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Nowadays, we see fewer and fewer of the curious fan-shaped trellises and oddly designed covered benches, arches, garden entrances, summer-houses, and similar shoddy structures which at one time broke over the country like a checkered rash. The trashiness of ordinary commercial trellises is much to be deplored, but their flimsiness does not detract from the value of a well-constructed lattice. The ornamental effect of a good trellis, when covered with blooming roses, is sufficient to justify constructing it of the best materials and supporting it by posts properly protected against decay.
White is a disagreeable color to paint a lattice. Dark green or brown is much better, and if it is made of a durable wood, such as cypress, a brown stain and oil finish is perhaps the best and least obtrusive of all.
For economy's sake, wide-mesh woven fencing may be substituted for a trellis. It may be very durable if the wire is heavily galvanized, and so tightly stretched that it does not sag under the weight of the roses or billow in the wind.
It is the gardener's business to fasten the roses to the trellis or wire, because they cannot do it themselves. Thoughtless or lazy gardeners may weave the branches in and out of the interstices but they will come to regret it. Sooner or later dead wood and unwanted canes will have to be removed, and the devil himself has never devised a more disagreeable, tedious, and painful job than to unthread thorny rose canes from a lattice or to disentangle them from a wire mesh! It is better to distribute them more or less symmetrically over one surface of the trellis, holding each one in place by a firm tie of some lasting material.
Posts for trellises, wire netting, arches, or even for use alone as pillars, assume considerable importance with relation to climbing roses. Possibly the most expensive posts which can be used are saplings cut by a farmer from a thicket that he wants to clear, or from a mixed woods which needs thinning. The first cost of such posts may be temptingly low, but they are likely to be ill-assorted in size and so variable in resistance to rot that nothing but dissatisfaction can result. On the other hand, saplings of red cedar, locust, and some other trees make straight, durable posts, and, if selected with reasonable regard for symmetry, are satisfactory for the useful life of any rose that may be planted to them. Stained or allowed to weather naturally, they make an attractive appearance for many years, and do not look out of place even in formal surroundings. For rustic gardens the bark may be left on, and even short stubs of branches allowed to remain, over which the roses may be looped.
Posts made of manufactured lumber are seldom used, except as supports for lattice-work or woven wire. The objections to them are high cost and a short life. Most dressed lumber is manufactured from timber of uncertain lasting quality, while for rose supports, durability should have first consideration. Yellow pine, fir, and similar woods rot quickly in the ground. Cedar, cypress, chestnut, locust, and redwood, which are more resistant to decay, are to be preferred.
Different methods of treating the base of wooden posts have been recommended to delay decay. Possibly it is best to char the wood lightly in a hot fire from the base to a point several inches above the soil-line. Soaking the bases of posts in creosote or other wood-preservatives no doubt postpones decay, but whether some ill effect of the chemicals may diffuse through the soil and damage the rose planted at the post is more than I can say.
Wood posts may also be set in concrete, which at least insures their stability in the ground, for an outstanding defect of wooden posts is their liability to sag out of plumb. This can be prevented to some extent by sinking them very deeply and by tamping the base very firmly with cracked stones.
Cedar and locust posts should be not less than 5 inches in diameter at the point where they emerge from the ground. The height, of course, depends upon the use to which they are put. Larger posts are needed where great weight is to be sustained, but a thick, heavy post is incongruous when used to support a single climbing rose bush. The post should be just large enough to bear the weight of the plant safely, and small enough that it may be entirely concealed, both when the plant is in leaf and during winter when the canes are bare.
Possibly the most permanent post which has been contrived for climbing roses is iron pipe set in concrete. Second-hand pipe may be bought in almost any junk-yard for a few cents a pound. A handy workman can cut or splice it to proper lengths, give it a first coat of red lead and a second coat of some inconspicuous shade of green paint; fit a screw-cap on the top to keep out rain, and encase 3 to 4 feet of the bottom in a block of concrete about 5 inches square. The top of the concrete should be moulded up about the post in order to shed water. Such a post is pleasantly inconspicuous and almost indestructible.
Pipe of suitable size may be used, depending upon the weight to be borne. About the smallest which is safe is l 1/2-inch pipe, and 2-inch is best. Pipe of larger size is more expensive and heavier to handle, but it can be used, even up to the size of discarded boiler-flues which are sometimes available and cheap.
The concrete block anchors it securely in the ground, the threaded top makes it available as a base for any kind of iron construction which it may be expected to support, either a trellis, a pergola, or a summer-house. Flat metal strips or strapiron can be inserted in the top of the post to be bent into arches, if arches are wanted. Modern steel fence-pasts are efficient, cheap, and easy to get anywhere. Some are made of L- or T-shaped metal, perforated at regular intervals, or fitted with projecting hooks to which wires or strings may be attached. These steel posts are familiar to every farmer, and others can buy them from dealers and mail-order houses which handle farm supplies. They come in almost any height the rose-grower is likely to need, and are furnished at the base with some flat or spade-shaped device to keep them from turning around in the ground. If heavily coated with zinc the steel endures for years, and makes an extremely rigid post when once firmly fixed. Steel construction makes them the least bulky of any support of similar strength, and in the long run they are as cheap as any.
Steel fence-posts are driven into the ground like a stake, saving the labor of digging a hole. Usually a sharpened iron spud, equal in diameter to the widest dimension of the post, is pounded in first with a sledge and pulled out; the post itself is then tapped into the hole which the spud has made.
The construction of simple arches is easy. Any kind of a cross-beam will do for unpretentious effects. A fine rustic appearance may be achieved by using two reasonably straight sticks to make a sort of Gothic arch or inverted V by lashing or nailing them a little below the tops of the supporting posts, allowing them to project beyond the sides of the posts and to cross where they meet. For round arches, strap-iron is almost necessary. Some kinds of wood are both strong enough and flexible enough to be sprung into place, but it is less difficult to work with iron. One-eighth-inch strap-iron sufficiently narrow to be inserted in the top of the pipe is the best material. If a little step or offset is made in the iron about 8 inches from the end, it will prevent the arch from sliding down inside the post farther than it was intended to go.
Various proportions for arches have been tried, but the best rule is a good judgment. The curve ought not to be too flat or too pointed, and a keen eye is almost necessary to decide just what arc the bend should make. Semicircles are relatively simple, and can be accurately gauged by making the length of strap-iron between the offsets a trifle more than one and one-half times the distance between the posts-one and four-sevenths, to be fairly exact. Some people rivet cross-pieces upon the arch to prevent the roses from turning over on themselves under the weight of full bloom. This is not nearly as effective as twining the canes spirally around the arch, but it does make it easier to take them down for pruning.
Chains may be hung between the tops of posts to train the roses in drooping garlands or festoons. Heavy chains are not needed, and the material does not need to be as enduring as brass. A heavily galvanized chain will last for many years, and if it is thick as a man's thumb it will support the weight of any roses that it will ever be called upon to bear. Manila rope may be used in place of chain, but is stiffer and less durable. Soaking in linseed oil for a few days before putting it up lengthens its life. Such a rope should be at least a half-inch in diameter, and an inch is better.
A thoughtful rose-grower will soon discover that, with careful training, a vigorous climbing rose will form its own garland upon a relatively trifling foundation. The long shoots, under proper inducement, will support themselves as long as they remain alive in good condition.
PERGOLAS AND SUMMER-HOUSES
Tastes differ so much that it is a rash person who would venture to lay down the law in regard to building such structures as pergolas. To say that simple construction is best is not true where the whole design of the garden and architecture of the dwellings and near-by buildings demand ornate formality. But in small gardens it is the one fact that the aspiring rose-grower must hold fast to. Little gardens cannot afford to let structural elaboration overwhelm the roses.
Few owners of small gardens are blessed with both the skill and the time to undertake construction of this kind by themselves. A skilled carpenter is necessary if the structure is to be of wood; only the general design need trouble the owner.
Cedar posts with the shaggy bark left on, and even in some cases still bearing stubs of branches, are both ornamental and enduring when covered with roses. In some districts they may be obtained very cheaply. At other places other timber must be used, or dressed lumber substituted. The same caution should be exercised that sound, rot-resisting material is obtained to prevent disaster later.
It is perfectly feasible to construct a pergola of iron pipe, making sure that the posts are firmly anchored in concrete, and a clever man could doubtless construct a summer-house of the same material.
Perhaps it is well to state plainly here that metal supports have no ill effect on rose-canes. It has been solemnly set forth with considerable authority that iron becomes so cold in winter and so hot in summer that plants are frosted at one season and blistered in the other by coming in contact with it. Experience has proved these statements wrong.
FENCES AND HEDGES
Some climbing roses make excellent hedges without artificial support, but to keep the plants in good condition for many years they need to be handled so that old, decayed stems can be taken out easily. By training the canes along a fence-like framework this can be easily done.
Ordinary woven-wire picket fencing is seldom strong enough or permanent enough to serve as a foundation for a hedge of roses; but there is a type of picket fence which is not without usefulness and beauty. This is usually manufactured abroad of some decay-resisting wood, and is woven of young saplings, split or whole, closely spaced. Several dealers offer this kind of fencing, and it can be bought in several heights. Roses look very charming woven in and out of the ends that project above the wire, drooping in flowery garlands on both sides. Even as high as 8 to 10 feet, such fences covered with roses are objects of great beauty.
Special supports for rose-fences are easily made by stretching rustproof wires between well anchored posts 10 feet apart. Two wires 18 inches apart, with the bottom one the same distance above the ground, are sufficient, but the height can be easily extended to a third wire or even higher for more profuse display or to obtain closer seclusion and privacy.
Stone fences are ideal if they are already on the place, but it would hardly pay to build a stone fence to train roses on in this day and age. Old rail-fences are equally good and almost equally scarce and hard to restore; but the picturesque beauty of both kinds is worth trying to keep if either exists on the place.
A similar informality may also be achieved by connecting a row of posts with rough stringers along the top, and filling the panels between them with two cross-pieces in the form of X's.
A special type of support has been found valuable in extremely cold climates where climbing roses are likely to be frozen in the winter. This is the hinged trellis or pillar, so constructed that the supporting posts are not permanently sunk in the ground but are cleated or spliced in some fashion to other sunken posts from which they may be detached at winter, and the pillar or whole trellis, rose and all, laid down to be covered with leaves and snow. Any ingenious man can figure out several ways in which this can be done. Pipe supports may be fitted into sunken pipes of slightly larger diameter. Posts of dressed wood may be similarly handled. The idea is to disturb the arrangement of the rose on its support as little as possible when laying it down for winter protection.
No matter what type of support is used for climbing roses, the individual canes must be tied to it in some fashion. Various materials may be used. If the canes are to be fastened to a wall, strips of leather, stretched over them and nailed down at the ends with staples, are safe and lasting. For stone walls, a recently exhibited device is a stiff wire stretched between two composition buttons which may be cemented fast to the stone. For tying canes to pillars, trellises, etc., ordinary raffia of good quality is the cheapest and most satisfactory material. It lasts fully a year. Twine, tarred or otherwise, may be used, but it is both more expensive and harder to tie than raffia. Strips of cotton cloth an inch or so wide may be used but are likely to be much too conspicuous. But regardless of what material may be used, always cross the tie between the rose-cane and its support to prevent chafing.
One of the most puzzling problems which confront a grower of climbing roses is how to label them permanently. No device is both satisfactory and cheap. The best is a metal tablet on which the name can be written or engraved, fastened to a stiff rod which can be screwed horizontally into the supporting post, so that the name sticks out beyond the foliage of the plant at eye-level. These can be made by ingenious folks at home where labor costs nothing, but they are much too expensive to be manufactured by anybody else. Any labels, no matter how permanent, hung on the bushes are sure to be lost or cut off, and it is almost impossible to find them when the plants are in leaf and bloom. The only other place where a label can be found is at the base of the plant, and tablets engraved or stamped with the name of the rose, soldered to stiff stakes driven in at the base of the rose, are satisfactory, except that they are often obscured by mud, or lost in the foliage of some plant growing in front of the rose. For safety, some people always put two labels to each rose.
There is no solution to this problem. It is an aggravating phase of the whole difficulty of labels in the garden. Some people will be able to solve it for themselves in ways which would be decidedly inconvenient or inexpedient for others.