An arbor is an open, outdoor structure built under shade trees. Arbors make great additions to home gardens because they can provide pleasant, shady seating in nice weather as well as serve as a divider or garden entrance. An arbor may be free-standing or partly attached to the home. Arbors may be simple wooden frames or elaborately scrolled wrought iron structures.
Most home improvement stores sell arbors ready made as well as in garden kits. Arbor plans can also be found on the Internet on garden and building websites. Building this type of outdoor structure can be a good first woodworking project for most people, as straight pieces of wood in a simple design may be used. Most basic arbors can be built in a weekend.
While the basic arbor structure is two sides and an open slatted roof, there are many possible variations. For example, some arbors feature bench seating. Seating as part of arbors can provide a nice place to sit in the shade on a warm day. Shady seating can also add interest to garden landscaping. Arbors are usually tall structures with a hollow middle walkway and a mostly openwork design.
Many garden arbors include a simple crisscrossing pattern of wooden slats called lattice. The openwork of the lattice arbor design creates open diamond shapes. Climbing plants such as ivy may be encouraged by home gardeners to grow and climb up the trellis-like lattice sides of garden arbors. Grape arbors are used to grow grapes.
Some large gardens feature several arbors that serve as dividers. For example, a rose garden may be divided from an herb garden by the placement of one or more arbors. Arbors are usually left in natural wood and metal tones, but sometimes they are painted in the homeowner's favorite color. Arbors painted in a shade that contrasts with their surrounding flower gardens can create a strikingly beautiful effect such as a purple arbor in a garden of yellow-toned flowers.
Garden weddings often feature the couple being married under an arbor. A quaint path leading to the structure makes an ideal outdoor "aisle" for the bride to make her grand entrance. Flower-covered arbors can also make perfect photo backgrounds for pictures of the bride, groom and their wedding party. Arbor design should not only complement the yard or garden, but coordinate well with the exterior of the home.