Cheri Maggiano had always wanted a covered walkway. "They're classic in their simplicity, yet they also seem romantic," she says. Strolling through one is almost as calming as meditation. So when Maggiano began looking for a way to visually separate one part of the garden from the other at her new home in Santa Ana, she decided on a tunnel of vines.
The arbor, designed and built by Mike Parsons of Saddleback Valley Ornamental Iron (949/830-9513), consists of a series of bent tubular steel arches, 6 feet wide and spaced 5 feet apart, connected with crossbeams. The arches were sandblasted, coated in zinc, and painted with black urethane. "They'll last forever," Parsons predicts.
Maggiano took a landscaper's suggestion to plant two red trumpet vines for every 'Flame' grape. The evergreen trumpet vines keep the arbor covered when the grapevines drop their leaves in winter, and prevent Maggiano from being totally inundated with grapes.
"The vines are only a year old, but we've already had tons of fruit," she says. "It was an amazing harvest."
Bare-root grapevines are available at most nurseries in February. European varieties ('Flame', for instance) do best in warm inland locations. American grapes such as 'Concord' are more successful near the coast. Plant grapevines in full sun, deep enough so that only the two top buds are aboveground.