The popularity of wicker garden furniture comes and goes. However, there is no doubt that wicker furniture has a distinctive style that is well worth admiring. Wicker is actually the name for a method of weaving plant fiber into a latticework around a frame to form some useful object, for example to make baskets, chairs, tables and other furniture. The technique has been around a long time - the ancient Egyptians used reeds growing on the banks of the river Nile, the ancient European tribes used willow, the Chinese use bamboo, and the Malays and native aborigines of the Malay archipelago (now the area encompassed by Malaysia and Indonesia) of South East Asia use rattan.

It is logical to use wicker to make furniture. The interlaced latticework of fibrous material is both lightweight and strong. It bears some similarity to gluing thin sheets of low quality wood together with their grains crosswise to make plywood. The main difference from plywood is that wicker lacks rigidity, which is why it needs to be woven around a frame. High-grade wicker garden furniture uses teak, a beautiful hardwood which strong resists the ill-effects of weather, for the frame of the tables and chairs. Cheaper wicker furniture uses thick pieces of rattan shaped with steam to make the furniture frames.

Most wicker furniture is made from rattan. It is easily harvested and regrows itself rapidly. Nowadays, most rattan comes from Indonesia. So rattan wicker garden furniture is environmentally friendly, unlike plastic outdoor furniture which consumes non-renewable hydrocarbons and metal garden furniture which consumes non-renewable metals.

One big problem with rattan wicker garden furniture is that the rattan and wooden frame will eventually rot if it is exposed to a wet environment. Being made from plant material, it may also be attacked by insects like termites. Repeated exposure to heat will cause drying, while repeated exposure to cold will make the rattan brittle. In other words, garden furniture made from untreated rattan wicker does not last long if left unprotected outdoors. Depending on your environment, this may be only a few years.

That is why higher-grade wicker garden furniture is made from rattan and wooden frames that are specially treated. At the very least, they are varnished with a layer of lacquer. The very best are actually dipped in resin to seal the plant fiber away from the atmosphere, forever keeping the wood and rattan dry and protected from the adverse effects of weather and insects alike.

Today, you can find wicker garden furniture made from artificial wicker. The earliest artificial wicker was made from paper and metal wire, but nowadays various plastics and resins are used instead. Like other plastic outdoor furniture, they are made from non-renewable hydrocarbon. However, like all plastic furniture, they have their own advantages over using natural rattan and wood.

Firstly, resin wicker furniture can be made in various colors. These colors are embedded into the resin so even scratches will not cause the color to disappear. Neither will intense sunshine cause the color to fade away. And of course plastic itself is immune to rot and insect attacks. However, resin wicker does not need to look like plastic. Some manufacturers like Strathwood also make wicker garden furniture using resin that mimics natural rattan. The resin wicker they use in their outdoor wicker furniture look so much like real rattan that most people cannot tell the difference.

The frames of resin wicker furniture can be made from thick heavy plastic, or it can be made from metal - aluminium tubes, stainless steel tubes, painted or chromed iron tubes, etc. Modern wicker garden furniture made from resin wicker and aluminium tubes are very lightweight yet robust. You can easily move them to wherever you need them, and they can support a great deal of weight. In other words, they combine the strengths of both plastic outdoor furniture with metal garden furniture.

In practice, whether you choose wicker garden furniture made from natural rattan or resin wicker furniture depends on the furniture shops in your area. Unfortunately, not everyone has a choice. Ofen, online retailers also do not provide enough information about whether the wicker used is natural or artificial.