Outdoor Garden Archways

Outdoor Garden Archways


These are often found in the older type of garden where much of the property is enclosed or divided by walls. Entry into the various parts of the garden is through archways built into these walls. Often the feature is enhanced by a wrought-iron gate, or where privacy or shelter from wind is required, a solid door is used. Archways can be formed if hedges are trained and trimmed regularly to form a living arch over a path. Another method is to use a formed metal arch over which plants are trained.

Archways may be used to good purpose in the modern garden. They provide an excellent means of supporting suitable trailing or climbing plants, and several arches may be used in the construction of a covered way or walk along a path.

Most archways are constructed from brick or stonework, but there is no reason why designs should not be made from wood. As its name implies, an archway usually has a semi-circular arch. If wood is used for construction it is easier to design a feature which has either a flat or apexed roof. The actual design should take into consideration the character of the garden and the house itself. The selection of material for construction is particularly important. If bricks are used, these should be old or weathered. wood produces a natural rustic result especially if oak or cedarwood is selected. Proportions are important too and adequate headroom must allow for the plants which may be trained over the archway. Usually a height of 2m (6ft 6in) is adequate. The width will depend on the path or driveway it is covering. It should not be less than lm (3ft).

The construction of a brick or precast stone archway requires some skill, not only in the laying of the bricks but in the production of a wooden support or template which supports the arch of bricks or stone until the mortar which binds them has set. The template is made by first sawing two wide lengths of wood to the required shape and span of the required arch. The two shapes are screwed to several strong spacing blocks of wood so that the distance between them is a few inches wider than the width of the brickwork or stonework. A strip of resin-bonded plywood is screwed down on to the top of the two shaped pieces of wood to provide the support for the stonework.

When this template is in position it is supported from the ground by suitable lengths of strong wood. It is possible to purchase specially wedge-shaped bricks for arch construction although ordinary kinds can be used successfully if they are bonded well with mortar.

The archway may be part of a high wall or it may be a feature on its own, supported by strong brick or stone piers. It is very important that foundations for piers are strongly constructed. A hole should be excavated 0.3m (1ft) deep at least, and the bottom 20cm (8in) filled with small rubble rammed in well. The remainder of the hole should be filled with cement, using a mixture of 1 part of cement and 6 parts of mixed ballast. The finished surface of the cement should finish just lower than the level of the surrounding soil.

Wooden archways are much easier to assemble. The best wood to use is either oak or cedar. Both are highly resistant to rot and insect damage. Larch may be used but must be treated with a wood preservative where it is buried below ground. Cuprinol or Solignum are suitable for this purpose if the horticultural grade is used. The main supports for the archway must be selected from strong wood and 8-16cm (3-6in) size will be required according to the proportions of the archway and the width of the path or drive. These should be buried 0.6cm (2ft) below ground level and preferably cemented in position, using a mixture of 1 part of cement and 6 parts of mixed ballast. A flat-topped archway will be the easiest to construct. Cross pieces of 8cm (3 in) square wood can be screwed or bolted to the tops of the supporting posts or to long lengths of 8cm (3in) wood which have been previously secured to the tops of the supporting posts and running in the direction of the path or drive. To enhance the design, the cross pieces can overhang the sides by about a foot.

It is possible to purchase commercially-made arches of metal. These are usually of heavy-gauge, galvanized wire or tubular metal. It is necessary to take particular care when these are being erected to see that the feet, or posts which go into the ground, are consolidated with rubble or cement. When covered with plants they are liable to move in strong winds and would be seriously loosened unless inserted carefully. This type of archway has the merit of being practically invisible once the plants are established.

Suitable plants for covering archways

Good though the design of an archway may be, its attractiveness will be considerably enhanced if it is clothed with suitable plants. These will not only add color and interest but will conceal hard outlines and bring a natural beauty to the garden design.

High on the list of plants are the climbing and rambling roses. The shrub roses should not be forgotten with their display of flowers and berries. There are many climbing shrubs ideally suited for training over archways. These include clematis, forsythia, Hydrangea petiolaris, the climbing hydrangea, Jasminum nudiflorum, the winter jasmine, Jasminum officinale, the summer jessamine, Ioniceras (honeysuckles) and Wisteria sinensis .

When selected plants are planted, a hole should be taken out a little larger than the maximum spread of the root system. The hole should be positioned so that the plant’s main stem is about a foot away from the archway upright or the base of the wall.

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