03 January 2008

Of arbours and pergolas

The terrific folks over at Gardening Gone Wild have been doing a series of garden design workshops over the past couple of months, and this month have turned their attention to arbours and pergolas. (Or as they spell them, arbORs and pergolas. It's a country thing, whether you spell words like colour, arbour and favourite like color, arbor and favorite. I think we Canajans lean to our European roots on this and things like metre, theatre and centre.That was a digression.)
I'm a big fan of trellises, obelisks, arbours, pergolas, and anything else that adds structure and height to the garden. Our place may be on top of a hill, but it's still pretty wideopen, with just the one line of mature spruces along the south side of the house and a collection of birches out back to give some real height around the place. We have seven acres up here, too, so we have a LOT of room (including for trees that will become giants one day, hence my choices in a previous post--they're my personal favourites, not necessarily suited for everyone's garden. That's another digression!)
The first arbour that my LSS (Longsuffering spouse) built in the back yard was a whimsical one made of alders. He was trying out a new tool thingy he got from Lee Valley that I think is a mortise and tenon cutter for logs/branches/poles, and wanted to see what he could do with the abundant supply of alders around the area.

I loved this arbour, which stood happily for about four years; until in the spring of 2005, LSS hit it with the tractor as he was doing something, and it collapsed like a house of cards. He hadn't treated the wood in any way, just tried building this to see what would happen, and it had basically decomposed.
I was VERY upset. Mind you, my father was busily dying of Alzheimers in a hospital two hours drive away, and I was going there every day and was just a little bit emotional to begin with. Well, LSS got to work one day while I was at the hospital, and built a brand new arbour, which he painted periwinkle blue and ensconced in the same spot where the alder arbour had been.
As a result, every time I look at my bright blue back arbour, I think not only of the love of my life, my LSS and chief woodworker, but also of my Dad. The blue colour works well because nothing in the garden is that shade (well, maybe the Corydalis elata is close) and it shows up in every weather situation.

This structure acts as a gateway between the inner back yard and the outer; the outer is a more large and sprawling place, where I'm gradually adding more trees and developing a couple of different beds (along with the kitty cemetary). It's festooned with a Virginia creeper on one side, and on the other side, a recalcitrant clematis which is going to get dug out if it doesn't flower this coming year (it's been there for three or four years now without flowering, where the others all cover themselves in blooms. Threats work well.). The other climber on that side of the arbour is a Veilchanblau rose, which doesn't get as enormous as it does in some gardens because the cold kills it back somewhat ever winter.

The first arbour that LSS built for me is out front; it's a simple pattern, and is stained a different shade of blue; it's about 7 years old now, maybe eight, and covered in clematis and honeysuckle. One of the clematis is a Jackmanii that I liberated from a house that was going to be torn down; it covers itself terrifically with flowers in rich royal purple every year. The other side is festooned with both Josephine and Nelly Moser, and these come on later because they get more shade (from the house). A young Graham Thomas honeysuckle is working its way up the front side of the arbour, but there's also a climbing rose--Alchemyst--with its terrific sharp canes and breathtaking flowers. Usually there's also a hummingbird feeder, and a hanging basket or too, also festooning this particular structure. In winter, the hummer feeders are replaced by suet or seed feeders. And as you can see, the same blue as the back arbour also is used as an accent on other things, including a bit of fence in one bed that supports the delphinium. It's also on MY lawnchair, one birdfeeder post, the greenhouse door, and another bordering fence.
I love vertically climbing plants of all sorts, and keep adding them whereever possible; LSS can always be relied on to create another obelisk or trellis to support such things. Have I mentioned what a great guy he is?


  1. LOVE the backyard arbo(u)r color & sunrise (sunset?) pattern on the sides.

  2. Love your arbors! I've always wanted one, but we don't really have an area where it would fit in with the landscaping. I'll just have to enjoy yours! :) BTW, I enjoyed your 'rabbit trail' on spelling. I actually like the way words with 'our' or an 'e' on the end look, but don't spell them that way as a habit.

  3. I've been wanting to put up an arbor (arbour) at the entrance to my raised bed vegetable garden. I think this post, and all the posts I'm anticipating on this subject, will inspire me to get one this year.

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  4. Jodi, I think our husbands must have been twins in a former life. We are so fortunate, aren't we?

    I love the color of your arbor and as you know, I love flowers that are of that hue as well.

  5. 'structures' realy do help the garden out in winter. I like the idea of it being the 'gateway' between gardens.

  6. I had to scan the last photo for a minute to find the hidden arbor - it's a good thing LSS makes them sturdy! They're beautiful - I love that periwinkle blue for how it disappears/appears and that first alder arbor was my kind of handsome. (my favorite chair is made of branches but not by anyone I know and love...) I think arbors can be tricky to work with in a landscape - sometimes to me they stick out thumb-like. Yours look like they fit - and help frame that outstanding view.

  7. Beautiful arbors, Jodi, and a touching story about the first one, as well. I too think the blues are lovely. (I also prefer your spellings, but I don't have much choice in the matter.)

  8. I think that arbours help make the garden into little rooms (that are by no means squares or rectangles) which allows it to be really magical to explore. We had a backyard in Cailfornia that was bare as a football field when we moved in. I loved transforming it and the arbours really helped. That blue is fabulous - reminds me of some of the doors and trim on houses that you see in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Let's give a cheer for all the LSS's!

  9. Like you I love trellises, obelisks, arbours and pergolas. The under-gardener made me a lovely obelisk once but it has crumbled to pieces now. snif However he promised to make me a new one. :-)

    Love those arbours of yours and their wonderful colour too! Blue is a great colour to use in the garden.

  10. I'm a big fan of garden structures as well, so seeing photos of yours was a real treat. I love climbers too. I've got some structures slated to go into our garden here in the next year or two (or three--who knows?), so you've given me some great ideas for what I can plant to climb them.

    Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage

  11. What a talented hubby you have. The blue looks fantastic.

  12. The blue arbor adds a wonderful whimsical touch to the garden! Fabulous! Just keep your LSS and hiw lawnmower away from it this time!

    --Robin (Bumblebee)

  13. All your arbors are & were beautiful. I tried to make a rustic arbor like your alder 1, but I had to give up for lack of tools & skill. (DH is a wonderful musician, golfer & bike racer, but he just isn't handy.) I ended up with a sturdy kit which DH & I put together. It is so great to look out in the garden & see something someone you love put (or helped put) together. I agree with your opinions on structures in the garden. I say give that lazy clematis the heave-ho. There are too many wonderful cultivars out there to waste space on a bloom-less loser.

  14. I love before and after pictures, especially summer/winter ones! Great story about the rebuilt arbor. Sounds like you have a keeper!

    Katie at GardenPunks

  15. I am great fun of the vertical structures and climbers in the garden. Already last year I was planning to add some, but somehow plan was postponed for coming year :)
    I love this first photo - there is something very special - it looks like drawing not photo actually :)

  16. This part of your garden is lovely with the arbour in it, and the story that sticks to it.
    Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. If you could come to the shop where I bought the mohair, you could no resist your desire of knitting. They've got all possible shades and the wool is just gorgeous!

  17. Seven acres Jodi!!!! The Queen of her own little country. The Master Builder aka LSS is a keeper. Aaaahhh, your arbours are beautiful.

  18. Hi all and welcome:

    Jim, hi...the sunrise pattern LSS put in the arbour was an extra treat. It also makes me smile every time I see it.
    Sarah, maybe a mini arbour would work in a container?
    Carol, I can just see you getting more inspired...you're an inspiration every time I read your posts, so I'll look forward to seeing what you come up with for an arbour.

    Kylee, that's just more connections between us...and yes, we're lucky girls!

    Claire, if my arbour ever disappears from view during the winter...I'm going to be very very worried about how much snow we have in the yard.

    Kris, yes, he makes sturdy arbours...and i'm thinking about more projects for him. But we won't tell him just yet. Heh heh heh.

    Nan, as a writer I have a couple of markets where I need to 'spell American'...and I get into great muddles with some words because I can't remember which is which. Happily, I have editors who don't mind correcting any of my Canadian spellings.
    Victoria, yes, whereever would a lot of us be without our helpful LSS's? Mine does barn chores and helps with housework and laundry, too!

    Yolanda, I hope the under-gardener gets right on that project for you.

    Nancy, I am feeling better, thanks (still trailing behind with comments though). And isn't it amazing how mild it is now (Monday Night)

    Cindy @ Rosehaven, glad to be able to inspire...and I know how it takes time to unfold all these plans we make.

    blueblue, yes, he's a talented guy...though he doesn't know he's going to need to do some repainting come spring. Whoops, we'll keep that our secret.
    Robin, LSS can easily get through this arbour with the lawnmower, and I won't let him near with the tractor. He's been warned. (He's so nervous, too...)

    MMD, kits are fine too...I've seen several that I wouldn't mind having. What I'd like is to put a gate between house and barn, but that's going to take a few more years of arguing, whoops, I mean negotiating....

    Katie, he's definitely a keeper...especially since he puts up with me when I'm not easy to live with.

    Ewa, you have all sorts of interesting plans lined up for this year that I'll be watching--and being inspired by.

    Verobirdie, you're right about yarn shops...they're very dangerous for temptation. I stay away from them, as I am bad enough in garden centres.

    Lisa, yup, that's me, Queen jodi....hem, hem hem...(waves regally). Seriously though...it is a happy place we have and I'm very, very blessed.


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