Tag: rose garden

Build a Rose Arbor with Bent Metal Tube

I would need a fast-forward button to improve my skills at garden design. I could hold the button, and the years would zoom by to show me the eventual size and scale of the trees, shrubs and perennials I’m planting. Somehow, my imagination isn’t adequate to the job. One example of this is in the cedar arbors we installed on either end of our rose garden:

Above pictured are the quite lovely roses ‘Amadis’ (a thornless pink climber) and ‘City of York’ (a thorny beast on the other side of the archway). I guess I knew that they could exceed the height of the arbor when I planted them, but without that fast forward button, I don’t think I grasped quite how out of scale the little wooden structure would look. Quite aside from the looks of it, there then came the stability problems. We tried to shore up the arbors with heavy landscape posts dug in beside them, but under the weight of the plant growth and the ongoing assault of the winds, the structure is struggling to keep standing.

So, my wish-list for replacing them:

  • larger – enough to drive our ride-on lawnmower through, and tall enough to support a 12′ climbing rose
  • stronger – dug into the ground deep enough to support itself against strong South (summer) and East (winter) winds
  • long-lasting – if I use wood, our wet climate will put it at jeopardy of rot. I don’t want to rebuild them any time soon!
  • affordable

A bit of online shopping left me no further ahead. There are plenty of metal or vinyl arbors, but they aren’t much different in size to what I have already. They would also face the same issues of anchoring them into position against our persistent winds. To buy a pair of anything nearly suitable was at the very top end of our budget – without exactly meeting our needs.

Our eventual solution was to build our own, and this video documents our efforts:

The supply list in detail:

13 x black top fence rail (10ft by 1 3/8″) approx. $26 ea. = $338

4 x galvanized top fence rail (10ft by 1 3/8″) approx. $20 ea.= $80

1x 1 liter can of black gloss paint for metal = $20

20x 2″by 5/8″ carriage bolt, nuts, & washers = $15

8x bags of quick concrete mix approx $8 each = $64

2x new drill bits = $20

Total budget: approx. $537 for both arbors

Here is the front one finished (with the old one flat down in the background):

And here’s the back one:

The total height of each arch (above ground) is around 10.5 ft. Additionally, there’s about 3.5 ft of the support posts sunk into the holes and held down with concrete.

Most everything went smoothly, and I’m pleased with the results. They actually look a little larger than I anticipated, but this time I think they’ll be in proper scale with the climbing roses, so it’s just going to take a little time until they’re grown over and blend better with the landscape.

The only difficulty I really had was with the drilling (which took a lot longer than I thought it would) and I also had to accept that there would be imperfections along the way – everything is built, cut, bent, drilled and painted by hand. There are flaws that (I hope) are only visible to me, and will, in any case, be pretty hard to spot once the roses grow over.

One last note that I would make is that the large size of my arbors really did determine the budget. If you scaled down the cross bars to 3 1/3 ft (down from 5), and reduced the height / buried portion, you could easily get the budget down below $200 per arbor.

As for the time involved, it took me about 2 weeks from start to finish – not full-time, of course, but evening hours and weekend days. The most time consuming part was the drilling (2 to 3 evenings) and painting of the arches (2 evenings). The project happily wrapped up on Christmas eve, just in time to clean my work area before having holiday guests over!


A fence to nowhere…

Five years ago, this farm was a blank slate to us. From the time we finished clearing the brush on the north end of the property, we’ve been in an ongoing process of adding defining features: the squash field, the children’s play area, the winter garden – and the rose garden was actually one of the first plantings. It was never a priority for us to have it all filled-in and finished, but we’re happy to have the outlines in place to help guide our upcoming planting choices.

This spring, we finally addressed an uncomfortably bare stretch of land between the house and the rose garden. It was easy mowing, I’ll admit, but seemed a poor approach to the garden – and somehow incomplete.

Big doughnut rose garden

This was the only photo I could find of our early rose garden. The space I’m talking about is occupied here by the greenhouse and some sort of wooden support. The greenhouse was wood-framed, and a winter storm took it down in year two – so then it was just lawn.

Here’s how we replaced it:

Please pardon the muddy ruts we left behind as we hauled in the soil for the new garden beds! This all went up in the last two weeks – before we run out of time due to Farmers Markets and (sigh) my day job.

So the solution we came to was a couple of sections of unnecessary fence – each around 80′ long. It’s a stacked cedar split rail fence. No posts were dug into the ground – which avoids some of the concerns about wood rotting over time. We planned it this way partly because I wanted a way to display some climbers and ramblers horizontally along the fence. The eight roses I planted are:

Rosarium Uetersen

Geschwind’s Orden

Buff Beauty

Heaven’s Eye

Emily Grey

Seven Sisters


Super Dorothy

I don’t mind hearing it from other rose growers who may second-guess these roses for a low fence. I’m not sure that these are the right roses yet either. I’ve grown most of these for only a couple of years in the field, and if any are too “vertical” in their habit, I may have a problem. Anyhow, it’s a starting point.

This one is ‘Heaven’s Eye’, a Geschwind bred rose from the 19th century. Light pink flowers with darker centers.

We also planted six trees – ‘Satomi’ dogwoods – to add some vertical interest.

Now for the fun stuff – planting the beds and training the roses!


Putting in our rose garden

Generally speaking, I don’t need to have much of a reason to put in a new garden bed. When we moved onto the farm in 2011, the greater portion of the yard was something like 2 full acres of lawn, so I knew it wouldn’t be long before I started carving some of it out for plantings. I did hesitate, however, to do a rose garden.

I know it may be a bit funny for a guy who is now growing and selling roses, but I’ve always viewed the dedicated rose garden with some suspicion. Raised beds – geometric shapes – formality – bedding roses… lots and lots of bedding roses, with their bare canes angling out unattractively from a bare tarmac of landscape mulch – it’s what I’ve seen in dedicated rose gardens before that runs counter to my gardening style.

Still. I. Must. Garden. And if I’m going to grow primarily roses in my greenhouses, I’ll need to have a place to show some of them off.

I started by looking at some pictures and taking out some books from the library. I tried to keep an open mind about what kind of rose garden would show the plants off most effectively. Unexpectedly, at least to me, I decided on something a bit formal for the bed layout.

It’s a fairly large circular bed with lawn on the inside and outside. Lisa and I re-purposed six boxwood shrubs that we found in an overgrown part of the yard. We planted them in the center of the inner lawn, around what will likely be the most expensive plant in the garden, a red horse chestnut tree(Aesculus x. carena ‘Briotti’) that we picked up at Cannor.

We put in arbors on either end of the garden (I know, I know – there’s no “end” on a circle – but that didn’t really stop us). We put in some plastic edging to stop the lawn from creeping in, dumped a pile of yard waste down to smother the grass.

Here, have a look:

Big doughnut rose garden



The neighbor’s field of blueberries is that bright red in the background. Sort of steals the show this time of year.

I dug in the obligatory climbing rose for the sides of each arbor. ‘City of York’ and ‘Amadis’ for the front, ‘Polka’ and ‘Souvenir de Docteur Jamain’ at the back. That leaves plenty of space to fill in the big empty semi-circles that connect them.

Aside from the geometric layout, I’ve decided to play it pretty casual for this garden. I immediately planted a couple of Buddleia x. weyeriana shrubs on either side of the front arch, and a couple of Leycesteria formosa to frame the back arch. I have to admit to being quite eager to get some non-rose plantings in the ground, as if a delay might jeopardize my resolve to mix the roses with other shrubs, perennials and herbs. Rather than a dedicated roses garden, my current plan is to make it a mixed border that will happen to feature a large number of roses.

I recently visited the rose garden at Fraser River Heritage park in nearby Mission. Not a bad little garden, but a chuckled a bit when I saw the sign asking visitors not to touch the roses. Frick. You may as well go to a gallery to see still-life paintings. If the garden is any kind of an art form, the advantages of the medium include its changing nature, imperfection, and interactivity. You should touch the roses, hopefully not in the pokey places. You should smell them too. If anyone reading this site is ever moved to visit my rose garden (hopefully after a season or two, when I’ve filled it up a bit) I may insist that you pluck a rose or two for yourself. That’s the beauty of working with a living medium… if your interaction should change it, that’s expected. More roses will grow. It’s what they do!