Our house and garden are small, and anything not quite up to par sticks out like a sore thumb. Unfortunately, we inherited a bunch of stuff I couldn't get rid of - the gas meter in front of the house and white vinyl siding that always looked a little dirty. These definitely took away from the cottagey look I was trying to achieve. In addition to this, the shutterless front windows made our house look kind of naked and unfinished. I didn't want to add any more vinyl by purchasing premade shutters, so my husband Phil and I devised our own.
Instead of standard style shutters, he designed and built six decorative wooden trellises to fit each set of windows. We painted them slate blue, and added a long window box to frame the set of four windows in front of the house. It lent a whole new architectural dimension that made our house look more welcoming.
The trellises, were attractive enough by themselves, but I couldn't resist tarting them up with vines and turning them into living shutters.
While we might not be replacing the vinyl siding any time soon, I’ve managed to cover most of it up with clematis and honeysuckle vines. If you have limited space as I do, or you want to cover up stuff you’d rather not look at, trellises are just the thing. Here on the right, they're hiding a gas meter and providing another layer of color.
They can be attached to the house or act as free-standing structures you can integrate into your plantings. Ours are attached, but to prevent damage to the siding, we spaced them a few inches away from the house.
I recommend doing a little research on vines before you plant them. Wisteria, trumpet vines and climbing hydrangea are several that are not house friendly because they develop thick woody stems that can lift the shingles or siding right off. They require a fair amount of pruning to keep them in check too.
The star shaped flowers of Clematis ‘Betty Corning,’ ‘Jackmanii’ and ‘Nellie Moser,’ cover the house all summer. I added a honeysuckle, Lonicera ‘Graham Thomas’ to the pergola for a little shade and fragrance. It's grows at a moderate rate and is easy to care for. I only prune it when the little tendrils start climbing toward the roof of the house. The clematis varieties I chose can be cut back almost to the ground at the end of the season, so there isn’t much maintenance other than encouraging them to grow up the post of the pergola.
The clematis are a little more rambunctious than I expected, and now I wish I had paid more attention to their mature height. To accommodate them requires getting on a ladder and training the vines over the windows. As you can see below, the window is gloriously hidden behind Clematis 'Jackmannii.' Pretty, but more work than I had in mind. As I work my way around the house, I'll be planting varieties that don't get any taller than 8-10 feet at the most.