Garden structures can transform any ho-hum yard into an enviable and inviting landscape. Blooming plants and a healthy lawn will set the scene of your outdoor area, but structures such as a pergola or an arbor will give it character and make it look like it was dreamed up by a landscape architect—even if it was dreamed up by you!
Some garden structures serve a specific purpose, like guiding growing vines, while others are just there to beautify the yard or provide a covered area where your family can gather for dinner.
Let’s break down the most common garden structures homeowners build.
A very common garden structure, a pergola is wall-less and has an open-to-the-sky lattice roof and any number of posts or columns. It can be free-standing or attached to the side of your home.
While most pergolas are built with rot-resistant wood, you can use pretty much any building material, including vinyl. There are a wide variety of designs, from minimalist modern to ornate romantic. Some homeowners choose to buy pergolas in kits they can assemble on their own, while others choose to custom-build them.
Don’t be confused by the open roof and posts—an arbor is not the same thing as a pergola. Arbors are free-standing structures commonly placed at the entrance of a yard or garden. If you’ve attended your fair share of weddings, you’ve likely seen the bride and groom standing in front of an arbor during the ceremony.
A traditional arbor can support vines such as wisteria, creeping roses, or grapes, and is often used to shape fruit trees in to arches.
Just like a pergola, a pavilion is an open-air garden structure with columns or beams. Unlike a pergola, however, a pavilion is topped with a closed roof. The design can be as simple as a square-shaped, flat-roof structure that covers a picnic table, or as dramatic as a space with an ornate, vaulted ceiling and a built-in fireplace with a flat-screen TV mounted over the mantel.
Movie fans will definitely remember the gazebo in “The Sound of Music” where young lovers Liesl and future Nazi Rolf serenaded each other to “Sixteen Going on Seventeen.” To call a garden structure a gazebo, it must be in the shape of a hexagon or octagon and topped with a similarly sided and pitched roof. Some gazebos have walls, and some are open.
A trellis is a flat, lattice framework of intersecting or interwoven wood or metal, intended to support vines or train fruit trees to grow tall. But a trellis is way more than just a practical garden tool. It can also be used to spruce up a blank wall. Or, as you can see in the photo above, it can be a free-standing structure that divides open space or provides privacy.
Shrubs and hedges can look messy when left to grow wild, but when they’re pruned into topiaries, they will give any garden a more structured, polished aesthetic. Typically clipped into geometric shapes or animal figures, topiaries are like living works of art.