Garden Arbor Styles

Brian Barth
simple wooden arbor

Making an Entrance

Arbors are a natural focal point in the garden, used as both entryways and destinations.

The classic whitewashed wooden arbor pictured is ideal for transitioning between two outdoor garden spaces and would fit well in any traditional garden setting, whether a formal rose garden or a rambling assortment of flower beds around a country cottage. Here it creates a distinct architectural portal through a tightly sheared hedgerow.

traditional wooden arbor

Variations on a Theme

The basic wooden arbor can be accessorized in many ways. Here a a carefully crafted gate forms a circular porthole window into the garden beyond. This style is especially useful where you want to frame a particular object on the other side of the arbor, such as a water feature. Of course, gated arbors are an important consideration where security is an issue or children or pets need to be contained.

arbor with climbing rose

Using Vertical Space

Arbors and vines are made for each other. This metal arbor is visually unobtrusive, but it sure makes the rose climbing over it stand out in the garden. Use wherever you want to punctuate the space with a colorful vine.

rusted wrought iron hex-shaped arbor

Expanded Possibilities

No one ever said an arbor has to be rectangular. This one has six sides and is made with ornate steel lattice. The rustic feel of the rusted metal fits well within a Mediterranean-inspired landscape.

rustic wooden arbor

DIY Arbor

If your goal is simply to support a planting of vines, you can build your own arbor with poles made from small saplings. This example with unmilled timber is used to support grape vines and would make a quaint addition to an edible landscape. The key is to look for really straight trunks when cutting the saplings, so the finished product is plumb and square.

large arbor with flower planters

A Tranquil Destination

Arbors create a place of refuge in the garden, especially larger ones like this. The traditional wooden style with tapered rafters and lattice sides sports an aesthetic that fits comfortably in a setting of colorful flowers, offering a bit of shade in a sunny garden. Note the two smaller benches nestled in the wings of the arbor, a nifty example of incorporating functional uses in the design.

zen arbor with circular entry

Zen Garden Entry

Simplicity is key in designing a Zen garden. Another common feature of Asian-inspired landscapes are roofed arbors, such as the one pictured here. The circular design is a reference to the principle of unity, but can be used wherever a grand impact is desired.

quirky round arbor amid lush foliage

Take Zen to a New Dimension

This arbor plays off the Zen theme, but leaves the tradition behind in forming a space that is lush and enchanting, as opposed to simple and austere. This is just one example of the creative potential in arbor design that can elevate an ordinary garden into an otherworldy kingdom.

stained wooden arbor with sleek aesthetic

A Modernist Interpretation

This simple, refined design with smooth-sanded wood and a warm, light-colored finish creates a sleek, modern canopy over the patio. Use thin timbers like these to give an understated look to the outdoor areas of a contemporary home. Adding matching accessories, such as the urns, plants and opaque screen dividers pictured here, brings the arbor to its full potential.

arbor with white curtains and urns

Go Big and Bold

Heavy duty timbers and massive fortress-like posts make this arbor a castle on the beach. White curtains and ornate urns add to the drama, while matching pavers form a sturdy base. This example looks wonderful in its seaside setting, but would be equally at home in a formal garden with other similarly grand features, such as columns, obelisks, or a reflecting pool.

wood and metal pergola

Tunnel Pathway

A series of arbors connected in a tunnel-like form is sometimes called a pergola. This example frames a straight pathway and creates a sense of tension and drama in the garden. Use wherever two disconnected garden areas are joined by a path and create a tunnel of foiliage by training vines over the structure.

flowering pears trained over arbor tunnel

Numerous Possibilities

Some arbors emphasize the plants growing over them, more than the structure itself. These pear trees have been painstakingly trained over a structure of hollow metal tubes to form a living architecture. This technique is easy to experiment with at home - simply tie the supple young branches loosely to the structure as they grow.

Whether you build an arbor yourself or purchase one from a landscaping company, it is sure to add drama to your garden space.

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Garden Arbor Styles