Arbor frames a tiny dark forest

sergeantcuffFebruary 27, 2012

I have a tiny black forest in the corner of my yard. I enjoy it very much, especially in the summer as it keeps my old house cool and helps keep my front porch very private. I am pleased with the arbor we built last year, except that it highlights this black void. How can this area mesh with the front and side gardens?

My house is on a hill, so the power lines seem so low. Please excuse the mess, lack of edging, and state of the grass - the garden had to be neglected last year.

Thank you for any suggestions.

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Can you take a photo of the arbor from a greater distance? It's kind of hard to see what you're talking about.

What are you planning on growing on the arbor? That may mitigate the perceived problem in and of itself.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 3:00PM
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There is nothing wrong with the "Black forest" but what jumps out is that the arbor is bone naked. When it's covered in vines it will look right. (It's not possible to tell much about the dormant plantings around it either.) Pick what you want to grow on it. If it's perennial woody vine, maybe during the first year you want to add a temporary annual to get the arbor "up and running." I don't think you can beat Heavenly blue morning glory for that. For something permanent consider: Bignonia, Red Honeysuckle, grape, climbing roses, ... whatever suits your fancy.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 6:08PM
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daisychain01(zone 3)

Beautiful arbour, Maureen. You must be really pleased with it.

I think that in addition to something growing on it, you need something just in front of it to draw the eye there rather than to the black hole. You have some stepping stones in the other pics. Could you do a little stone area in front of the arbour that tapers off as it enter the arbour or just before? Or even plant something weighty in front of the arbour to the right so it isn't sitting so starkly on it's own. I agree with tanowiki, that some distance photos would help to see the problem more clearly.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 7:45AM
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The arbor has a climbing rose on one side (Alchymist) and a honeysuckle on the other (lonicera Goldflame). The smallish dormant plants do not show up in the photos.

The camera has gone missing, but my garden is hard to photograph anyway. It is not visible from the street as there is a holly hedge all along the front. We use a shared driveway that comes up the back. So the house is IN the garden and our cars are parked in the backyard.

The arbor isn't viewed from farther back (kinda blocked by car and other plantings, it's viewed from a side angle or close up, as one is turning the corner of the house. It's just out of sight on the left:

it's most often seen from farther away, from this angle, taken from the main path to the back door;

No one thinks the dark corner is ugly? It seems like a sucking black hole to me, and is just as bothersome when viewed from the front of the house. I thought there needs to be something there to draw the eye. I've thought about a brightly-painted bench, but there are tons of birds so I'm sure it would always be covered in droppings.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 11:23AM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

The arbor itself looks new and raw. So, yes, the contrast is a bit extreme, but the solution would be to change the color of the arbor, not the color of the background.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 11:33AM
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Maureen, I am not bothered by the "dark corner." But in the dark corner, there is a "window" of sorts, that is created by the two tree trunks, shrubbery and tree canopy. I have the urge to clean this window of scruffiness that is created by low-hanging branches and maybe by some rangey shrub foliage (can't really tell from this distance.) Seems like this could be made into an enticing feature if it were more refined... so one is first visually led to the opening of the arbor. Then, one is led to a "moon gate" sort of opening that is beyond.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 11:45AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I don't see the 'sucking black hole' either... I think it looks quite interesting. In the first picture you posted, the two tree trunks in the background rather mirror the legs of the arbour so they draw your eyes through the arbour, through the trees and far into the distance. I'd work with that to enhance that feel of the garden extending well beyond it's immediate boundaries. If it's possible (depends on what else is back there with the trees and how much is your property...), I'd put a path between those trees and/or keep any plantings to the sides of the trees rather than to try to block or screen them in some way.

I agree that the new arbour looks 'raw' - maybe consider painting it to match the obelisk...?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 11:48AM
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Mad gallica - I see what you mean. I am hoping that the the arbor will darken fairly quickly. The honeysuckle already covers that right side. The rose was a band I got thru a trade last Spring, so I think it will be a while before it covers much.

Yardvaark and Woodyoak - I never really noticed that about the trees and am now looking at them in a different way. It would be lovely if it were possible to walk beyond the trees, instead of being forced to make a 90 degree turn between them? This is the very corner of my property. From the front yard, one would head down a slight hill into the weed-filled vacant lot. From the side of the house, one would walk between the end of a holly hedge and a giant holly tree and plunge down a very steep hill.

I agree a cleanup is in order. We had a very mild winter and I was able to get a good start on it. I've been pruning all week.
Thank you very much for your insights.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 12:25PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

I don't see the back hole as ugly but do see it as a continuum of space.
You can close up the space with layered planting which will give you a feeling of containment , which will no doubt lead you to a feeling of contentment.
- win win !
Your arbor reminds me of a talk I sat in on with Michael Van Valkenburgh in the 80's. . He taught at Harvard for awhile and has some interesting perspectives in using arbors and other defined passage ways in the garden.
He has used arbors to create illusions in the space, forced perspectives and channeling transitions between sub-spaces (also called garden rooms ).

Your arbor seems to be framing a forced perspective. Evidently from how you have expressed your dislike for this perspective it sounds like you might be happy with closing that perspective off.
You can do this by planting or with structure , such as the placement of a bench or sculptural element. ... perhaps by using the bird bath ( dead on center with the arbor ) and finish it off with a layered plantscape.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 12:31PM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

Michelle beat me to it -- move the white birdbath into the space between the two trees, although I would place it at the 1/3 point of distance from the left tree. It will give your eyes a place to rest. An arbor marks a passageway, and the mind expects it to lead somewhere. The "dark hole" doesn't present a clear destination, but an object placed there will.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 12:59PM
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Deviant-Deziner - I think you have diagnosed why I, personally, am displeased with this area. Containment does make me feel content. I like fences, hedges, tall plants. I love hidden gardens, like the ones tucked behind city rowhouses. Sometimes I wish my garden was either smaller and more contained or larger so that it could be divided into sub-spaces.

I'm sure it's pretty obvious how this was "designed":
I wanted a structure on which to grow more climbing plants.
Here's one that might not be too hard to build, but where can I put it?
I've been to other gardens where there was a structure on the corner of the house.
I only had one sunny, tree-free corner, and here it is!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 3:01PM
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"Here's one that might not be too hard to build, but where can I put it?" That is the impression it gives maureen. Toning down the colour would help to make it less obvious, unless obvious is the name of the game. Let's assume that this arch is to be a major feature then make another one (maybe smaller that is framed by the existing arch). Put three stepping stones under the existing arch and two more smaller under the distant arch leading into the dark unknown. The distant one can be stark and white but the one in the picture needs to be permanently covered with stuff. And you need to change the colour of the cat, sorry.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 6:23PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Perhaps you could plant a focal point accent shrub in front of those conifers that would serve as the focal point of the view through the trellis? Something along the size and character of those two shrubs at either side of the stairs, are those Aucubas? An evergreen foliage shrub with year round interest similar to those by the house might be just the ticket, or maybe something flowering like Forsythia or Spiraea.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 1:18AM
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daisychain01(zone 3)

So glad you posted a garden in bloom pic. I really don't see problem, but I'm sure the suggestions above could make it even more special. Would love to see it when it is covered in blooms.

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 7:01AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Maureen, you've received some very good advice from some knowledgeable pros.
I don't see it as a sucking black hole. I have a sucking black hole. ;-O

The property to the left had the potential to have a house on it so I planted a hedge of Western Red Cedar to block it off. After a few years the property came up for sale. I bought it, and the hedge was no longer needed as a hedge.
Now it's a Black Forest path.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 12:23PM
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Ink - It is intended to be somewhat obvious, but set at the corner of the house in blends a bit. The blue rocket ship is far more obvious! The idea of another arch is intriguing.

Bahia - those are aucubas. They are very useful here as they will grow in the driest, shadiest spots, so I think that's a good idea. I've got lots of it

Botann - I love your Black Forest path! It's really spooky! and I bet it smells good.

Daisychain - thank you for the kind words. My garden is so overgrown but I am really going to try to bring some order to it this year.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2012 at 11:04AM
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