Vertical Gardening With Trellises, Arbors, and Pergolas

Categories|Garden Design, Tools and Techniques
Vertical Gardening With Trellises, Arbors, and Pergolas

No matter how large or small your garden, you can add height (and get more room to plant) with vertical garden supports. Trellises, arbors, and pergolas get flowers and fruit up off the ground, add structure to the garden, and provide great focal points.

Teepees

A tepee is just several poles lashed together and pushed into the ground. Traditionally made from bamboo or willow poles, we’ve also seen metal versions. Pair them with plants that grow by winding or sending out tendrils (like beans, sweet peas, clematis, peas, or passionflower).

TeePee

Add height to the garden with a simple teepee.

If you want to grow squash or tomatoes with a tepee, run horizontal lines of twine around the tepee poles to give these heavier plants more support. This turns your tepee into a “tuteur,” which is French for “to train” or “to guide.” Tuteurs are also lovely when planted with vining flowers or scarlet runner beans.

Trellises

Trellises can be free-standing or attached to a wall or fence. Their main function is to support the plants that grow through the openings, but they can also act as a divider or focal point in the garden.

Trellis

This wooden wall trellis supports a climbing rose.

We’re especially fond of wire trellis, which is strong enough to support plants but fades into the background. To make one, screw eyes into a fence or wall, then string galvanized wire between them. Attach wires to the eyes with turnbuckles, which let you tighten the tension in the wires.

Wire Trellis

This horizontal version of the wire trellis holds back raspberries from a path. The same system can be used to train espalier fruit trees.

Arbors

A small structure with sides and a top made of slats or lattice, an arbor creates a sheltered spot in the garden. You’ll see them most often as an arch or a gateway with overhead supports. Arbors are a permanent garden feature and can’t be moved around like teepees can.

Arbor

This honeysuckle-covered arbor shelters a bench.

Larger than arbors, pergolas are structures that cover a patio or walkway. They may be freestanding but are more often built along the side of the house. A pergola makes a pleasant, shady spot and can even act as a primitive form of air-conditioning. Vines on the pergola shade windows during the growing season but drop their leaves to allow winter sun into the house.

Pergola

This pergola runs the entire length of the back of the house and serves as a support for wisteria.

Choose plants like grapevines, roses, honeysuckle, or wisteria to cover your arbor or pergola. (Wisteria requires an extremely strong arbor or pergola; it can easily pull down anything not sturdy enough.) In more casual or kitchen gardens, use gourds, string beans, or quick-growing annuals like morning glory for a quirky look.