Build A Cedar Arbor

A garden arbor is more inviting than a gate alone. It can be a magical place to sit under, among the flowered vines. Here's how to build a simple cedar arbor for your garden.

Every garden should have character. An arbor can provide this character. Arbors can be any size or style, but all will brighten any outdoor living space. Arbors, with their beautiful flowering vines growing on them, are much more inviting than a gate alone. You can make benches that are attached to your arbor. These enable you to sit there and sip lemonade or read a good book or just talk to someone close to you. It can be almost magical.

All arbors should be constructed from weather resistant wood or materials. Wood arbors are very natural looking in a garden setting. Cedar, cypress or redwood or weather resistant. Decide on the style you would like to create. Gather all of your materials the same day you are going to build. You want the wood to be pliable so you can bend it into any shape you desire. Cut your own wood from your property or ask permission from a neighbor. In many areas of the country cedar can be easily found, so I will discuss building a cedar arbor.

Cut long pieces of cedar, straight and crooked, both are good for a unique design. The largest pieces for the corners of the arbor should be the straightest. Decide on the height of your arbor and add about two feet to this. This extra two feet will be placed in the ground and filled with concrete if desired. Depending on your area and winds will determine how deep you will anchor the arbor and if you will need concrete for reinforcement.

To put the arbor together you will need galvanized finish nails 1 1/2 inches and 2 inches long. It may take 2-4 pounds of each, depending on the size of your arbor. These nails are weather resistant and will not rust. You can also use long screws, but predrill a hole first so the wood won't split.

I use different size diameter cedar pieces for different uses in the arbor. The corner pieces are usually minumum of 2 inches in diameter. Any crosspieces need to be at least 1 inch diameter. If I want to bend wood pieces for some shape in the arbor, then I use smaller pieces that are about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch in diameter. Sometimes I use grapevine for this. Experiment with different sizes for the design you choose.

Where do you want your arbor? Place it in a place where it will be enjoyed. Put it at your garden entrance, at your porch entrance or anywhere it will enhance the look of your property and home. Be sure you check with your local builing codes before building a permanent structure.

Your arbor needs two sides and a roof. First build the frame. You can build each side and the roof separately laying it down for easier construction. Then later you can put it all together and place it in the spot chosen. The two corner uprights are placed about 3-4 feet apart. This is a standard size arbor. Connect a crosspiece about 36-42 inches from the bottom. Remember about 2 feet will be in the ground for support. If you add seats, then the cross piece should be about 16 above ground level. Place another crosspiece near or at the top of the uprights. Lay out your other pieces of different sizes in the design you want. You can make a geometric design, a lattice design, a heart design, a fan design etc. Make the two sides of the arbor similar. A large center pole can be added if needed. This piece does not have to go into the ground, but will help support the arbor and give the other pieces something to connect to in certain designs. You can lay the crosspieces out over the side pieces and then cut them to length. Some may need to be cut at an angle in order to fit right. Nail all intersections together with the galvanized nails. If you have large spaces or small, it doesn't matter. Chicken wire can be attached to the arbor and used for vine support if needed. If the cedar pieces are small and pliable enough, you can intertwine them with each other for a special lattice effect. Be sure and stand back now and then to see how it looks before nailing pieces in place. Keep the structure square as you build.

When all the side and roof pieces are together then you can put it together. Nail securely at each intersection. Dig the holes and place the arbor in the holes. You may choose to dig the holes, place the side pieces in and then attach the roof, if your arbor is too heavy. You may fill the holes with soil and rock being sure to pack it down tight, or fill the holes with concrete. Be sure the arbor remains level and plumb.

If you wish to have seats in your arbor, you can make them now. The seats can be made out of any wood lumber or cut wood. The seats should be about 16 inches off the ground and about 18-20 inches deep. Be sure there is still enough walking space through the arbor. The seats need to be strong enough to support one or two people. When you attach it to the arbor, be sure it won't pull or stress the arbor itself.

Think about what vine you want to climb on the arbor. You can have climbing roses, honeysuckle, trumpet vine etc. You can have an evergreen vine or one that looses it leaves and will show the arbor design more. Clematis, or morning glory vines look great on an arbor. Whatever you choose, think about the maintenance of that vine. If you will be sitting under the arbor, do you want the thornless variety of roses? Do you want the vine to be dropping its leaves and fruit all the time? Is the arbor in full sun or shade? Think about the smell of the flowers on the vine. There are lots of choices out there. Choose one that will suit you.

An arbor made of cedar is for a more informal garden setting. Leave the bark on, or take it off. Use a wood that is indigenous to your area. The building materials are free and it is very rewarding to construct something that you and your family and friends can enjoy. Arbors add a bit of magic and give your home and garden a unique and natural quality.

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