Obelisks In The Garden

by Dr. William C. Welch, Professor & Landscape Horticulturist, Texas AgriLife Extension Service
Larger metal obelisk with 'Peggy Martin' roses
Larger metal obelisk with 'Peggy Martin' roses
Variegated ivy on smaller obelisk
Variegated Ivy on smaller obelisk

Consider an obelisk as a focal point for your garden. Obelisks have been popular throughout civilization. Modern ones range from two to ten feet tall and are typically four- sided pyramidal structures tapered to the top. They imitate the very large stone monuments from classical times. Obelisks add vertical interest and are often made of iron or wood latticing forming dramatic display opportunities for roses or other ornamental vines. Low growing shrubs, perennials and groundcovers provide many opportunities for creating special settings around obelisks in the garden.

When choosing roses for these structures consider those with limber canes that can be easily woven into the lattice work. Some good examples are 'Peggy Martin', 'Climbing Iceberg', 'Red Cascade' and 'Cl. Cramoisi superieur'. Carolina jasmine, (Gelsemium sempervirens), cross vine (Bignonia capreolata) or Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) are especially good choices since they are evergreen.

Even small obelisks need to be firmly set into the ground to prevent blowing over. Keep in mind that wind resistance is much greater when the obelisk is covered with vines. A mandevilla (Mandevilla x amoena 'Alice du Pont', for example) is a popular choice for summer color in the garden. They bloom from spring till frost but require winter protection. The small (3') metal obelisk provides support for the vine and is decorative even when not planted. The larger obelisk illustrated in this article is covered with a variegated English ivy that is winter hardy and provides year round interest. You can also make less formal obelisks with bamboo, dried grape vines or cedar posts with bark still intact.

Annual vines are also great on obelisks. Morning glories, moon vines,and hyacinth beans are great for summer while sweet peas and climbing nasturtiums are good for late winter and spring. Edible options include tomatoes, green beans and edible pod peas. Be sure to use a good, professional potting mix and sufficiently large pots so that plants do not dry out too quickly.

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