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Structural Elements: Arbors, Trellises and Pergolas

March 9th, 2011

Arbors, trellises, and pergolas add great structure to the garden because they add a vertical element that is often lacking, especially in vegetables gardens. They are especially helpful in the winter garden when covered in dormant vines, or when cleaned of plant material and simply left to preserve the garden’s shape while the plants take a long winter nap.



Arbors and trellis help train plants by providing support for vines and climbers. They help keep these plants within their boundaries, which can be important for vines that like to ramble far and wide. We can use them to keep the clematis climbing the porch post, keep the cucumbers up off the ground, or to support the weight of juicy red tomatoes.


Since they allow us to grow upward, they allow for better use of space, particularly in small gardens. A tomato takes up much less space if trained up a support than if left to sprawl along the ground.

As with all garden features, arbors and trellises can be made of a wide variety of materials from crisp wood painted white, to saplings cleared from another part of the garden. They also come in all shapes and sizes from grand structures spanning hundreds of feet, a few stick of bamboo thrust into the garden to support a few peas.



I love arbors and trellises. Perhaps it’s because I have a fondness for flowering vines, or maybe I just love the beauty they add to the garden. Sadly I have no arbors in my garden and only one trellis. A couple years ago Mr Chiots built me this nice large cedar trellis on our garage wall. It’s planted with hops and clematis and occasionally a few sweet peas. I don’t have a photo of it, but you can see it here behind the hydrangeas and here’s a young clematis vine that’s growing on it.


I have a particulary fondness for arbors and trellises made of found materials like saplings and small trees. I was especially impressed by these when I visited the vegetable garden at Monticello.


I’m hoping that I can build a few small trellises for my garden this summer. They won’t be anything grand, although I do dream of having a nice arbor over my garage door draped in grape vines and a few beautiful old fashioned climbing roses scampering up my front porch posts. Vertical elements is something I need to work on my garden! If I had to choose a favorite climbing plant it would probably be the hydrangea vine. I have a few starts I got from my mom’s neighbor this past year, they take a while to get established but I can’t wait!

Do you have arbors and trellises in your garden? What’s your favorite climbing plant?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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