Growing Up: Arbors and Trellises raise the garden

Trellises, arbors, and pergolas give a garden a lift. If you’re looking for something new this year, get an arbor and grow up.

Arbors and trellises don’t have to be fancy — you can train morning glories up a tepee made of sturdy tomato stakes — but a trellis or arbor can be much more than a basic support for flowering vines, gourds, or peas. Good-looking structures help direct the eye around a garden, frame views, or create a bit of privacy. You can use a pretty trellis to hide the compost pile or block out the neighbors’ patio; arbors provide shade for a comfortable bench, and invite you to spend more time outdoors enjoying your garden.

Adding simple structures also freshens up a garden without putting a lot of stress on your wallet; a trellis is one of the most inexpensive garden decorations you can buy.

“Trellises are especially wonderful in a tiny yard like mine,” says Kathy Hoggard, a gardener in Kansas City, Missouri. “Creating something that’s vertical is really helpful when you have a small space.” Hoggard grows native red and yellow honeysuckle on a trellis over her kitchen windows, and trains porcelain-berry vine and Akebia up a pergola at the back of her garden.

Morning glories, gourds, and other annual vines are easy to grow from seeds planted at the base of a trellis or arbor, and they will cover a structure in the course of a summer. One package of seeds is plenty. At the end of the season you can just pull them off the structure. Still later in the year, you’ll find yourself enjoying the graphically sharp winter shadows cast by a handsome arbor.

Vertical vegetables

Lots of vegetables grow on trellises and arbors: beans, peas, and tomatoes can be trained on simple bamboo tepees. Cherry tomatoes are so lanky that they can be trained to grow on an arbor.

Here are a few more vegetables that are willing to climb: Scarlet runner beans, pole beans, cucumbers, English peas, sugar-snap peas, small melons, vining summer squash, winter squash, and small varieties of pumpkins.

Annuals for trellises and arbors

You’ll also find plenty of flowery inspiration among the vines. Here are a few suggestions: Feathery cypress vine, cup-and-saucer vine, morning glory, moonflower, and black-eyed Susan vine.