One of the best features a house can have is a stately old tree in the yard. Trees provide shade for a home, but more importantly, they shade the yard on a hot summer day and make it a joy to be outside. However, many of my friends have seen their stately old oaks, maples, and other trees get struck by lightning, contract diseases from unhygienic tree cutters, or just expire from any number of the factors that affect centenarians.
My friends, of course, plant new trees in place of the old ones. We are, after all, part of the generation that grew up with Carly Cardinal and the National Arbor Day Foundation spreading the word across the nation about trees. Where the old trees could shade an entire yard, though, the new trees will take some time to get to that height and lushness of foliage. But in the meantime, garden arbors with trellises can provide shade and a place for quicker-growing plants to grow.
Arbors are light, auxiliary structures made of vertical posts, horizontal beams, and rafters on top of the beams. The rafters make an unfinished roof that cuts the full force of the sun and creates shade. Arbors range in size, and can take the form of a breezeway over the entrance to a garden path or a larger structure that shades a seating area.
Whatever their size, arbors not only provide shelter from the sun, they can also provide sun-loving plants an elevated place to grow. Most vining plants will do well on an arbor, and flowering vines will look spectacular while in flower. Climbing roses, wisteria, ornamental honeysuckle, and clematis will all look beautiful–and thrive–on an arbor with a trellis. Some plants will even grow on an arbor without the additional support of a trellis. In a backyard grape arbor, for instance, the grape vines will happily climb any vertical post.
Arbors aren’t just decorative features, they’re practical structures that make a yard more enjoyable. As vines fill in an arbor, it not only becomes more beautiful, it also becomes shadier and is able to block wind and provide privacy.
The first step to building an arbor is considering both your property and your purpose for building a trellis. A large yard is different from a small yard, and a suburban property is different from an urban one.
In an urban yard of the sort you’ll find behind townhomes and rowhouses, a garden arbor with a trellis might not seem practical. These yards tend to be tiny. However, it’s perfectly possible to fit a small arbor in one of these spaces, and they can provide the following benefits:
A solid plan for this sort of urban arbor is to go with a small four- or six-post structure close to the center of your yard. Screen in the sides facing the edges of the yard with trellises and place the rafters close together for more privacy from above (for tips, check out our guide to rafter spacing). When flowering vines are growing on the trellises and the rafters overhead, the arbor will provide privacy and serve as a focal point for the yard.
Larger yards, on the other hand, have much more flexibility. If you’re blessed with one of those huge corner lots with a side gate, an arbor over the gate covered in blooming flowers can encourage family members to actually use that side entrance. In a large, empty yard, a trellised garden arbor can create a focus point, a place to start the landscaping that will transform it from just another backyard in the neighborhood to a storybook setting. A long, tunnel-like arbor can create a shaded area along the edge of the yard for benches, or can shade a path.
Garden arbors with trellises are also great ways to define different spaces in a yard, which can help do away with the plain ‘expanse of grass’ appearance of many properties. If you’d like one part of the yard to serve as a flower garden and the other to serve as a vegetable garden, a garden arbor with a trellis can divide the two in an attractive way. A trellis covered in plants can also be used to provide privacy around a pool or hot tub.
It’s probably clear by now that a garden arbor is an ornamental structure that can do a lot to increase the beauty of your yard. At the same time, arbors, like pergolas, are also practical structures that must stand strong through all kinds of weather. Nails and screws may be unobtrusive, but they do not make for the most solid connections between pieces of wood. Your standard truss brackets and ties will hold much better, but the majority of these are made of galvanized steel, which can look jarringly industrial in the context of a garden. For a durable, lasting, and attractive garden arbor, sturdy and good-looking hardware is a must.
One of the best sources for great decorative hardware is OZCO Building Products. OZCO makes hot-dipped galvanized brackets, truss ties, rafter clips, and other hardware specifically for arbors, pergolas, and pavilions. On top of the heavy galvanization, OZCO also adds a high-quality black powder coating for a handsome, rugged, wrought-iron look. Completed with OZCO ornamental wood ties, a garden arbor is sure to stand out whether it’s shading a driveway, sheltering a swing seat, or adding privacy to a pool area. For information on how to find just the right decorative hardware for your project, contact OZCO here.