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Home The Art of Choosing and Using an Arbor
The Art of Choosing and Using an Arbor PDF Print E-mail

Design elements like ponds, trellises, or fountains can combine to make your garden a truly unique affair. One of the simplest and most effective “extra” touches that you can add is an arbor.

See pictures of Arbors from our portfolio.

What is an Arbor?

Arbors are shaded areas in gardens that most often frame the following areas:

  • Seating or cooking areas
  • Entrances
  • Doors or windows on homes or other garden structures (these can be framed with an “eyebrow” arbor)

Often, they allow climbing plants or flowers to intertwine themselves with the structure. When properly implemented, arbors can add charm or drama to your home garden.

Planning an Arbor

There are four considerations when planning an arbor:

  1. Materials

  2. As with patio and deck composition, there are a myriad of different materials and options that you can choose from for an arbor.

    Wood: As with decks, solid wood arbors have their benefits and disadvantages. Wooden arbors are generally less expensive than their synthetic counterparts, and they are often lightweight and easily moved. However, you will need to keep them protected from the elements as much as possible by staining them periodically, unless you choose a high durability wood such as cedar, canberra or redwood. Keep in mind that the vines you have growing on your arbor will need to be disturbed while you refurbish the wood. Wooden arbors go well in contemporary, natural or formal garden styles, depending on the wood and shape chosen.

    Synthetic or composite materials: These will be longer-lasting because they are resistant to all types of climates and weather, but they will also be more expensive than some of their simple wooden counterparts. Most often, arbors made of these materials go well in cottage or traditional garden styles.

    Metal: Weather-resistant powder-coated steel will last for years without any maintenance. The shape that the metal is formed into will determine the style of garden it fits best in.

    Gnarled Tree Branches and Twigs: Arbors made of these materials can look like a sculpture in your garden. Your cottage, natural or rustic style garden will shine with an arbor made from nature.

  3. Color

  4. When choosing a color for your arbor, take a look at what you have in your garden or your home exterior. If the arbor is in close proximity to your wooden deck, using the exact same color stain can be monotonous. Instead, you may want to complement the color of your home. By using the same color as your house’s trim, for example, you can break the scheme up a bit and create a more harmonious flow.

  5. Location

  6. Arbors for seating

    Patios and Decks: An arbor turns the seating, dining and cooking spaces into shady outdoor rooms.

    Entry Courtyards: Reclaim your front yard and turn it into an extra living space with a shady vine-covered arbor.

    Remote Corners: Make a private retreat with an arbor decked out with lush vines.

    Open Spaces: An arbor can provide a vertical contrast to a wide expansive lawn.

    Entrance Arbors

    Front Entrance: An entry arbor says, “Welcome” to all who enter and can be joined by a gate in the center and a fence or planted hedge on either side.

    Sideyards: Add an arbor near the front of your house that leads to your side yard. It will be a charming detail that also can evoke a sense of mystery.

    Hazels Home Garden Tip

    Home Garden Tip: Be sure that your entrance arbor is at least five feet wide, to allow at least two people to walk through it at the same time. Arbors that are placed at your main entry should be especially roomy. Seven feet tall is the standard height – go higher if your vine will hang down from the top.

    Eyebrow Arbors

    This type of “mini” arbor can be placed over doorways or windows on homes, pool houses, potting sheds, studios, or any outdoor building. An eyebrow arbor festooned with a bright flowered vine will draw the viewer’s eye toward whatever it’s placed over. If you’re looking for a way to add a little charm to a garage door, this is the ticket.

  7. Climbing Plants

  8. When considering foliage, any type of climbing plant will work its way into the arbor and add to its organic feel. Some flowering climbers like honeysuckle can add a bit of spice and color to the look of your landscaping picture.

    Worts Worst Ways

    Worst Way to Decorate your Arbor: Put heavy vines like grape and wisteria on your arbor made of branches and watch it crumble. Also, if you never prune your vines, they’ll take over your yard!

    Here are some of the vines we like to use on arbors:


    Sweet Peas
    Morning Glories


    Star Jasmine, Confederate Jasmine (Trachelsopermum jasminoides: Zones 8-10)
    Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica: Zones 2-10)
    Roses (Rosa banksiae: Zones 4-9)
    Vitis (Vitis coignetiae: Zones 3-10) This vine can get quite heavy when in fruit.
    Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis: Zones 3-10) Watch out in the south! This vine can become invasive if not under constant vigilance. It is also rather heavy.

Want To Use This Article in your E-zine, Website or Publication? Yes, you may use the text but not the pictures. Also, you must provide the following copyright notice and information about the author: © Peter Bochenek & Associates, Inc., 2006. All Rights Reserved. The author is Gay Enright. She is a garden writer and designer who can be contacted at her website, www.myidealgarden.com, which is dedicated to helping its visitors have a home garden they’ll always love.