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What is an Arbor?

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

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.

Arbors are often used in gardens.
Arbors are often used in gardens.

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.

An arbor over bench seating.
An arbor over bench seating.

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.

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Discussion Comments


I live in an apartment in the city and have always loved seeing an arbor in a yard. It always makes me curious about what is down the path or beyond the arbor.

When I was growing up we had a neighbor who had a gate attached to her arbor. I never saw her come and go through the gate, but always wondered what was on the other side.

Someday when I have a home of my own I would love to have an arbor that led to a secluded garden setting where you could retreat from the rest of the world and be surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature.


I attended an outdoor wedding that was held in the backyard of the brides parents. Even before the wedding they had a beautifully landscaped yard, but they went all out for the wedding.

The bride walked under a white arbor that led down a path with beautiful flowers on each side. The setting would have been beautiful with or without the arbor, but I think it added the perfect touch to the whole wedding theme.


Last year I waited until the end of the season and bought a nice wooden arbor at 50% off the regular price. I have had my eye on one for awhile but didn't want to spend full price for it.

This was fully assembled and we just put it in the back of the truck and brought it home. I have it in the corner of the yard with a bench nearby and I planted a honeysuckle on each side of it.

I have always admired them and think an arbor adds an elegant touch to any yard or outdoor setting.


I have a metal arbor in my yard that I was planning on having a path leading from the arbor to my garden area. I ordered this online and had to assemble it by myself.

Initially I thought I would plant clematis on each side of the arbor but ended up planting a couple of wisteria. It has been almost 5 years and the wisteria has covered the whole arbor but has never bloomed.

During a strong wind storm one of the metal pieces at the bottom bent over and now my arbor and wisteria plant is on the ground. I am so frustrated that I am just ready to take it all apart and get rid of it.

While I love the look of an arbor in the right setting, I never did finish the path to the garden, so the arbor was just sitting in the middle of the back yard and never really looked quite right. If I were to buy another arbor, I would definitely make sure it was much sturdier than the cheap metal one I bought the first time around.


I have a cedar arbor with an archway in the middle of the roof. I got my cousin to build it for me, because he had one just like it that I had always admired.

I have starflower vines growing all over it in the summer. The greenery gets really thick, and little red, star-shaped blooms come out in midsummer.

In the winter, the vines die, and I pull them off the arbor once they have dried out and have become easy to break. The arbor takes center stage during the winter months, and I'm glad it has a pretty design, because it can stand alone and look lovely.


@OeKc05 – Arbor kits are fairly easy to put together. It took me about an hour to assemble mine, and I had no construction experience at all.

You can find them at garden centers and at some home improvement stores. If you are looking to save money, this is the route to go, because you would have to pay a good bit to get someone to build you an arbor.


My neighbor has a beautiful wooden arbor in his front yard that is covered in vines. I would love to have something like that in my yard, but I have no construction skills whatsoever.

I know I couldn't build an arbor from scratch. Is it possible to find arbor kits with instructions that someone like me could put together without an installer? How hard would that be?


An arbor can turn an average yard into a gorgeous one. There is this one house that I pass every day on my way to work that has a white arbor attached to the side of the house, and the flowers that cover it make the place look extraordinary.

Beautiful purple vine roses weave in and out of the latticework. They are the most beautiful shade of light purple, and when they are in bloom, the arbor looks like something out of a fairy tale.

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    • Arbors are often used in gardens.
      By: Elenathewise
      Arbors are often used in gardens.
    • An arbor over bench seating.
      By: pincasso
      An arbor over bench seating.