We made the mistake when we designed the garden here at Avocet of using metal arches to span our paths and grow plants over. We have 8 arches altogether around the garden with all sorts of climbing plants over them including trained fruit trees. Most of the climbers are purely decorative, different varieties of clematis, rose, honeysuckle and a purple vine so not only do they look good but many are scented to give wafts of their gentle aromas as we pass through the arches. The productive trees are apples, blackberry and cherry.
We soon found out that the windy site here close to the hills of South Shropshire was not the place for metal arches. We get strong winds swirling around the hill behind our house which often distort, break or blow over our plant covered arches. For years we have carefully repaired them and put them back up with the plants mostly intact. This winter we found our garden was attacked by frequent gale force winds and howling storms so we have given up on the metal arches and are slowly replacing them with much more solid wooden constructions.
We began with the arch nearest the bottom of the garden which by the end of January was leaning at an uncomfortable angle so we had to duck to get through it and parts of it had broken off. This arch was clothed with a rose called Goldfinch, a small yellow early flowering variety which flowers profusely every year without fail but it also grows strongly so has to be pruned extremely hard, so hard you feel cruel doing it! On the other side of the path climbs a purple leaved vine which looks amazing when then the sunlight glows through its foliage. It also flowers and fruits some years producing tiny dark purple grapes which are very bitter – even the birds turn their beaks up at them.
First job was to prune the climbing planting carefully and even more carefully unwind their main stems from the remains of the arch. Then we extricated the arch. It looked a sorry sight lying on our lawn.
Once pruned the rose hung limply without support until we carefully bent it sideways and tied it onto the wooden support for our cordon plums.
We had three arches delivered and luckily they came in pieces as they were so heavy. At least we could unpack them and move them to where they were to be put up one piece at a time.
Once the plants were pruned and tied out of the way we could get on with digging out 12 inch deep trenches to fix the uprights into.
Once the hole was dug out to the correct depth we then spent a while with a metre long spirit level making sure the upright piece was vertical in both planes. We then poured in the post fix concrete mix and left it to dry.
Once the concrete had set we could fit on the top decorative pieces and the job was done. Just the easiest part left – re-tying the climbers back in place. They should now be ready for the spring. Just seven more arches to go!