Garden Design

An Arbor Addition Transforms the Garden

An arbor serves as a portal into a garden room; a transition point to tell a visitor it’s time to pause, giving you a change in perspective. Rounding a corner and reaching for the sky, a flower filled arbor frames a view. Training vines to cover the arbor brings garden life to another dimension—reason enough to want to find the perfect spot in your garden to add an arbor.

Arbor Style
Arbors have the ability to set mood.  Romantic, rustic, formal, Asian, European, or cottage, an arbor knows no architectural boundaries. The connection between house and garden is extended when the style of the home matches the arbor. Repeating interesting architectural details found on the house, such as a porch railing pattern, gable pitch, color, or even a pattern found in the window mullions, will help add continuity between the house and the garden.

Kinds of Arbors
Arbors come in all shapes and sizes to match any desired effect.  A skinny arbor, just deep enough to adequately stabilize it and the plants it supports, is commonly used.

An arbor deep enough for seating can become a child’s play area with other children or a teddy bear’s picnic.  Arbor seats can also be a special place for a mommy’s quiet repose.

Very deep arbor designs can serve as a vine covered eating area for al fresco dining; just saying the words conjures up a welcomed endeavor to eat outside.  Bring out your best china and crystal to toast with friends the glory only outdoor dining can bring.

Wood, metal, and even old tree branches can be fashioned into an arbor.  However, ready built arbors are plentiful. They can be found at flea markets, antique stores, garden centers, and home improvement stores.

Where to Site an Arbor
First, survey your property to find the most suitable place to add an arbor. Any garden, large or small, has space for at least one arbor, maybe more. Look at your property to see where you can divide areas of the yard to make more of your space. This is a concept known as multiplication by division—expanding the space by dividing the area into smaller sections. Magically, the garden seems larger with the ability to sequester into a new site. Adding low fence sections or a hedge buffer will create the walls; adding an arbor, creates the door to and from the garden room.

Arbors also direct foot traffic through the garden. Standing tall, enticing you to come within. Passing through the arbor transforms not only the space, but the mood of the gardener. The feeling of adventure is often noted.

To see where you can add an arbor to your garden, go on a walking tour of your property.  Look from as many vantage points as possible.  From the back looking towards the house, to the corners of the property, or even in the middle of the open spaces in the back or side yards. Adding paths and walls with your arbor, creates transition points or separate rooms.

Most arbors are 8 to 10 feet tall.  This gives sufficient clearance to walk under, even when flowering vines drip with nectar and scent. This height also makes it manageable to prune vines when this task must be done.

Vining plants can be used alone, such as training an American Wisteria over the arbor or pairing a combination of plants, like the classic arrangement of the clematis and the rose.

Top your arbor with twinkling lights, providing illumination for you and the garden fairies, alike, making a welcome journey, even in the evening garden.

Adding an arbor adds layers to your garden, bringing your garden to new heights.

Photos by Helen Yoest.


Helen Yoest, owner of Gardening With Confidence™, is a garden writer and wildlife gardener in Raleigh.  Catch up with Helen via her blog at www.GardeningWithConfidencecom/blog.  Helen can be reached at

Copy link