DIY Garden Arbor Designs

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Arbors have never gone out of style. They are easier to build than gazebos and look just as good. An arbor gives a garden or walkway the impression of walking with nature, especially if climbing flowers or ivy trail up the sides and on top. Arbors can include swings or benches, which can offer a peaceful evening of sitting underneath the moon and stars.

Simple Garden Arbor

  • Building an arbor allows you to define the entrance or offer an inviting place to relax out of the sun during the cool of the evening. Arbors are either freestanding or attached to a building, whereas a pergola (the terms are often used interchangeably) is always freestanding and designed to provide a shaded walkway.

    When deciding on a design for your arbor, think about the size. If designed as an entrance, make sure it's wide enough to allow for passage of baby buggies or wheelchairs. If you design your arbor for shade and plan to add tables and chairs, ensure people are able to stand easily and allow for movement.

    A simple arbor commonly is about 7 feet high, 6 feet in length and 2 feet wide. Most designs are easily adapted to entrances or shady spots. For example, for these dimensions you would purchase this lumber: two 10-foot 4x4s, two 6-foot 2x6s, four 18-inch 2x6s, 40 24-inch 2x2s. You also need galvanized nails or screws, two bags of post-hole concrete, a level, saw, and ladder. Free arbor designs on the Web appear at sides such as mybackyardplans.com (see Resources).

Arbor Materials

  • You can build arbors out of just about any material, but the most common are wood, vinyl or metal. Wood is perfect for the garden because it blends in with the environment, especially if you allow vines or trailing flowers to meander around the sides and top of the arbor. Latticework on the roof or sides of the arbor adds an extra dimension of design.

    Metal arbors are classy and beautiful. However, unless you have experience in welding, the best way to put a metal arbor in your garden is to buy them prefabricated. A copper arbor is a particularly interesting design for a garden arbor and not that expensive. Most simple copper arbors will cost about $100 to build. You will need copper cutters, level, elbow joints, angle joints and slow-setting epoxy. You can also have the copper cut to your specifications. Copper weathers wonderfully, turning the patina brown and green. A free copper arbor design is available on the Web at homeenvy.com (see Resources).

Go Natural

  • Branches that you find in the woods can make a rustic-type arbor for your garden or walkway. Climbing roses or morning glory will make the rustic arbor look like you took a step back in time.

    Scour the woods for twigs, branches, curved branches and saplings; you will need a lot of them in different sizes and thickness, although you can cut to size. Purchase heavy-duty twine or jute to bind the stakes to the arbor. Decorate the base of your arbor with flowers or colorful rocks. See "Easy Garden Projects to Make, Build or Grow" by Barbara Pleasant, editor of Yankee Magazine (link in Resources).

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