Choose and use trellis, arbours and arches


On the up – trellises, arbours and arches
Achieving the right effect with trellis, arches and arbours
Source of trellis, arbour and arch ideas
First consideration – which materials
Next – DIY or off the shelf?
Trellis options
Metal or wood?
Climbing plants

On the up with trellises, arbours and arches

If your garden seems lacking, but you’re not quite sure how, then maybe it’s too flat, or too open, or both? The slow solution is to plant trees and shrubs; the instant option is to put in structures. You can still plant alongside them, but you’ll have the benefits now, with the growing promise of flowers and foliage increasing year by year. Trellises provide partitions, arches invite exploration, and arbours tempt you to pause awhile in private. Additionally, each provide that all-important height to give an element of maturity to any garden, while channelling the gaze and leading the feet.

Once all is installed, and the climbers planted, you’ve only to sit back and savour the result, knowing that the garden will improve even further as the plants mature.

Return to top

Achieving the right effect with archways and trellis

The skill in achieving exactly the right effect lies in the choice of materials and the placing of the structures. For example, an arch placed at random on a lawn or across a flower bed is unsettling, but one that straddles a path makes more sense to the brain, so pleases the eye.

Trompe l’oeil

You can also make good use of arches and trellis as trompe l’oeil (ie a trick of the eye), to create the illusion of a larger garden. It’s all about altering perspectives by tweaking components to convince the eye that there is more depth to the scene than there actually is. Trellis and other structures can be constructed with lines at angles rather than parallel to each other. Another common trick is to place an arch at the edge of the garden, with a path leading to it. A strategically placed mirror, if slightly angled to reflect plants rather than you when viewed, adds greatly to the illusion, but make sure it’s sealed for outdoor durability. Using trellis over a mirror mounted on a wall also provides a convincing illusion of a view through to another part of the garden. See for ideas.

Width is important

Whether for practical reasons or to make a illusion convincing, an arch should be wide enough for a person to pass through without snagging on the plants that it supports. If you want romantic roses, then go for as wide an arch as possible to give yourself clearance; that applies to arbours too. After all, airy bowers are far more appealing than claustrophobic corners. Agriframes’ designs show clearly what we mean about spaciousness.

Return to top

Sources of ideas

Incorporating screens, archways and arbours into your garden requires some time and some inspiration first, but there’s no shortage of ideas around. With so many gardens open to the public, including National Trust properties and those open under the charitable National Gardens Scheme (see the Yellow Book), so many shows with display gardens and so many TV programmes, never mind books, magazines and websites such as Agriframes, your problem will be in restricting yourself to one or two features instead of cluttering up the garden.

Click on the pictures below to see more.

See 5 more:

Grange Contemporary Green Arbours from B & Q £367.00

Forest Parisienne Arbour from £159.00

Return to top

First consideration – which materials?

If all the ideas you’ve seen are overwhelming, then think first about the materials and design that will suit the setting. Brick, wood, wood-effect plastic, or metal are all possibilities. Is everything to be angular or curved? Either can look good, but a mixture doesn’t always look right. Colours too, are important, with Cuprinol’s and Sadolin’s many shades available to transform wooden structures. Metalwork is usually finished in black or white: black is good for unobtrusive plant supports, blending into backgrounds, whereas white stands out in the garden.

Return to top

Next – DIY structures, or off the shelf?

Most gardeners buy items ready-made from garden centres, at gardening shows and through mail order. Others make their own.

Wooden structures are within the scope of practical gardeners, but even so, it is often quicker and cheaper to buy ready made than trail around timber yards. Where DIY can be useful, however, is for tailoring trellis to fit non-standard spaces – in this case, use roofing laths and stainless steel screws.

Apart from wooden and wood-effect plastic structures, you’ll also find wrought-iron and steel items on sale. These are not exactly easy to emulate at home, although some gardeners use heavy-duty black plastic water pipe to mimic metalwork for economical arches and other shapes.

In the case of brickwork, there are plenty of books and videos (see Foyles) on the basics, and plenty of people with the skills to employ if you’re not keen on DIY.

Whatever you choose, it needs to be easy to install, durable and easy to maintain. Free-standing structures need a firm footing and anchorage; trellis on walls should be safely fastened but easy to remove if maintenance to the wall becomes necessary.

Return to top

Trellis options

Wooden and metalwork trellis is available for screens, fastening to walls or extending fences. All the major fencing companies make panels in a range of sizes to suit different purposes; trellis also makes a useful infill between pergola uprights for a secluded effect.

Expanding designs in wood or plastic are more convenient to carry home in concertina form, ready to open out into a panel for fastening to a wall or fence. There are also fan-shaped outlines, sunburst designs and trompe l’oeil arch shapes. All are decorative enough to enhance the garden without planting, but if you want them to support plants, be sure to include spacers in the fasteners so that air circulation is possible behind.

Click on the photos below to see more:

See 39 more:

Budget Expanding Wooden Trellis (180cm x 30cm) by Kingfisher from Selections £1.49

Budget Expanding Wooden Trellis (180cm x 60cm) by Kingfisher from Selections £1.99

Rigid trellis panels reinforced around the edge are sturdy enough to be used for screening panels. Narrow versions are ideal for raising the height of boundaries without upsetting the neighbours or making the garden claustrophobic. Larger panels are excellent for screening off the dustbin or shed, for giving privacy to the patio, and for dividing different garden areas. For anchoring in place, position them between two fence posts and fasten them with special angled panel clips.

Click on the photos below to see more:

See 28 more:

Woodbury Timber Square Trellis Panel (H)1.8m (W)1.8m from B & Q £325.00

Woodbury Timber Square Trellis Panel (H)1.8m (W)1.8m from B & Q £251.00

Metal trellis screens are made in many intricate patterns that make them ideally suited to conservatory and balcony use in addition to the main garden.

Return to top


A row of arches make a pleasing walkway, perhaps leading to another sectioin of the garden, or a niche or arbour, complete with inviting seat. Metal versions of both offer the widest choice of style, with our online garden centre, Agriframes and giving plenty of inspiration.

Return to top

Metal or wood?

Rust-free metal

The quality of metal screens and other items is important because once rust sets in, it soon spoils the appearance. You can always apply an anti-rust and decorative paint, such as Hammerite, but it’s far better not to ever have to tackle this job. So look at the ground fittings, query the nature of the steel (solid or tubular), its quality and treatment, and the decorative finish. Some manufacturers rely on a polyester coating for longevity of their steel tubing; for solid galvanised bars, some companies use powder-coat paint techniques. Agriframes use high tensile steel tubing, galvanized inside and out.


Arches and arbours are possible in wood as well as metal. Rustic wooden structures are bulky, but pleasing where there’s room for them; planed timber is more compact and fits into many settings. Natural wood shades and black are unobtrusive, whereas bold colours can brighten dull corners. And brick pillars supporting cross pieces of wood are ideal for supporting vigorous climbing roses and other heavy plants. For the slimline airy look, metal is best, managing to suit modern and traditional settings.

Return to top

Climbing plants

There are plenty of plants that welcome the chance to grow ever upward, from annuals to perennials, herbaceous to woody, and deciduous to evergreen. The easiest to grow are those that twine or cling on for themselves; others need the help of a tie or two to keep the growth in place.

Click on the photo to see more:

See 64 more:

Climbing Rose Etoile de Hollande 1 Plant Bare Root from Jersey Plants Direct £8.99

Climbing Rose Golden Climber 1 Plant Bare Root from Jersey Plants Direct £8.99

Roses and clematis are the two classic climbers that look good grown on their own or in combination. Pillar and climbing roses (preferably not too exuberant) soon smother supports – once the framework of stems is trained into place. Coupled with self-clinging spring-, summer- or autumn-flowering clematis, the flowering season is easy to extend. Early and mid-flowering types needn’t be pruned; late-season clematis can be cut back hard in late winter.

Climbing jasmines are reasonably hardy and their green stems become covered in sweet-smelling white or yellow blossoms every summer. Sweet peas also provide glorious scent and are easy to grow from seed each year, either in the autumn or spring.

Nasturtium has no scent but plenty of vigour, along with showy trumpet flowers in scarlet, orange or yellow that can also be included in a salad. This frost-hardy annual scrambler is easy to grow from seed, and is most showy on a poor diet. Too much nitrogenous fertiliser and it will just grow leaves. Its perennial relatives have tinier leaves and flowers but make quite a splash.

The Kolomikta vine (Actinidia kolomikta) is another twiner that is most attractive. Grown for its leaves that are variegated pink and white, it needs full sun for the best colouration.

The hop vine (Humulus lupulus) is a tough twining perennial that despite being cut down by the first frosts will miraculously repeat its previous year’s performance of 3-6m/10-20ft. The leaves are rough though, so it’s not a good plant to brush past frequently. The green-leaved species is easy to grow from seed; the yellow-leaved ‘Aureus’ is often on sale at garden centres.

Return to top


UK How To Garden, Tutorials, Product Guides, Gardens & Shows.