How to Make Rustic Arbors

Rustic arbors make beautiful supports for climbing plants, as well as wonderful structures to mark the entry to your garden.

You can grow annuals, perennials, vegetables, and climbing shrubs on your arbor.You can grow annuals, perennials, vegetables, and climbing shrubs on your arbor.
It is not hard to make an arbor for your garden from flexible saplings or bamboo. Basically, an arbor is a series of trellises connected to each other. If you can make a trellis, you can make an arbor. It's good to be aware of a few critical supplies and techniques before you begin your arbor project. This project has three arches connected to each other, but you can add more.

Cut the six upright pieces, preferably from a rot-resistant wood such as cedar or osage orange. The wood should be green so that it is easily bent. Trim the side branches and twigs off. Cut the crosspieces from similar wood if you can, but since the crosspieces are not in contact with the ground, using rot-resistant wood is not as important. The uprights should be about 2 inches in diameter at the bottom, and about a half inch in diameter at the small top end.

Lay two of the uprights end to end with the small ends overlapping. Wire these ends together with the tie wire. Bend this long piece into an arch. Attach one of the 3 foot crosspieces to the top of the arch at about 7 feet from the bottom. Drive a nail through the crosspiece into the upright, and then use the tie-wire to wrap around the crosspiece and the upright to stabilize this joint. You may have to tighten this later after the wood has dried and shrunk. Make three upright arch pieces in this way.

Lay the arch pieces on the ground. Cut nine smaller pieces the length of the radius of the arch at the top. Attach 3 of these pieces to the top of the arch with tie-wire, in a fan pattern. One end of each piece is attached to the center of the crosspiece and the other ends are wired to the top of the arch, creating a fan shape. This stabilizes the top of the arch, and it looks pretty.

Drive the T posts or rebar in the ground, one for each big end of the upright arches, in the place where you intend the arbor to stand, the same distance apart as you intend the final arch pieces to be. The arbor will be three feet wide, but it can be as long as you like. Attach the uprights to the posts with tie-wire.

Attach the side crosspieces to the sides of the arbor, connecting the three uprights along the length of the arbor. These are attached with tie-wire. There should be five of these horizontal crosspieces along each side of the arbor.

Things You Will Need

  • 6 sturdy uprights, 12 to 14 feet long
  • 3 arch crosspieces, 3 feet long
  • 10 side crosspieces, the length of the trellis
  • 9 short decorative pieces
  • Sheet rock nails
  • Tie-wire (soft black wire used by contractors)
  • 6 4 1/2 foot T posts or rebar
  • Hammer
  • Pliers
  • Wire cutters
  • Pruning saw
  • Hand pruners

Tip

  • You can decorate your arbor with flexible wood such as willow or grape vine trimmings, along the sides and top of the arbor. Shapes such as hearts and lattice-work look good.

Warning

  • After about two weeks, check and tighten the tie-wire, in case the green wood has shrunk and the joints have loosened.

About the Author

Shannon Stoney holds a B.A. in English and comparative literature from Princeton University, as well as an M.F.A. in visual art from the Maine College of Art. She has been a fiber artist since 1985 and a fine artist since 1998. Stoney is also a writer and editor, with work published in magazines such as "Cite," "Spin-Off" and "Permaculture Activist."