Design An Arbor In Your Backyard

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Every yard needs a quiet place to sit or an attractive entry into a garden area. Arbors are an easy way to create a stunning view, add ambiance and showcase favorite flowers. Traditional arbors use plants, grown up a latticework frame, to create a shaded area. But, an arbor can be made from a variety of materials and accessorized with climbing plants and outdoor furniture.

When creating a themed arbor, consider the following:

  • Location. An arbor has many uses around a home. Arbors can become a part of the garden with plants and beds that match the rest of the landscaping. Instead of a gate, install an arbor at an entryway. Cool off a patio with an arbor crowned with dense foliage plants.
  • Material. An arbor can be made from wood, metal or PVC materials. Wood arbors are durable and give a rustic feel. Metal must be maintained to prevent rust. PVC arbors are easy to put together and come in a variety of styles.
  • Size. If the arbor will be used as an arch in an entry area or as a gate, the arbor will only need to be a foot or two wide.
  • Plants. Climbing vines create shade, especially if allowed to grow over the top of the arbor. Hanging plants, such as ferns, can be added if the arbor is strong enough.
  • Accessories. Benches and patio chairs provide sitting areas under an arbor’s shade. Add a small table to set drinks. Statuary, such as small gnomes or decorative pots, show off your personal style. Flags, banners and scarves can add pops of color.

Arbor Design Tips

There are many ways to decorate an arbor and the type of decorations that can be used will depend on the material from which the arbor is made. The rest is up to your abilities and imagination. Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Look for climbing plants. Climbing and vine-type plants can cover a large area to create privacy or shade. Select plants that are hardy in the local climate and will thrive in the intended soil and sun conditions. Plants such as wisteria, climbing roses, sweet potato and morning glories can quickly cover an arbor with colorful flowers.
  • Add decorative flourishes. Statuary, flags and scarves are an easy way to decorate an arbor for a special occasion or a holiday. When using fabric, select material that does not fade and can withstand the elements.
  • Choose colors that complement the home and garden. An arbor should enhance a landscape not detract from it or create an eyesore.

Growing A Vegetable Garden Arbor

An arbor in the garden is not only decorative, it is functional. A garden arbor has a trellis along the sides and across the top for plants to climb. This makes the perfect place to grow gourds, squash, beans, peas and other vegetable crops that grow on a vine. Here are some other accents that can enhance a garden arbor:

  • Hanging baskets containing herbs, lettuce or strawberries.
  • Planter boxes along the bottom to grow peppers, tomatoes and eggplant.
  • Use a trellis or lattice to grow grapes, kiwi vine, squash, cucumbers, peas, beans, melons, berries and other vine type foods.

Decorating An Archway Arbor

Archway arbors are used to frame an entryway to a garden or pathway. An archway arbor uses a simple frame. It can be covered with lattice and the arch shape cut out of the lattice. These arbors are usually 8 feet high, 4 feet wide and 2 feet deep.

Several climbing and vine-type plants are suitable for covering the smaller area of the arch. Some plants to consider include:

  • Climbing roses add color and fragrance.
  • Ivy is a hardy vine that provides foliage during colder months.
  • Sweet potato vine will cover a larger area.
  • Morning Glory is a fast grower for smaller arbors.
  • Honeysuckle will attract hummingbirds.
  • Wisteria has violet flowers and is an aggressive grower that can cover large areas.
  • Clematis comes in a variety of colors and work well with both small and large arbors.

A small planter can be set at the base of the arbor. This planter can contain annual flowers or cut flowers that can change the look of the entry area depending on the season or holiday. And, during the cold winter months, artificial flowers can be arranged in these planters to contrast the winter landscape.

Ribbons and banners are another way to decorate an arbor to celebrate a season, holiday or event. Here are a few ideas:

  • Decorate an arbor with red, white and blue ribbons and flags to celebrate the Fourth of July.
  • Use balloons and streamers for a birthday party.
  • During the winter, cover an arbor with evergreen branches and a Christmas wreath to welcome the holiday season.

Creating A Sitting Area

The shade arbor is perfect for creating a sitting area that is out of the sun. Shade arbors can be built over a patio or deck area or in an area in the middle of the yard. The top of the shade arbor is constructed of beams with crisscrossing slats.

  • Create mood lighting. Make an arbor stand out at night with a few strategically placed garden lights. Use lighting to highlight the arbor at night or to expand your living space to the outdoors. LED lights and candles placed inside glass jars make effective night lights.
  • Hang a stained glass ornament or prism. As the sun shines through the ornament, the colors will reflect around the garden.
  • Choose comfortable benches and outdoor furniture. Look for materials that will withstand the weather and can be cleaned easily.

An arbor makes an attractive focal point in the garden and adds a little pizzazz to a landscape. For a few ideas, browse the Internet, page through home improvement magazines or visit your local hardware store. With a wide variety of styles, materials and colors, there is an arbor for every garden.

Last Updated: August 16, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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