DemosNews: Tousled Wisteria Roofs in the Garden
Tousled Wisteria Roofs in the Garden
By: Anita Spertus

I live near Central Park in New York City and have always loved the wisteria draped arcades and benched arbors that grace the paths by the park drives near West 72nd Street. Quaintly constructed of unshaped cedar trunks and branches, they create architectural spaces and seating spots by means of framework not walls, and support a beautiful frowsy roof of tangled tumbling wisteria vines. Imparting thick shade in summer, and interesting gnarly winter texture, the vines burst into full glory late spring with long pendant blossoms and intoxicating fragrance. Throughout, the soft bends of greyed natural wood and see-through character of construction allow the structures to melt into and take part in their woodsy surround. A modern variant of wisteria roofed seating, fashioned of hard, colorfully painted steel supports, lends shade and playful form in the park playground at 96th Street and Central Park West.

But I’m a romantic at heart, and wanted a natural version to become the beloved resting point in the beautiful lilting meadow half way along the woods walk between two old farmhouses on our Maine island. White cedar remains the wood of choice because it resists rot and weather, greys so beautifully, and is the stuff of old New England shingled Capes. Poles may be acquired commercially, but my colleague’s grandfather had a wide swamp full of cedar which he wished to thin, so I bought trunks from him. They came with their skins on. At a certain point, though, perhaps it was four or five months after cutting, bark suddenly lets loose and peels off as easily as banana skin. One must seize that moment, lest insects and rot flourish underneath. Once peeled, air and sunlight cure the logs long term.

A little hand sketch sufficed to proceed. We sank seven stout poles into holes and set them with cement (bags of Sakrete mixed with water in our wheel barrow) for stability and to stave off ground rot. When that had hardened, our colleague Eric, working alone, whipped all the rest of the construction together in one morning! To our delight, he used trunk-to-branch cleavages spontaneously as design elements to support the bench, and to add charm to frontal struts As a finishing flourish, being a huntsman, he tacked a little rack of horns to a post inside. The wisteria took about three years to cover and reach fairy tale form. Ocean waters buffer our Maine island against cold (zone 6), so Japanese wisteria (Wisteria floribunda ‘Alba’, and Wisteria floribunda ‘Purple’) do just fine.

One other iteration built of natural cedar trunks gives great pleasure and solved a headache on our Maine farm. Deer constantly marauded my berry patch. Solution: a large high structure like a giant greenhouse, but with walls and roof of coated green rectangular fencing rather than glass. No deer or birds intrude now on my strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, currents and asparagus. And I love the cedar structure’s mysterious, post-modern, stealth presence.

For the suite of photographs that illustrate this article, click on the reference below.

© 2021 Anita Spertus of DemosNews

April 22, 2007 at 0:35pm
DemosRating: 4.57
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Genre: Home (Flora & Garden)
Type: Creative
Tags: arbor, Maine

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