What's Better? A Pergola vs. an Arbor

When designing a garden, it is important to note the differences between a pergola, trellis, and arbor.

Although they are all architectural structures usually made of wood, pvc, or metal, they all serve different purposes in the garden that can be immensely beneficial for the homeowner.

Shared benefits of a pergola, trellis, or arbor include providing a level of shade, beauty, and useful structures for climbing plants within the landscape. Differences are primarily in size and strength.

Arbor – Arbors are often seen at the entry to a path or garden. They are specifically meant for climbing plants. Arbors can be rounded or squared off at the top, but narrow – usually a few feet wide – so that it feels a bit like a tunnel when you walk beneath the arbor. If you know the plant you want to climb over the top of the arbor in advance it is very helpful as this will determine the strength of the build. For example, if you prefer a small clematis plant or sweet pea, then your arbor can be made from wire or thin wood. However, if you want to support a massive vine such as a climbing hydrangea, wisteria, or trumpet vine, you will need to build an arbor with support strength in mind.

Pergola – Pergolas are often larger structures that stretch over a patio or seating area. It is used for shade, architectural design, and to support vining plants. Typically, a pergola is a trellis style construction with the wood planks laid horizontally above head height so that it provides a type of open “roof” structure. A pergola can be incredibly important as protection if you have an area with hot sun.

Trellis – Trellis supports are attached to walls, roofs, fences, and can even stand alone. Most specifically, trellises are utilized as plant supports although they can be used to block views and serve as ornamental decoration in the garden as well. A trellis can be an eye-catching design addition to a landscape that fits in a smaller space than an arbor or pergola.

While many people utilize these terms interchangeably, they are quite distinctly different structures with several different types of uses within the landscape.

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