Garden arbors and arches are set up as walk through areas in home gardens or public parks where one can welcome guests. There are many styles of arbors to choose from. Some are man made and others formed over time by nature.
You can place an arbor at the start of a walkway in your garden to give visitors an entry point, or place them in the center of a lawn area as a focal point of the garden.
Walkways with overhead pergolas are a favorite way to entice guests to enter your garden. This photo from the NC Arboretum in North Carolina is a great example of the beauty of arbors and arches.
Types of Arbors for the Garden
There are many types of arbors and garden arches to choose from for use in an outdoor setting. Sometimes nature makes the choice for you with a carved out stone area that you can use as an arbor.
Other times it is up to you to decide the look you want. Here are some types of arbors to use in a garden setting.
Think of gardens you have visited which have a large arbor with flowering plants and vines growing up it. This is a traditional arbor. Most traditional arbors have a flat top to them to give a clean line for the garden entrance and to contrast with the softness of the plants climbing up them.
Many traditional arbors have open frameworks which are typically made of latticework or rustic work.
This traditional arbor from Beech Creek Botanical Gardens is located at the entry to the part of the reserve called the Secret Gardens.
It is a series of arbors that lead the visitor through each part of the garden, and is just stunning. Read about my visit to these Botanical Gardens here.
Wooden arbors can be simple or quite ornate. This long arbor at the Missouri Botanical Garden led to the hosta gardens. It had paintings on the wall and an ornate chair in the center.
Notice the ornate covering above, as well!
Arbors with an Arch
This type of arbor gives a natural entry point to a garden and also can be used to divide up a large lawn area to give it some interest and to separate two different garden looks.
It is one of the most commonly used arbors and can be done in many different materials.
This double rose arch is covered in climbing roses and gives the scene an almost historic look!
It seems to beckon the visitor to what lies ahead!
Another arbor from the Cheyenne Botanic Gardens is delightfully painted in teal. I expected to find a Japanese style meditation garden beyond it. Instead it led me to an interesting labyrinth walkway.
One never knows what a walk under an arbor will reveal.
Many botanic gardens feature arbors and arches as a way to transition from one area to another. The Memphis Botanic Garden also incorporates sculpture to do this.
One impressive arch was a sculpture used as an arbor to move visitors from the children’s garden to the iris and daylily gardens.
If the plantings near the arbor are manicured, this gives a more formal look to the entry point. This stunning arbor is found in Wellfield Botanic Gardens, in Elkhart, Indiana. The arbor itself is rustic but the whole look is very formal.
This type of arbor has a pitched roof design. It is very decorative and is often used as a focal point in the garden. Use it near landscaped garden beds for a wonderful professional look.
This style is reminiscent of, and often used in, English cottage gardens.
Climbing roses cover this ornate gabled arch at the entry to St. Georgs Garden in Germany.
A rounded opening with a pergola top gives this arbor an almost Hansel and Gretel look to it! The little round cut outs in the side add to the appeal. One can almost see the trail of bread crumbs!
Domed arbors can be man-made, natural or a combination of the two. This domed metal arch in the Boothbay Botanical Gardens in Southern Maine is covered with natural foliage for a rustic and calming look.
Arbors with Pergolas.
This type of arbor is often made of wood and has a pergola roof to it instead of an arch or flat top. Pergolas are often used by themselves to give shade to patios or decks.
Using them in an arbor opens up the top of the unit and adds a decorative look to it.
A pergola arbor can be a simple unit with just a few slats on the top, or something more intricate and sturdy like the one shown above.
Materials used in Arbors and Arches
Now that you know the differences between styles of arbors for gardens, it is time to choose the material.
Arbors can come in natural and made made materials. There are advantages to each style. Here are some options:
If you are looking for a natural look that uses material you have on hand in your garden, a wooden arbor is a good choice.
Remember that a wood arbor will disintegrate over time due to weather conditions but they give a rustic look to your garden if this is what you are going for.
If you are purchasing a wooden arbor, choose one with treated wood for the longest life.
This rustic wooden arbor from Blue Fox Farm uses twigs, branches and driftwood from her property to construct a massive arched structure. Very pretty Jacki!
This type of arch is actually made of plants instead of being a device to hold them up. It is similar to plant topiary in that it is a landscaped structure.
They can either be freestanding, as in the case of two trimmed hedge that have been allow to touch and then are shaped, or the plants may have some sort of wire support underneath.
In this photo a series of supports hold up beautifully trimmed ivy arches for a true walk through nature!
The photo below shows just how inviting a natural arbor can be. The walkway is curving and this gives you a chance to peek through to what awaits.
The arbor is one in The Albuquerque Botanical Gardens that we toured last summer.
Using slate and slabs of stone (or bricks) will give your arbor a natural look that is very appealing. This type of arbor is more expensive but lasts for a long time so is a good investment.
This amazing stone arbor has the prettiest pink stone shades that gives it a feminine look in spite of the cold slate material.
The pink rose are the perfect flower to have nearby! Image shared from Kate Davies Design and Photography on Tumblr.
Many garden centers and Big Box stores sell plastic arbors. They are often inexpensive and quite durable. Those that feature trellises as part of the design will give a much longer life than a wooden trellis that is exposed to the elements.
The sunlight can affect a plastic arbor, so choose one that is treated to be UV stable so that the color will not fade over time.
This arbor is made from plastic PVC tubing. It has a gabled shape and is covered in large gourds that hang down under the top.
It makes a nice entry point for visitors to the Wellfield Botanic Gardens that we visited in Elkhart, Indiana last summer.
Using metal in an arbor will give you a structure that will hold up well over time. The weather does not affect them much, although getting one treated with a rust proofing coating or paint is a good idea.
This delightful design from Organized Clutter features an arched metal roof and metal trellises on the side.
Climbing roses will cover the metal framework and lush plantings give this entry point a lot of softness.
Sometimes an arbor combines more than one material. In the photo below, Stone pillars are used as the base of the arbor. Wooden posts and a pergola top complete the design.
This design is often found in large garden centers to give shade to visitors. The purple wisteria adds some softness to the whole structure. To use an arbor like this, you would need a very large yard!
Garden Arbors and Arches – A Walk Through Nature
While arbors seem to grace many garden’s today, this is not something that is new in landscaping.
They date back to the 400’s B.C. and A.D. 400′s, when elaborate courtyards were a hallmark of many Roman homes.
Japanese landscaping makes great use of arbors, often in creating tranquil Zen moods in meditation gardens.
Here are some more pictures of arbors that I think are just lovely. Any of of these is welcome to find a home in my garden!
This photo shows how two cypress trees have been allowed to grow together at the top and then the whole structured has been shaped into a magnificent garden arch.
Source: Public domain image taken in Alhambra, a 14th-century palace in Granada, Andalusia, Spain.
The moss growing on the edges of these rocks makes a stunning natural arbor. Imagine walking through this and feeling the cold!
This amazing photo is a wallpaper design from New Evolution Designs. It features a stunning woodland scene with a rock arbor. Imagine the feeling of walking through it?
This amazing wooden arbor has an arched design and is covered with a large vine that extends to side fences making the whole design look seamless.
Lynne, from Sensible Garden and Living shared this stunning photo of an arbor in gardens near the seaside. What a perfect spot! I would love to relax on that porch.
This tunnel arbor has been painted green to blend in with the plants covering it. It gives an almost surreal experience!
Traditional dusty green metal arbor with pink flowers. One of my favorite garden arbors! So delicate even though the structure is quite large. Source: Flickr Landscape Architect: Annette Hoyt Flanders
Imagine walking into your vegetable garden though this interesting arbor! Source: The Seattle Times
Arbors can also be constructed as part of decks or patios. Some even have hanging swings. This makes them a perfect place to read and relax on a nice spring or summer day.
Arbors and arches for the garden fit in naturally with any landscaping design and bring a lot of interest to a garden area.
Do you have an arbor in your garden? What style is your favorite? Please leave your comments and photos below. I’d love to hear from you.
Admin note: This post first appeared on the blog in February of 2013. I have updated the post with more arbor photos, a video for you to enjoy and a description of the different types of arches and arbors available.