Woman with trowel: Pergola, arbor or tunnel?


In many urban lots, there are two passageways from the front to the back garden – one side is used and the other tends to be too narrow and congested and is generally avoided. Certainly that has been the case with our house and circulation patterns.

Along our west side path, we have three Styrax japonica (Japanese snowbell), lots of oxalis, and a large white Clematis montana that had been creeping up the side of the house. It is a thing of wonder while it blooms, but it had been unsupported for a few years and all the vigorous wandering stems meant that in walking down that side of the house, you took the risk of losing an eye.

Currently though, that risk is but a memory. This last summer, my husband and his friend Rainer designed and built me a glorious structure that supports the clematis. We are calling it a tunnel, although some might see a pergola or an arbor. I am surprised how it changes the feel of the area. Or rather, how it creates a distinct space where before there was just a mess of leaves and branches, and a feeling of peril. There is room now to move, increased privacy from the windows next door, and when it fills in, there will be partial protection from the rain. I use that pathway now, and no longer worry if others do.

In terms of garden design, you can see in the first image that the tunnel frames the view of one of the obelisks in the front garden. Limiting a view is meant to invite curiosity – what else is out there? Let’s go have a look…

Garden structures are often expensive and time consuming to erect, but each time we venture forth and try one, I am amazed at how delighted I am with the results. My husband says that’s all him.

So now I wait for spring and the big show of clematis blooms…

Photo credit: M. Brehaut

Last modified: November 8, 2012

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