border or on a lawn if you don't mind a little of the lawn being removed to plant the seeds.

Method:

  1. Push your bamboo canes into the ground in a circle and form a large pyramid/teepee shape (sometimes incorrectly called a "wigwam"). Be sure to leave a large gap between two canes for the entrance. Secure the tops together with a cable tie or garden string, twine, or wire.
  2. For best results, cover the resulting pyramid/teepee (apart from the entrance) with either chicken wire or a network of gardening string tied from cane to cane at various heights.
  3. At the base of each cane, dig an area at least 12" square and 12" deep. Alternatively, create a continuous 12" wide bed in a ring surrounding the entire perimeter of the bamboo canes.
  4. Dig in some compost and/or well-rotted manure.
  5. Using your finger (or a dibber), poke two holes approximately 1 - 2" deep at the base of each cane.
  6. Drop one runner bean seed into each hole and fill with water. Once the water has drained away, gently drag soil back over the holes and water again thoroughly. Runner beans seeds can also be started in 3" pots of compost and the transplanted to the base of the canes one they reach about 6" in height.
  7. Protect seedlings from slug attack with either organically approved slug pellets (harmless to children and pets) or by manually removing and destroying slugs each evening until the bean plants are about 6" tall.
  8. If any of the plants fail to find the bamboo canes on their own, you can carefully wrap the main shoots around the first part of the bamboo canes or chicken wire until they begin to climb naturally.
  9. Surround the base of the plants with lawn mowings, bark chips, or similar to keep weeds down and moisture in. Water frequently during long dry spells.
  10. Your children will love to watch their den/playhouse come to life and grow up all on its own. The speed at which beans grow is impressive. It will not require much patience on the part of your children. Ultimately they will also be fascinated by the fun of harvesting their own beans, plus the den will look ever so pretty covered in the delicate red flowers that runner beans produce in abundance.
  • Tip: remember to keep harvesting the beans regularly to encourage the plants to continue flowering and producing for as long as possible.
  • This den will last throughout most of the spring and on through to the end of the summer.

Substitute Sweet Peas for Running Beans

Sweet peas will climb and cover your cane structure too, providing beautiful, fragrant blooms you and your children will love.
Sweet peas will climb and cover your cane structure too, providing beautiful, fragrant blooms you and your children will love. | Source

This den can also be made with other climbing plants, including fragrant sweet peas, which look beautiful, smell divine, and attract lots butterflies, bees, and birds to your garden. You also have the advantage of a summer-long supply of gorgeous scented blooms to fill the vases around your home, and the more you pick the flowers, the more they produce.

Building a Willow Dome

Willow rods.
Willow rods.
A basic dome.
A basic dome.
An alternatively shaped basic frame.
An alternatively shaped basic frame.

The Willow Den.

This den is more of a permanent one, so select your location carefully. This also works best on a moist soil (although not essential) as willow does like to have moisture at the roots.

What you will need

1) A large bundle of long green willow rods about 6' + in length

2) Weed suppressing membrane for under the structure, although straw will also work well but needs periodic replacing / topping up.

*****

*****

Method

1) First lay your weed suppressing membrane across the surface of the area you intend to grow your children's den or playhouse.

2) To create the basic structure three and two year old rods are best because of the height they will provide. Puncture holes approx 2 - 3" in diameter through the areas in the membrane where your rods need to be planted. Plant the three year old rods to create the main frame of the structure. Decide where you want your entrance. Place the rods at each side of it and tie the tops together, creating a sort of wigwam.

3) Use the two year old rods as uprights and one year old rods as the diagonal weave. The top of the den will be open at first. You will gradually close up the gap when new growth can be woven and tied in during winter maintenance in the following years.

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    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 2 months ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Kimmerleesu, that sounds like a great idea and should look beautiful. Good luck.

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      Kimmerleesu 2 months ago

      I love this idea. While my children are now grown and we have no grandchildren yet, I plan to build my own living "garden shed" using dried whips (branches from a willow and cherry tree) and/or wire fencing for the frame and passion vine as the living cover. Passion vine is evergreen for us in Northern California in the valley with temp extremes from 15 F degrees in winter to 105 F in summer. I have used passion vine over my fencing creating a one foot thick insulation between us and our 5 fence neighbors. It's my favorite drought tolerant flowering vine. It does attract bees (which I am allergic too) but the bees are so busy collecting the copious amounts of nectar that the flowers provide that the bees barely notice my presence in the yard. I'm excited about this project, thank you for the idea and info.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 17 months ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      I would imagine so J, so long as you grew it over a broad wooden framework. Might take a lot longer though!

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      17 months ago

      Would ivy work?

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 18 months ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Sounds like a great idea Rose :)

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      Rose 18 months ago

      I'm using Mammoth melting snow peas, because they reach 5 to 7 feet tall.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 2 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Excellent Chris, hope it works out well. I am sure your kids will love it

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      chris 2 years ago

      That is awesome doing it soon

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 2 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thank you Kristen

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 2 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great ideas, Misty. That's so clever of you. Voted up for useful!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 2 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Straight in the ground should be fine Rhiannon.

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      rhianon price 2 years ago

      Do you just put willow rods in ground or use a rooting aid ?

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 2 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Difficult to answer that one fully Anita as you are probably in a different part of the world to me so I can't judge what season you are in there and how far into it. Basically willow is keen to root into the ground anyway, but if you really want to maximise its chances make sure you provide plenty of water for the willow rods until they become established and show signs of producing foliage. If they did fail I suspect they would dry up and maybe last a season or two before they began to rot. Hopefully yours will root in well though. Let me know how it goes

    • profile image

      Anita 2 years ago

      Hi

      We have just finished making our first live willow teepee, Im a little worried as it was only cut yesterday so wondered if you could tell me what will happen if it doesn't root as we are later in the season? Will it just eventually rot and die? Or will it just dry out and be fine? Is there anything I could do to give it a better chance?

      Thank you so much in advance xxx

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 2 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thank you mecheshier, outdoor activities for kids are a great idea and so much healthier than them spending their time glued to their phones.

      Definitely better Diana. I too was mad on dens etc when I was a kid.

    • Diana Abrahamson profile image

      Diana Abrahamson 2 years ago from t Francis Bay

      Much bettef than eyes glued to the t.v....also loved making tree houses when I was young!

    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 2 years ago

      What a fabulous Hub! Great idea for outdoor activities! You are so right, children today do not have enough outdoor time!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 2 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Glad you enjoyed this DebMartin

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      DebMartin 2 years ago

      This is adorable. As a child I was always seeking places to sit under vegetation, usually lilac bushes or the branches of fir trees. A lot of my friends (who nobody else could see or hear), like Mousy, lived in these plant worlds. A branch way up in a favorite oak tree was another favorite spot.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 2 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Interesting question Kristy. I am not sure how easy this would be, and bearing in mind willows root out extensively I would think it would be easier to saw off the base of the willow saplings once the structure has grown enough to be strong and rigid and then lift it up and move it. Of course your structure would not be alive any more so once the leaves died off you would simply have a woven willow playhouse. Personally I think it would be easier to start again rather than move an existing one. Willow grows fast so it wouldn't take long.

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      Kristy 2 years ago

      Would it be possible to grow the willow trees to the desired size/shape then cut off their roots and move to another location to use the structure as a big trellis frame?

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks DDE, the children certainly get a big thrill out of not only helping to 'grow' their own den/playhouse, but also playing in it afterwards. So exciting for them to see it spring into life as well.

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      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Wow! Incredible idea and so safe such safe way to keep kids buys all day

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Sandra, a useful tip.

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      sandra 4 years ago

      I didn't read all the comments but noticed some had concern about willow spreading and being invasive. Look for cultivated willow - the kind that is grown for basket or furniture making. It is not expensive nor invasive. And after a year or two of proper maintenance you will have beautiful 6-10 foot rods perfect for building building creative structures!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Well I haven't personally ljpfnprn, but maybe someone else will chip in and say if they have. I wouldn't be surprised if it would work though.

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      ljpfnprn 4 years ago

      Has anyone tried this with grape vines. I'm zone 8-9.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Heather, hope you give it a try :)

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      Heather 4 years ago

      I really love this idea!!!! Great post!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      The willow branches can be purchased through a plant nursery or garden centre usually (or even ordered online). They don't need anything planting on them as they will spring back into leaf themselves and produce a root system. Effectively they will be the living den / playhouse. You would only use runner beans if you had created the basic frame from bamboo canes which are dead and therefore need something living to cover them and create the enclosed space. I hope this helps.

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      Bethany 4 years ago

      Where do you get these willow branches and what do you plant on them? just the runner beans?

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Willow will not be expensive. I would contact your local garden centre or look online in order to find a supplier.

      Good Luck :)

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      gavinwsmommy 4 years ago

      Where do you get willow? Is it expensive?

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Seanorjohn, I am delighted you found this hub so enjoyable, and I am equally pleased that you at least tried to encourage your children to enjoy the countryside (even if they didn't 'take to it'). With regards to trimming the structure it will largely depend on where you live and the climate, rainfall etc. On average I would expect it to only need trimming once or twice a year though (basically when you start to see it growing out of shape).

    • seanorjohn profile image

      seanorjohn 4 years ago

      Misty , you are so right about the need for children to explore the great outdoors and how exposure to dirt helps with the immune system. My children are grown up now and I managed to get them all involved in sport but somehow they never really took to the countryside. How often would you need to trim the willow structure? My new tactic will be to remind my children of the need to get their eventual children involved in these activities. Brilliant hub and voted up.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Poutine, I hope you give it a try :)

    • boxxies profile image

      boxxies 4 years ago

      Great info, thanks for putting it all together for us.

      Poutine

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 4 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      LOL, thanks for your comment KerryAnita, I feel much the same :)

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      KerryAnita 4 years ago from Satellite Beach, Florida

      This is amazing! My 6 year old self wants one!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      I think you have no worries DMarie, this would be too drafty to be a reliable shelter for most creatures, plus in the winter the foliage would tend to die off, so there would be an even more windy enclosure. Trust me, the animals know this better than we do!

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      DMarie 5 years ago

      This looks like a very cozy hangout. My main concern would be about cats or raccoons moving in, hanging out or seeking shelter from the cold.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Watergeek. Really pleased you liked this. The willow left unattended would grow considerably taller, although it would essentially be a cluster of trees as each willow rod is an individual cutting effectively. I would advice keeping the structure trimmed regularly to avoid this problem and maintain the shape of the den.

    • watergeek profile image

      watergeek 5 years ago from Pasadena CA

      This is really cool. I would love to have grown one of these playhouses as a kid . . . of course, the elm and pepper trees we did climb were pretty good too, especially the one that grew over the house. I used to take books up there - could get up by climbing the trunk in the patio or the English ivy that grew up the side of the house. Does the willow eventually grow up into a tree?

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Glad you enjoyed this Hearts Haven Farm. I hope you and your kids give it a go with whatever you feel inspired to try.

    • Hearts Haven Farm profile image

      Hearts Haven Farm 5 years ago from Witter, Arkansas

      This is a great idea... my kids would love these and I could even see doing one covered in gourds growing or some sort of pick and eat edible for a hidden snack during playtime.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      You and your children will love this Kaye. It is such fun, plus if you use the beans and sugar snap peas you get the added joy of eating the produce (and the children are more interested in eating the veg too).

    • Kaye McCulloch profile image

      Kaye McCulloch 5 years ago from Australia

      What an awesome idea!! I am so going to be making one of these green bean teepees with my kids for the coming summer. I'm thinking a mix of runner beans, snap peas & sweet peas over it. Gorgeous!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks so much techygran, delighted you enjoyed this and are willing to try it out for yourself. Perhaps you could borrow a neighbours children to enjoy your new den :)

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 5 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Mistyhorizon, this is an example of an excellent evergreen hub and I know that it will take off every year when our gardening dreams get acted upon... thank you so much for the great plans that you have included for a diversity of foliage and vegetables! I would love, love, love the sweet pea tepee but haven't had much luck with them in the past... however, I am going to give it a try! We may, however, have to import 'grandchildren' since ours live so very far away! I've 'pinned this'.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Yes, the apple tree idea came up a few comments or so back. I agree it could work, but of course it would not be evergreen and as you say it would take a long time to produce the result you desired, (your children could have grown up by then depending on the size of the structure).

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      Slee 5 years ago

      Apple trees can be espalliered or trained into shapes, but it is a very labor intensive process and takes years. to create a den one would need to use many tall saplings which were woven together as they grow, and will not fill out the way willow would, for years. On the plus side, there'd be enough trees to feel reasonably certain of pollination. On the downside, it'd be somewhat costly. Huge plus side, over many years, you could, in theory, have a very permanent interwoven delightful group of apple trees.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Cedric, I am afraid I can't think of anything that would keep the greenery all year and would work in the same way. I am wracking my brains to come up with any suggestions, but am drawing a blank right now. If I think of anything suitable I will post back here later on.

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      Cedric 5 years ago

      Hi, I really love this idea. Is there any thing that would keep it's greenery all year? I am in zone 5 and was wondering if I could build the bamboo teepee shape and grow something that would maintain it's foliage through the winter.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      I agree Ophelia, they are a great idea for a school project at any school. The children could experiment with different shaped dens, or even build a miniature village of them :)

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      ophelia presence the happy medium 5 years ago

      hi there ive seen these before at farm school where my daughter attended ,i think that they are great x

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      You are absolutely correct Amber. If the willow is kept pruned to the shape of the den, then there is no need for the plant to grow huge roots to support such a small structure. The only risk would be if the den was neglected and the tree merrily kept on growing unchecked. By pruning to keep them small you effectively treat them much like a 'Bonsai' but on larger scale, and for this reason the root run only needs to be as much as required for the artificially 'dwarfed' trees.

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      Amber 5 years ago

      Hi, I dont know to much about willow trees but everyone seems to be concerned about the willow roots causing damage. Wouldn't that only hold true if the rods grew into full size trees? If you kept them cut back and not let them go would their roots still grow that long?

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi wildflow, I never suggested sunflowers (they grow vertically and have no foliage to make a den. With regards to other flowers I worked on the assumption that most children these days have naturally been taught how to avoid being stung by bees (in the same way I was). Basically for those who haven't done this I should add it is essential your children know not to 'flap about their arms' or go into 'panic mode' if a bee is buzzing near them. Teach them to 'freeze' and not move. The bee will soon fly away (as they don't sting randomly unless they are seriously threatened). A teacher at my school growing up complimented me on doing exactly this in the playground back in the 1980's, and of course I wasn't stung. As someone who spends many hundreds of hours gardening every season I can say I have never yet had a bee sting in over 37 years of gardening (I am now 42). Teach your children to ignore bees and admire what they do and how they work and create honey. It is very unlikely they will get stung and they will find the whole learning experience fascinating.

      Extra Point: Even runner beans (pole beans) are pollinated by insects, so bees are just as likely on these. If you are really worried about bees (which is not an issue in my honest opinion) stick to willow or possibly apple trees (the latter of which have less blossom, but will not really form a dense cover to the den like a willow will).

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      wildflow30 5 years ago

      FYI!! The sunflower ones attract bees!! I have done this a few times and the best one was with pole beans. Stay away from flowers, pretty but not worth the screaming kids who will never go back to it!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      I am sure you could use Honeysuckle if you created a frame of trellis to grow it over. We used to have it growing in a large frame of trellis outside of back door, effectively making a porch, and it worked very well and smelled divine.

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      Anna 5 years ago

      Could you use honey suckle? I have great memories of my grandparents vines and would love to do this with my children, but am not much of a gardener.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks JenJen073, feel free to let me know how it goes and send me pics I can add to this hub :)

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      Jennifer McLeod 5 years ago from Battle Creek, Michigan

      Amazing ideas. I am a gardener, and I liked this so much, I will building these for my garden this year. Voted up and shared!!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      The same thing rasa, willow is willow and the 'shrub' is only the young tree.

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      rasa 5 years ago

      the willow rods are from the willow tree? or some type of willow shrub? please let me know I was thinking about possibly planting some willow in my huge back yard.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Yes Kim, you can eat runner beans, in fact they are probably the main bean eaten in the UK. You eat the entire pod, when it is young and stringless (before the bumps that outline the seeds within it become visible.) They are delicious simply boiled or steamed until tender, and then served with melted butter on them. You can buy the seeds at any garden centre or online from somewhere like eBay or Amazon or a seed supplier site. Ebay is probably the easiest place if you are not sure. I recommend the variety called 'Enorma' as they produce beautiful long, straight, flavoursome pods.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Cindi, yes you are referring to 'training' the apples, some are trained horizontally and some vertically. I would imagine that might work, but I have never tried it. Willow prefers a moist environment, so it would no doubt be a little constricted in an arid area if you wanted to give it a try.

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      Kim 5 years ago

      Can you eat runner beans? I wonder if orchard supply carry those type of beans. Anyone know where to get them? Great article!!

    • profile image

      Cindi 5 years ago

      Could you do something like this with apple? I know you can column them or whatever they call it. I think it's popular in provincial gardens. I don't like the idea of willow taking over my yard (although I live in a semi-arid environment, so maybe that keeps the growth down). I would like a more permanent structure than beans, but also something that is useful--hence the idea of using apple.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      I am afraid can't think of one that would be flexible enough hewitt41. I suppose you could try bamboo at a push.

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      hewitt41 5 years ago

      Since willows can be a problem is there any other tree that would work well for the den? Thanks...

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi Paula, most garden plants will pose a risk to both pets and children if eaten, but I doubt most children would choose to chew on a sweet pea because it is just a very pretty flower to them which smells nice. A word of warning on the Sugar Snap peas idea, these usually only grow to about 3 foot tall so unless your children are extremely small, I don't see it working for the 'living den' idea. Runner beans are better because they grow to at least 6 feet, and can grow to 7 or 8 feet depending on the variety.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Hi ssil, it works well with so many different climbers, just be aware that like most garden or house plants even sweet peas could upset your dog's stomach if eaten.

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      Paula c 5 years ago

      What a beautiful and amazing idea! I have to mention though that Sweetpea is a very toxic plant, and it is wise to use the upmost caution when planning gardens for children and incorporating plants that are potentially harmful. I am going to build one using sugar snap peas! My kiddos will be thrilled! Thank you so much for sharing this idea.

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      ssil 5 years ago

      this is a really cool idea, i might do this with climbing sweet peas, as for i have dogs so they don't get sick if they decided to eat it , hahaha it will make a great shade area for them in the back yard too!!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 5 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Excellent, I bet your children will love every minute of this, and you can make a bean den as big as you like if you use some creativity with the layout of the canes you make it with. The only real restriction is the height, as the beans will only grow so high, but I find they happily grow to 7 or 8 foot if left unchecked. Best bit is you get to eat the beans too :)

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      Chenebe 5 years ago

      Fabulous! Thanks for such a detailed (and inspiring) post. We've now started our bean den ...

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thank you Heather, perhaps you could let me know how he enjoys doing it and how it turns out. I am certain he will have great fun with the adventure of growing his own den.

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      Heather 6 years ago

      I just stumbled across this page whilst looking for something fun to do with my four year old son in the garden. This is amazing! He'll love helping to make the den & watching it grow - and best of all the adventure of being able to play in his den too. Thanks!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 6 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      I always wanted a tree house as a kid, but I never got one sadly. I would also have loved one of these living play houses, but sadly I only found out about the idea in much later life, so I made do with dens I built with my friends. Thanks for visiting and commenting Fluffy :)

    • Fluffy77 profile image

      Fluffy77 6 years ago from Enterprise, OR

      Absolutely adorable, I love the living play house. We always had out door forts or tree houses to play in. Children of today should have the same too. I wish we had one for when family and friends kids visit us, simply breath taking.

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      Playhouses 7 years ago

      Very imaginative, nice article!

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      Cindy Lawson 8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      No worries farmerRon, a useful tip to know :)

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      farmerRon 8 years ago

      Don't want to be debbie downer here, but be careful with willow. Willow is a fast growing tree that has extremely evasive roots. They can grow 10 feet a year up to 45 feet high. Their roots can be 150 ft long and often cause sewer,septic and well problems...so make sure it is far enough away from water pipes of any kind or you will be spending a lot of money fixing stuff. A Willow branch is like a weed. It can sprout a new tree simply by falling to the ground. I know I have a farm and lots of willow trees.

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      Cindy Lawson 8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Jerilee, I think the Willow den particularly would make a great feature in any garden, even for adults. You don't have to make it a den either, you can create tunnels, archways etc too.

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      Jerilee Wei 8 years ago from United States

      I'm very impressed, not only am I going to bookmark this but also forward it to my brother (the master gardener of our family). Looks like loads of fun, but I was also thinking it'd be a great hide-away for even the adult kid at heart.

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      Cindy Lawson 8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Al Cady, plus it also encourages them to enjoy gardening from an early age.

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      Al Cady 8 years ago

      Hello my friend. Yes I agree it is ingenious and pratical as well as inexpensive and keeps them happy at the same time.

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      Cindy Lawson 8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Gypsy, even better if you have Willow branches nearby as it saves you buying them:)

      Hi Christoph, I would  love one now too, sounds like a great place to go and have a quiet beer out of everyone's sight :)

      Hi Tatjana, well no reason not to have one now, even as adults. The willow ones can be made into all sorts of shapes and sizes, so in theory you could make a great living Summer House for your visitors to sit in when they come over for a few chilled glasses of wine, a BBQ etc.

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      Tatjana-Mihaela 8 years ago from Zadar, CROATIA

      I would like to have garden house like this! The same as Christoph: I want it now!

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      Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis

      These are great and what a fantastic idea. I also feel sorry for kids who don't enjoy and explore the outdoors like I did as a child. I would have loved one of these. heck, I want one now.!

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      Gypsy Willow 8 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      What a superb idea, I'm off to cut willow branches thank you!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image
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      Cindy Lawson 8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Thanks Aya, they certainly are, and truly capture a childs imagination and sense of adventure.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 8 years ago from The Ozarks

      Misty, these look like wonderful ideas for a child's outdoor play area!