When warm weather arrives we all want to spend time outside enjoying it. However, in the spring we sometimes forget about those hot sticky days in the middle of summer, when the idea of sitting in the sun can be anything but pleasant. One solution to make your yard a more pleasant place to spend time at is a garden arbor. Defined by the dictionary as a shaded structure usually covered with shrubs, vines, or vegetation, an arbor can provide a pleasant and attractive respite from the heat of the summer sun.
Arbors aren’t just attractive additions, they can be functional as well. You can position an arbor to provide an elegant entrance to your yard or create traffic patterns and guide people to features in your garden. An arbor can also serve to break up your yard into separate “rooms” or areas and expand your useable yard area out beyond your deck or patio. Finally, an arbor can provide some privacy in your yard and free you from neighbors looking in.
Choosing Your Arbor
To figure out the arbor that’s right for you, you need to take some things into consideration such as how you want to use the arbor. Is it purely decorative or do you want it to have a truly functional use and provide a shady place covering a bench or a small patio set to escape from the sun.
Where is the best place to locate it? Is it a destination in itself or primarily a visual element in your garden?
Do you plan on having shrubbery or vines climbing over the entire structure? Location may determine the type of plants that will near your arbor.
You want to consider the architecture of your home when choosing the style for your arbor. If you have a traditional home an arbor with classic lines would probably fit best while a Victorian-style home would demand a more ornate arbor design and a cottage- or country-style home would be enhanced by an arbor with solid straight lines.
Arbors can be made from all kinds of materials. Traditional wood, vinyl, or metals like iron or even copper can all make beautiful arbors.
Wood has the obvious advantage in that it’s relatively inexpensive and very adaptable. However, wood (even redwood and cedar) does require some annual maintenance to retain its good looks. Many folks like to choose an arbor that’s low maintenance and easy to keep looking good over time. Vinyl manufactured to look like wood is a good compromise in some situations, since you get the advantage of virtually no maintenance while still enjoying the appearance of wood.
You can build it yourself, from a kit or buy readymade. For most of us, if we’re building an arbor, it’s going to be made from wood. How elaborate you want the finished product to be can mean building from scratch vs. buying a kit containing all the required pieces precut and ready to assemble.
Before you start to build your arbor, you should check local building codes as well your local homeowner's association regulations. Although a free-standing arbor is unlikely to be an issue, you’re better off being sure it’s not a problem before you go to the trouble and expense of actually building it.
Real estate experts say attractive landscaping can add 15% to 20% to the resale value of a residential property, so the arbor you install to enhance your enjoyment of your yard can actually have a real world financial payback. Isn’t it nice to know something you enjoy can also provide real value?