I have a small gated arbor that forms the entrance to the gravel seating area. I like the way it is starting to look now.
In spring of 2013 I planted a hardy kiwi vine on one side. It is Actinidia kolomikta, which is grown for its pink tipped foliage, not for kiwi fruits.
The male vine is supposed to have the strongest splashes of color on the leaves, but it takes several years before it shows up. This plant is growing well in its third year here, but hasn't shown variegation yet.
Several years ago I had both a male and a female hardy kiwi and they did have some splashes of white and pink. Here were my original plants, just starting to show some paint splashes on some leaves.
The female plant also had fruits -- little tiny grape sized kiwis that looked like gooseberries. Sweet and yummy, but not really like the brown fuzzy skinned kiwis we know.
I took the original kiwis out, because I just did not have a good sunny spot for them where they could climb. Now, the new kiwi vine has an arch to climb up and it seems happy at the entrance to the gravel area. It will get to about 15 or 20 feet, and grows vigorously, but it can take hard pruning, which of course I will need to do to keep it from swamping the small arbor structure.
As you walk through the gate you step on fragrant thyme. It is Thymus serpyllum 'Albus'. It has tiny white flowers that bloom forever. Thyme hasn't done well for me. It browns out in our humid summers and looks patchy, but right now it seems to like being near gravel and stone steps and a rock wall.
The pink leaved dwarf weigela next to the gate is looking pretty good too. It is 'My Monet', with very strongly variegated pink, cream, and green leaves. I did not actually plan to have this pink tipped shrub next to a gate covered by pink tipped kiwi foliage, but there it is.
Once the kiwi starts to color up in a few years it might be a nice repetition to have two pink variegated plants paired up. The things I don't even think of turn out to be the best combinations in my garden sometimes.
The little weigela brightens up the dark smokebush at the top of the stone wall.
And in fall fragrant aster, 'Raydon's Favorite', takes over the job of welcoming you into the gravel garden.
At Christmas the gate doors are closed, the seating area furniture is put away, and the arch becomes the perfect place for a wreath.
The metal arbor structure is inexpensive and not very sturdy.
It is powder coated aluminum, so lightweight that a small animal could push the whole thing over. The gate doors are out of kilter and latch awkwardly. I got it on Amazon, assembled it myself, and the legs are simply pushed into the dirt to stand it up.
I'm not sure it will hold up to a big woody kiwi vine climbing over it, or whether it will even last another season or two before the legs give out or frost heaves pitch it askew.
The area around the entrance is finally coming together with pleasing plant combinations and a nice welcoming look. I really wish I had invested in a strongly built, permanently anchored arbor. Is it too late to replace it with something sturdier, now that the kiwi vine is draped over it?