Saturday, November 10, 2012

Simple Structures Can Change Your Garden's Appearance by Keith Hamlyn

How about adding a vertical element without planting a tree?  Do you need a visual divider to change the look of your garden?  Try one of these relatively simple structures – an Espalier frame for your fruit trees or a permanent structure for your vertical plants. 

Both of the structures described in this article require very little planning or assembly.  The espalier frame shown below was constructed from three 8-ft tall 4x4 posts.  One acts as the cross beam and two as the vertical posts which were cemented about 2-ft into the ground.   The cross beam is secured to the top of the vertical beams using galvanized “post & column cap” brackets.  For a better visual finish square-up and attach the cross beam to the vertical posts before you cement the posts in the ground.  Also, with the cross beam attached adjust the depth of the holes to level the top of the frame.  We built ours to grow apples so we screwed eye-hooks into both vertical posts at three places and stretched wire between them to train the apple branches horizontally.  For more on this technique please read the article entitled Espalier: The Art of Plant Training by Elaine Lockey published on this blog on July 5, 2011.  You can add your own finishing touches to suit your preferences.  We chose to paint it bright red to add color to the garden and we attached some metallic butterflies to one frame just for the fun of it.

Contrast the visual effect of the bright red frames above with the other structure, seen in the pictures below, that was left unfinished.  It was built 10 years ago using the same basic structure but had wooden trellising to support the plants.  The trellising however was soon blown away by the high winds encountered in this area and was replaced with an interesting pattern of twine discovered in a magazine.  The original construction can be seen in the picture below on the left and the current appearance on the right.  When the trellis was removed, 2x4’s were added at the top and 2/3 of the way down to accommodate eye hooks needed for threading the twine.  Weathering of the cedar vertical posts is evident in the two pictures, but structurally they are still very sound. This area is used for growing raspberries and the triangular wooden frames seen on the end were added to allow us to maintain the raspberry canes vertical.  While this structure is more than is classically needed for raspberries, we enjoy the way it provides a division to the garden even in the winter.

Finally, the picture below shows all three structures during the growing season.  It illustrates the way the frames provide a visual reference point, can be used to section off parts of the garden and the contrast in the painted vs. unfinished appearance.