This vintage survivor is a 1920s antique supporting two different roses. (Maureen Gilmer)

How to create your own rose arbor entry

Many girls dream of the perfect house with a white picket fence. Romantic girls want all that plus a rose-covered arbor gate. When it’s in bloom, not only is that gate the focal point of your front yard, it is also a fragrant experience for everyone who must pass through to get to your front door. From highbrow dinner guests to the FedEx delivery person, your entry becomes a sensory experience they’ll want to repeat over and over.

These arbors began as a means of showing where to tie one’s horse before entering the ranch or farm home. The yards were originally fenced with pickets to keep farm animals out and kids in. This idea means you can claim all of your front yard space for personal use rather than leaving it open to intruders. The arbor also provides an opportunity to have the bell out at the sidewalk, mounted security cameras and an intercom to keep everyone out of the front yard and away from the house.

Imagine a home site where every plant was once watered by buckets. That’s why these entry arbors are favored for roses with only one stem to keep watered. This entry, or something similar elsewhere in a large landscape, adds an instant touch of true Americana. Look to the old stick paling fence for natural designs, or more evolved white pickets with simple points or elaborate Victorian finials.

There are no rules about what kind of arbor to choose, but it should match existing fencing materials to create an integrated look. Wrought iron, wood or paint-free modern white composite are all suitable choices. Before you buy anything, though, check with your local building department to determine if any codes prevent you from creating a front yard fence and arbor gate.

Today’s ever-blooming or remontant roses are the best choices for these arbors because they don’t need much care compared to the big arching hybrid tea climbers. For example, Star Roses ( has developed a nice range of heavy blooming moderately sized climbers with spectacular vigor, adaptability and disease resistance. They offer a rainbow of different colored varieties well proven for modern low maintenance gardens.

The single flowered forms are far more countrified, working well with clapboard homes, historic architecture and cottage gardens. Double flowers are more elegant for greater sophistication with Victorian or brick and stone architecture. Climbers with good flowers offer a secondary bonus of cut blossoms for indoors.

Be adventurous with your rose color choice to suit the overall palette of your home and garden. Consider planting just one color on your arbor to intensify its presence. Try two analogous or complimentary colors to work together. Planted on opposite ends of the arbor, they’ll come together on top as a haze of flower color each year.

Almost all other vines are too big for this application. Wisteria becomes a monster. Ditto trumpet vines that require continuous pruning, and once established they can be devilishly hard to remove. The beauty of these modern roses is that they are so carefree, and if well selected for your climate, it’s nearly impossible to fail.

The simplest solution for a free arbor is to round up some male muscle to bend salvaged rebar or galvanized pipe into a simple arch. Secure the ends in post holes of concrete for a solid foundation. Then plant your roses and train them up the pipe and over the top. Even if you’ve never grown a rose, that dream of a beautiful romantic entry is only one plant and one simple arbor away.

In today’s world, we can reclaim our yard from border to border by using the same problem solvers the pioneers did. Every farm wife tried to bring beauty and flowers to the frontier. Her love continued after town grew closer to the homestead. Inevitably her rose covered arbor becomes more than gardening, it’s a familiar landmark that kept unwanted visitors out and pets in for more room to play than just the backyard.


Maureen Gilmer is an author, horticulturist and landscape designer. Learn more at