We could have gone for an off the peg arbour, you know the ones, they proliferate garden centres and DIY stores from spring onwards. Turn to look at the gnomes and they breed, you can get them in every shape and size but what you can't get is a wind proof one. Many a gardener has splashed out on a wooden arbour, driven or concreted the anchor pegs in to the ground only come out after a winter gale and to find the roof now open to the sky, the trellis embedded in the side of the house and the seat split in two by a falling roof joist. Wind does not respect that you spent anything on this folly and neither will the insurance company who will politely inform you to suck eggs. There is a way round the wind, if you have the patience and the space - and if you have space for a wooden off the peg arbour then you have space for this - create a living arbour. There are some plus sides to a living arbour.
If a living arbour breaks it will grow back if it is deciduous. If it is damaged to the point of extinction, and that has to be some wind to do that, you can replant it. In comparison to an off the peg arbour a living arbour will cost you much less depending on the plant. We're planting five foot hornbeams which cost us 39p each because we bought them bare rooted; this is an ideal time of year to buy and plant bare rooted shrubs, hedges and roses.
When they arrived we heeled them in, this is the practice of just temporarily planting the trees and then heeling in the soil around the roots and giving it a good soak with a watering can. Then you can plant your purchases anytime from now to late winter. Our arbour is 9 foot wide and 4 1/2 foot deep - basically it's a semi-circle. We started with a straight line of string and marked the centre with a cane, then we cut a piece of string that was 4 1/2 foot long and looped this over the cane. This means we can use the string to as a guide so we can plant the hornbeam at the right distance from the centre.
We then planted the hornbeam trees at an equal distance from each other. We planted 5 trees to allow for the trunk to expand in later years and to also allow under planting of geraniums and spring bulbs.
The whole process took less than an hour as we prepared the soil earlier in the week, we added plenty of spent compost and weeded the area. You will notice below (apologies for the blurred photo, it was very cold) that there is a holly in the background. It's unlucky to cut down a holly, we cut this right back four years ago as it was diseased and hoped it would come back lush, it has! We will eventually weave this into the hornbeam arbour.
As the trees grow to the height we want them, we will in a later spring as the sap rises and the buds break pull the tops of the trees together and lash them into a roof to create a cave like arbour; green, lush and living that we can weave climbers through. Yes, we will have somewhere to sit and no we won't be paying for it, we have plenty of wood from the house renovations to build a bench for us to sit on.