A garden arbour is a shady nook which can offer shelter and privacy. They can be any shape or size you like, but usually consist of some sort of vertical structure with a climbing plant grown over them. You can work them into your garden however you like, putting an arbour against a wall or using it as a divider to screen. A garden arbour can also be as complicated or as simple as you like – you can build your own from brick, or you can buy a DIY wooden trellis kit. As they’re high, they make a focal point in the garden and provide interest by breaking up a smooth expanse of wall or fence.
A garden arbour almost always incorporates seating in some way, and makes an ideal corner to curl up with a book and a cold drink on a hot day. As they also protect from rain and wind, they can make your garden more usable for longer and mean you can sit outside when the weather’s less than ideal.
If you’re thinking of having a garden arbour in your outside space, here’s what you need to think about.
Decide on a site for your garden arbour
Think about what you’ll use your arbour for. If you’re planning on a largish space, big enough for an afternoon tea table and two chairs for example, you might not want to put it too far from the house as it will mean carrying crockery down the garden. If you’re creating a private nook, you might prefer to put it some distance from the house so you won’t be found! Putting it against a wall or fence will provide extra shelter and more stability, as you can anchor the upright posts to a support.
Wherever you choose for your location, you need to make sure that the ground is level. Clear it of any rocks or weeds, and level the ground. It’s best to put in some sort of level surface, such as paving stones or decking, although you can put them onto firm, level earth then cover that with a membrane and gravel. If you’re going to use the arbour all year round, you’ll also need some sort of hard path so you can get to it without getting wet feet! If you’re going to grow something over your arbour, then the vertical uprights need to be either resting on the ground or have room for large tubs by them.
Decide on a style of garden arbour
Many places sell ready-made kits, which consist of a wooden arch and a bench seat. It may or may not have a back and/or proper roof on it, and it may or may not come with its own planters or tubs. Look at how much space you have available, and think about a budget. If you’re a keen DIYer, you can of course built your own arbour from scratch – just remember to make it big enough, as climbing plants will eventually eat up height and width. The uprights must be very solid, or climbing plants might eventually pull them over – anchor a quarter of the length of each upright in concrete for a sturdy result. If you’re making your arbour out of timber, it will need to be treated with preservative.
Choose plants to grow up your arbour
Choosing the climbers is the nicest part of the whole project! There are dozen and dozens of options available, but here are a few ideas. Honeysuckle is very fast growing and provides coverage all year round. Clematis is also fast growing and has beautiful flowers, but will lose its leaves in the autumn. Climbing roses always produce a stunning effect, but will require a little maintenance and pruning. Ivy is very easy to look after and will provide thick coverage all year round, but needs to be kept in check in case it accidentally eats your entire arbour!
This is the ideal time of year to think about what you’d like and perhaps get the structure sorted out before the weather breaks. Then, you can think about your plants and put them in in spring, ready for a fantastic result next year.