A focal point, a link between areas or a frame for a view, arches have SO MANY USES
One of Liz Wells’ favourite features in her garden is the view looking back to her house which is framed by a wooden arch. It’s one of a number of clever design tricks Liz and husband Will have employed to transform their long, narrow garden from a straight ‘corridor’ to a plot with plenty of inviting twists and turns. Arches are a quick, simple and cost-effective way to add visual interest to your garden, and are especially suitable for smaller plots as they take up so little space. The trick is knowing where to place one for maximum effect. It’s never a good idea to plonk it in a random spot. Work out first what its purpose will be. Is it a way of guiding you along a path, or perhaps it marks the entrance to a particular section of your garden? Arches can play tricks on the eyes. You can use one to magnify a special feature like a statue or dramatic plant or, placed over a path, they will give the impression of a larger space. Alternatively, arches can simply be placed flush against a wall, with a seat underneath to create a secluded arbour-style seating area.
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METAL OR TIMBER?
Metal arches are usually used to support climbing plants. They can span paths and consist of an ironwork frame with cross pieces. They’re available to buy in kit form or, if you have a larger budget, they can be made to order (try www. studioforge.co.uk, where ready made arches start at about £150 and bespoke ones are considerably more). The advantage of metal is that it is strong, will not rot and requires little maintenance. It can be made to look elegant or rustic. The disadvantage is that it’s expensive to have one custom made, and the cheaper kits can be flimsy. Timber arches are more solid, so will be more visible and therefore make more of a statement than their metal counterparts. They are versatile, because they can be painted or stained to fit with your garden scheme, and can be curved or flat-topped. They are generally cheaper to buy, even if you are looking for a bespoke one. Wooden arches look appealing when they’re twined with climbing plants but, equally, you can use them as a standalone feature, without further dressing up. The downside of timber is that it will need regular repainting to stop rot, and even if it is thoroughly maintained, it will have a finite lifespan of about 10 years.
FIXING IN PLACE
Once you have decided where to site the arch, it needs to be secured so it will not topple over in the wind. Slim, strong metal uprights can usually be pushed far enough into the ground to be made secure, but heavy wooden structures may need to have the posts set into concrete. Post supports, available from DIY stores, are useful for this purpose (£19.44, www.diy.com).
PLANTING AN ARCH
Climbing plants that are grown in containers can be planted at any time of year, except when the soil is frozen or waterlogged. Autumn is an especially good time to plant shrubs in the ground because the soil is still warm from summer, which means their roots will grow before the winter comes. This helps the climber become strong for the next season, and to withstand any dry spells in summer 2020.
WHAT TO DO
@The aim is to plant a climber at the same depth as its pot. First, water it thoroughly and allow it to drain. Ease it out of the container. @Tease out any roots that are curling up around the main root ball. @Position the plant in the hole and then lean it towards the bottom of the arch at a 45° angle. This will encourage the shoots to grow towards it. Now, fill in the sides, firming the soil gently as you go. Once the hole is full, press it down, again firmly, but without squashing too hard so as not to damage the roots. @Water in with a full can. Cover with a layer of mulch, such as bark chippings, to prevent moisture loss. @If the plant came with a support, gently untie it, and then re-fix all the stems to the cross poles or supports on the arch. Use Garden Soft-Tie to attach (£3.99, www.haxnicks.co.uk).
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