Of all the useful garden structures, arbors offer modest scale and endless style variations. Arching or standing straight and squared, they fulfill many functions in the garden, from creating a private hideaway to defining a path. Joined with fencing, an arbor shapes a classic garden entry. When coupled with a swing or bench, an arbor beckons you to take a break from garden chores.
Chose an arbor style that blends with the surrounding plantings and garden rooms. For durability, select an arbor crafted from pressure-treated wood, metal, or plastic. Use the materials list and instructions to make an arbor similar to the one pictured here.
What you need
- Shovel or posthole digger
- two 4x4 posts (11 feet long)
- two 2x6s (6 feet long) for the crossbeams
- eight galvanized lag screws
- framing square
- two 2x6s (7 feet long)
- galvanized nails
- twenty-six 2x2 rails (45 inches long)
- exterior-grade stain or paint
1. Prepare the Post Holes and Set the Posts
Begin by staking out the arbor. Space the posts no more than 6 feet apart for greatest stability. If you want to extend the width of the arbor, increase the beam size to 2x8. Use a posthole digger or an auger to make the holes 2-feet deep. Rent a posthole digger or auger at your local hardware rental store. Pour 6 inches of gravel into the holes, insert posts, and fill with concrete.
2. Attach the Crossbeams
Cut two 6-foot-long 2x6s into four 3-foot-long crossbeams. They will define the depth of the arbor. Standing on a stepladder, use lag screws to secure the 2x6s to both sides of each post. Use a framing square to align the crossbeams with the posts before tightening the screws.
3. Shape the Beam Ends
Using the architecture of your home has a guide, shape the decorative detail at the ends of the 7-foot-long 2x6 beams using a jigsaw. Look to the framing details around your windows and doors for inspiration. Other garden structures also will lend ideas. A garden shed, pergola, or trellis might offer inspiration.
5. Add an Arch
Purely decorative, arching cross pieces installed below the crossbeams add a pleasing curve to the straight lines of this simple arbor. First design your arch on a large piece of paper; several sheets of newspaper taped together will work well for this step. Next, cut out the arch and secure it to the posts.
6. Install the Rails
Cut 2x2 rails to length. Position the first one carefully, then drive one nail through each end of the rail into the 2x6 beams beneath. Lay an extra piece of 2x2 against the first rail to determine spacing for the next and subsequent rails; ensure that each rail extends equally over the beams before nailing in place.
7. Paint and Plant
Stain or paint the arbor either before or after constructing it. Plant vines, such as climbing roses, honeysuckle, or jasmine, to create a passageway that's filled with fragrance.