Friday, January 7, 2011

The View No More

The Side View, 2009

The view shown is from the left side of our house looking into the back yard. I built the copper trellis that frames this view about ten years ago. The Carolina jasmine we grew up and across it took years to mature. In recent years, though, it had completely covered the copper arches and formed a thick and beautiful canopy.

This is the side of the yard that was for many years shrouded in shade almost year round. Grass wouldn’t survive there. Even moss had a hard time getting a foothold in that ground. The side of the house required regular cleaning to keep it from becoming completely covered in green shade loving algae.

The removal of two giant dying oaks whose rotten limbs were falling closer and closer to the house opened up that whole area to more sun. The airflow was improved immediately, so the exterior of the house doesn’t require as much cleaning. I reconditioned the soil in the flower beds, cleaned out the weeds, moved some plants there from other parts of the yard and brought in some new plantings to brighten up the area. I installed an old driftwood sculpture that had languished in another part of the yard, giving this new garden area a focal point.

We were rewarded with the view above.

Sadly, the weight of last week’s snow was more than the copper trellis could bear. Sometime early in the week when we weren’t looking the weight of the snow on the jasmine vines bent the curved arches of the trellis and the whole contraption fell to the ground.

My wife was heartbroken that the jasmine she’s been training to grow across the trellis no longer has a host. I was disappointed that the copper arches on top of the trellis, the parts that I’d spent so long making and getting right, were ruined. (Bending copper tubing for decorative use is tough even with the right tools. Making two copies of the same arc is nothing short of miraculous when you have my limited pipe bending skills.)

Several times over the last few days I have attempted to right the trellis. The straight horizontal and vertical pieces can be rejoined without much trouble. But without the curved top, a once elegant view now looks as if you’re viewing through a cereal box.

I’m done with copper. It’s going to take a little doing to extricate the copper pieces from the jasmine. But after I get the messed clean up, one of my spring projects will be to replace the trellis with a sturdier wooden version. I’m partial to Walpole Woodworkers designs. They’re very good, but also very dear in cost. So I guess I’ll be making a trip to Lowe’s, putting a new blade on the radial arm saw and seeing if I can’t create my own knock-off.


  1.'re a handyman into the bargain! That view is achingly beautiful to a Californian. We're just not used to those intense greens. Sorry for the disaster, I can only imagine the disappointment it caused, but at least you know how to remedy the situation.

  2. Wow--that's gorgeous, Chris! How sad that the trellis didn't make it--it looks like it was wonderful. I bet whatever you'll come up with will be beautiful, though--looks like a really lovely spot.

  3. Yard looks lovely, Chris. Even though I lack the civilized impulse do such for myself, I appreciate others' artistry. Did you design the entire thing from scratch?

    I'm kind of curious about your disaster:
    Do you recall the dia. of the tubing? Was it hard copper that came in straight lengths (my assumption) or soft coils?

    Did the collapse start with a failure of the radius or did the entire structure start listing to one side first?

    Are there any support members not visible, going outward (such as guy lines angling from the ground under the hedge to the uprights)?

    Seems a totally handcrafted solution would be cooler than a knockoff.

    John Gingrich (eclectio)