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In the Garden: Trellises transform look of fence

Sun., April 6, 2014

These trellises create an attractive entrance to the garden while making it more challenging for deer to get in. (Susan Mulvihill)
These trellises create an attractive entrance to the garden while making it more challenging for deer to get in. (Susan Mulvihill)

It’s been said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If that’s indeed the case, I’ve paid a big compliment to north Spokane gardener Julie Nesbitt.

While wandering through her beautiful garden during last summer’s Spokane in Bloom garden tour, my husband and I were quite intrigued by her creative solution to a problem.

The property line between Nesbitt’s and her neighbor’s backyards is bounded by a short chain-link fence. She was looking for a way to give each of them more privacy while dressing up the fence and giving herself more vertical space for growing grapes and flowering vines. Nesbitt’s solution was to attach several tall metal trellises to the chain-link fence, using black plastic zip-ties. The effect was very appealing.

After returning home, I kept studying the entrance to our backyard and wondering if we could do something along those lines. Our biggest problem is keeping deer out of the yard, so having a tall fence is a necessity. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always translate into something aesthetically appealing.

We already had a black wrought-iron arbor gate in place that I wanted to keep. I would need enough trellises to span a width of about 11 feet. At a local home center, I found the same trellises Nesbitt used in her garden and bought four of them. I had tried to find something different but none of the others were tall enough. The trellis dimensions are 29 inches wide by 80 inches high.

I also purchased a panel of 47-inch-tall, sturdy cattle fencing – which the trellises would be anchored to – and two heavy-duty metal fence posts; we painted them with black metal spray paint to match the trellises.

After removing the old field fence, we installed the fence posts and cattle panel. At that point, we determined that, with a 4-inch spacing between each trellis, they would fill in the gap between the arbor gate and the wall of our house.

However, we didn’t want to sacrifice the height of the trellises by pounding them into the ground. We followed Nesbitt’s lead by raising them a few inches on the cattle panel and zip-tying them to it. We also used some heavy-gauge wire to further secure the trellises. This created a 7-foot-tall fence.

It really dresses up the side entrance to our garden and didn’t require much effort at all. Once that project was finished, I purchased two climbing roses – Purple Splash and Geschwind’s Schonste – that are now growing alongside a young Duchess of Albany clematis.

Doing a project like this addresses several potential problems many homeowners have to deal with.

Perhaps they have a fence that needs dressing up to be a more attractive boundary surrounding their home. Or they would like more privacy but would prefer an aesthetic treatment rather than a potentially unsightly wall or fence. Many gardeners are looking for an attractive way to grow climbing roses, clematis or other vines.

And certainly many gardeners in this region have problems keeping deer out of their gardens, like we do. Research has shown that fencing is the most successful barrier to use. While a fence height of 7 to 8 feet is necessary, it can be difficult and expensive to achieve.

When checking back with Nesbitt, she said her backyard trellis fence is working fantastically. “The birds love this living fence and it’s really fun watching the squirrels run across the rounded tops of the trellises.”

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at her blog at susansinthe and Facebook page at susansinthegarden for more gardening information.

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