Structures in the garden
Design only limited by your imagination
August 31, 2014
By Suzanne LaBrecque/Victoria County Master Gardener
Edited by Charla Borchers Leon/Victoria County Master Gardener
PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
PHOTO BY HENRY HARTMAN/CREATIVE IMAGES
PHOTO CONTRIBUTED BY JIM DEBENEDICTIS
Garden design is only limited by available space and your imagination.
Have a plan
The first step in landscaping your yard is a good, written plan. This plan should accentuate the purpose of your front and backyards and how you would like to use the space.
Before planting the first shrub, flower, bulb or tree, you need to consider a water source and how sun and prevailing winds affect the space. Then you can decide on plants best suited for the different areas of your yard.
Garden structure - focal points
Three "do-it-yourself" garden structures to consider when developing your plan can include obelisks, green tunnels and parterres. Each can be a focal point in your garden.
Four-sided pillars or columns that narrow toward the top and end in a point are obelisks. They were important in Egyptian history and often marked the entrance to tombs. In today's gardens, traditional obelisks and variations thereof add vertical interest and provide a base support for ornamental vines and climbing roses. Low-growing plants, shrubs and ground covers provide frames for the obelisks. Tall obelisks grouped together can serve as a wind break and privacy feature.
Roses with limber canes can be woven into the obelisk's lattice. Dr. William C. Welch, professor of horticulture at Texas A&M University, recommends the Peggy Martin, Climbing Iceberg and Red Cascade roses.
It is important to set obelisks in the ground to prevent them from toppling over. Obelisks covered with vines are more wind-resistant and beautiful.
Some plants that provide summer color include Alice duPont mandevilla and vines like moon vines, morning glories and hyacinth beans. For late winter and early spring, climbing nasturtiums and sweet peas provide color and interest. The variegated English ivy is hardy and works well on obelisks all year.
You can build your own obelisk with bamboo, cedar posts or even metal strips. Online directions for building a wooden obelisk state that it takes about 90 minutes to complete the project.
For gardeners who have raised beds for growing vegetables and herbs, building a green tunnel can be an effective way to use sun and provide support for those plants that need it.
Other advantages of vertical gardens include that they use less ground space, reduce plant diseases and often increase plant yields. Vertical gardens or green tunnels can be used to screen garden views, frame a focal point or provide a shaded pathway to another garden area.
My friend, Jim, built a green tunnel and planted green pole beans on the vertical sides and black beans that grow up the bamboo supports. His structure is 6 feet tall, 4 feet long and 5 feet between sides and built in two parallel raised beds. He used bamboo cuttings across the top to support the beans and added iron spikes to firm up the structure. The support beams are a type of steel covered in rubber so they resist the elements.
Jim loves having neighborhood children help harvest the beans and teaching them about vegetable gardening. In the fall, Jim plants sugar peas that last all winter.
For gardeners who prefer a more formal garden design, parterres may be the desired look. In the 16th century, the French created flower gardens arranged in patterns and separated by paths of stones, gravel or mowed grass. An advantage of a parterre is that it reduces the turf areas and promotes water efficiency.
The first step in creating a parterre is to select a geometric shape, like hexagon, circle or square and decide the size and number that fit in the yard. Low-growing plants like boxwood or dwarf holly are good choices for parterre hedges because they can be clipped to maintain straight lines and angles. Most parterres have a focal point in the center like a topiary, an orb on a stand, a water feature, a sun dial or an urn.
Parterre gardens can be color-coordinated with flowers, bulbs and shrubs. The flowering plants can be changed seasonally to refresh the appeal of the parterre.
Some gardeners choose complementary or contrasting colors in their parterres while others choose warm or cool colors. Popular perennials like chrysanthemums, phlox and Shasta daisies are often selected so they can be cut and enjoyed inside.
Structure depends on its purpose
These various garden structures range from simple to more complex. If you are interested in roses and/or flowering vines, the obelisk or parterre might be your choice. On the other hand, if you are interested in growing vegetables and herbs, the green tunnel or parterre could be your choice.
The garden project you select - obelisk, green tunnel or parterre - depends not only on your garden design but also on your gardening interests, resources, time and talent.
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas AgriLife Extension - Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.
• Hansen, K.C. and Welch, W. C. "Landscape Development for Texas Coastal Areas, The Southern Garden"
• Steblen, K. "Vertical Gardening," The Galveston County Master Gardeners Magazine October/November 2013.
• Welch, W.C. "Touch of Formality" aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu
• Welch, W.C. "Obelisks In the Garden" aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu
• Welch, W.C. and Grant, G. "Heirloom Gardening in the South," Texas A&M University Press.
• Geometric-shaped garden
• Paths of stone, gravel or grass
• Low-growing hedge (boxwood or dwarf holly)
• Focal point in garden
• Color-coordinated with flowers, bulbs or shrubs
• Use of complementary/contrasting colors; warm/cool colors
• Alice du Pont Mandevilla
• Moon vines
• Morning glories
• Hyacinth beans
Late winter/early spring
• Climbing nasturtiums
• Sweet peas
*Roses - Peggy Martin, Climbing Iceberg, Red Cascade varieties
• *Variegated English ivy
*With seasonal maintenance/care