Reaching for the sky – creating the rose arches for the new flower garden

Established rose arch in full flower
Existing rose arch of Rose Veilchenblau (mauve) and Rose Seagull (white) intertwined together in the patio garden.

In the new flower garden at Honey Pot Flowers we are keen to introduce much more structure and height than we had previously.  With a bulk load of roses due in November we have been putting in place two new rose arches ready for their arrival.

Each of our arches is going to have a mix of rambling roses which will mingle together.  The two varieties we are using on the arches are Rambling Rosie and Blush Rambler.

Arches, however, are much more than just creating something for the roses and other plants to climb up.  They create a barrier between areas of the garden creating that sense of exploration and romance and can lead the eye through to a focal point in your design.  Importantly they bring your flowers up to eye (and nose) level so they can be appreciated as you wander through your garden.

We have learnt from experience that commercially bought arches are not always up to the job (particularly the metal ones).  A year or two down the line when the roses are lush and heavy with foliage and flower they will need to stand up to the strong winds of the autumn and winter months.

We have built two arches, each 2.4 metres (c.8 feet) high.  This may seem excessive but once grown those wayward branches will hang down and need to be high enough so that you can easily walk through or cut the grass without getting annoyingly scratched.

Materials

If you want to build one similar for yourself you will need the following for each arch.

  • 4x metal wedge grip fence post spikes (75mm x 600mm)
  • 4x treated fence posts (75mm x 75mm x 2.4m)
  • 3x treated beams (47mm x 100mm x 2.4m) (one cut in half to create the side beams)
  • 2x treated trellis panels(1828mm x 610mm)
  • large pack of 4″ wood screws

Method

  1. As the old saying goes ‘measure twice and cut once’!
  2. Bang in the metal fence spikes to their respective positions making sure that they are straight and true with a spirit level.  It is much easier to bang these in straight if you use a rubber block.   Keep the post ‘socket’ above the ground.  I have found that this helps stop the posts from rotting off prematurely.  If you push the ‘socket’ into the ground the wooden fence post sits in the damp soil all the time and rots much more quickly (even if treated).  I have spent so much time over the years trying to remove the concrete blocks of old rotten fence posts that I tend to use metal fence spikes now.  If you want to move them in 15-20 years time you can.
  3. Gently bang the fence posts into the metal spikes.  At this point check that all the post tops are at the same height.  I do this by using one of the long beams and placing it across the posts and checking with a level.  Gently adjust the posts if necessary.  Keeping everything straight and level at this point helps enormously down the line.  It is very difficult to adjust things later if it looks wonky.
  4. It is up to you how ornate you want the ends of the cross beams to be.  I chamfer the corners of each beam to soften the appearance slightly.
  5. Having cut one of the long beams in two, fix these to the side of the arch at the top.  Measure and mark them carefully before offering them up to the posts to make sure they are identical on each side.  The posts will be flexible enough to fit to your marks.  Screw to the posts with the 4″ wood screws (pilot holes help enormously here).  I use 2 screws per post so there is less chance of the arch twisting in the wind and rotating around the screw.  This arch will have to hold a lot of weight in time!
  6. The two long beams go across the front and back of the arch.  I cut a square notch out on each side.  The notch is half the width of the long beam (ie.  c.5 cm) and the width of each notch is the breadth of the side beam (ie. c.4.7 cm).  I do all this measuring and cutting on the ground.  These long beams are then lifted onto the side beams and slide/lock into place with some gentle encouragement from a mallet.  If you have measured carefully everything will shift into place and be straight, true and level. (I appreciate that this is easier said than done!)
  7. Screw the long beams onto the side beams.
  8. Assuming you have measured the distance between your posts correctly the trellis should now slide easily between posts and can be fixed with four screws.  It is easiest to put the screws into the trellis first and drill your pilot holes in the posts before offering the trellis up to the posts to finally fix them securely.
  9. Stand back and admire your work!
Rose arch
New rose arch of treated timber ready for the arrival of our rambling roses this month
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