How to Add Climbers to Arbors and Pergolas

Written by richard sweeney
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Freestanding supports such as pergolas and arbors allow climbing plants to be viewed in the round and contribute a strong visual and stylistic element to the garden. The plants must therefore be carefully chosen and trained. Depending on the materials and design of the support, the climber may be formal and disciplined, or cottage garden style and rambling. White washed wood arbors always look good in a formal rose or herb gardens and their shape makes them good for training climbers.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Climbers
  • Arbor
  • Pergola

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    Climbers for Arbors

  1. 1

    Install an arbor. The arbor must be strong enough to bear what may be the surprisingly heavy weight of a chosen climber. Small arbors are particularly good for summer-flowering clematis, sweet peas and honeysuckles, while arbors of heavier material can support heavier climbers like roses and wisteria.

  2. 2

    Design a garden around the arbor. An arbor can add a strong vertical element to a garden entrance or border. An arbor can also be used as a focal point at the end of path or at the top of steps where the garden level changes.

  3. 3

    Choose fragrant flowers as they will ensure that the arbor becomes a particularly enchanted and sweetly scented place, particularly in the early mornings and the evenings.

  4. 4

    Consider the size of flower blooms. The large blooms can overpower a small framed arbor. Rosa 'Felicite Perpetue' has enormous heads of creamy white double pom-pom flowers, whose petals are sometimes tipped with red; it can be a bold statement on a large arbor but will quickly dwarf a smaller arbor.

  5. 5

    Add climbers to an arbor. An arbor covered with climbing plants provides privacy, a sense of relaxation and opportunities for growing spectacular climbing plants and letting them grow to their full potential. Arbors are used most in the summer, seldom in winter, so you can concentrate on summer-flowering climbers.

    Climbers for Pergolas

  1. 1

    Choose to add a pergola to the garden. Pergolas are often built over a patio near the house or in a prominent situation over a path that can be seen from the house.

  2. 2

    Make the pergola tall. When installing a pergola sure the cross beams are high enough to allow the flowers to trail without touching the heads of people walking underneath.

  3. 3

    Plan for the winter. Adding a pergola creates a permanent structure in the yard and because of this it is sensible to try and choose climbers that will retain some attraction in winter. Of course, if the structure itself is attractive enough, this is not always necessary.

  4. 4

    Add wisteria for a touch of romance. Wisteria varieties, although their flowering season is short, are among the most beautiful of climbers, and a pergola gives them the opportunity to hang their great trailing flowers elegantly and to show off their feathery foliage. All are twining, woody and deciduous. They climb vigorously and need plenty of room to look their best. A pergola gives them this.

  5. 5

    Inspect a pergola often, especially if the structure is not used often. Make sure that the climbers are not displacing any boards and prune as necessary.

Tips and warnings

  • Choose climbers that are appropriate for the building materials.
  • Always wear protective gear when installing features.

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