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Your garden is a work of art. If you’re looking for a way to add layers of height and old-world whimsy, look no further than pergolas, arbors and trellises. These versatile structures can trace their history back to the Middle Ages, and are typically a staple in English gardens. Over here on the other side of the pond they make just as much of a statement. If climbing vines and flowers or a crop of veggies is making a home in your garden this year, take a peek at the following tips to figure out whether a pergola, trellis or garden arbor is right for you.

How can I incorporate arbors into my garden?

Arbors feature vertical pillars that are connected at the top via an arch or beams. They often include open latticework that allows climbing plants to weave their way through for support as they grow. Arbors can create a visual gateway into your garden or even provide a comfy place to sit.

A garden arbor can range in size from 7 to 8 feet tall and 42 to 122 inches wide. When deciding what size works best for you, consider the area of your garden where it will be placed. You might even take measurements to ensure your new garden arbor won’t intrude on existing flowerbeds, walkways or other structures.

The tops of arbors typically come in an arched or pergola style. Arched arbors are perfect for creating gateways and are most often crafted from metal. This is because metal is the easiest to shape into a single arched shape, whereas vinyl and wood can be challenging. However, you can find vinyl and wood arched arbors every so often, so if your heart is set on one of these materials don’t give up your search.

Is a pergola right for my backyard?

You can easily identify pergolas thanks to their crisscrossed wood beam tops that are supported by four posts. A pergola is perfect for defining your outdoor space and providing a place for climbing plants to creep up without blocking out much sunlight.

You can typically find pergolas and pergola kits in wood, vinyl and metal. Wood is the most popular choice, and you can ensure your wood pergola lasts for years by selecting a high quality species such as redwood, cedar, teak or an imported hardwood. Before choosing, however, you should always check that the wood has been ecologically harvested, meaning it’s been harvested in a way that attempts to promote a harmonious relationship between the production of wood and the environment. Also note that purchasing a pergola with notching will increase its durability. The notches create interlocking joints that can hold up well to wind and weather.

When sizing your pergola kit, remember that pergolas are sized based on their roof. Meaning if you purchase a 10 by 12 foot pergola, the area created by its four posts will measure less than 10 by 12 feet. Instead they’ll be recessed back from the roof edge at least a couple of inches or up to two feet.

Learn more about pergolas and how to use one in your yard

How can I use a trellis in my vegetable or flower garden?

Whether you have a wall that just begs for a trellis or not, these lovely garden structures can make a statement in your vegetable or flower garden. Many garden trellises resemble the familiar panel style, which features a flat vertical panel with open latticework that can be installed flush with the side of your house or garden shed. However, if you lack enough wall space to accommodate a panel trellis, an obelisk style will work just as well. These offer a freestanding 3D design that typically resembles a column or pyramid. Of course, other styles such as arches, fans and trellises with planter boxes also exist.

When selecting the style of trellis you want to install in your garden, make sure you end up with a sturdy design. As your flowers or vegetables grow they’ll only become heavier, and the last thing you want is for your trellis to start drooping or falling over. It’s also important to plan out just what kind of plant you’ll be growing on your trellis. Different species climb in different ways and therefore require different types of climbing surfaces. Clinging plants, such as ivy, can attach themselves to smooth walls while tendril-growing plants like grapes and peas need netting. It’s best to check on what type of climbing platform your plant prefers before making your final decision.