A garden trellis is a structure that supports a plant and allows it to grow upward.
Trellises have been used for centuries as a way to beautify gardens and yards. They can be used to create private spaces or to define a path, they can also bring visual interest to the side of a home or garage.
Beyond aesthetics, garden trellises also have many practical uses. They create more space in the vegetable garden by allowing plants to grow up instead of out. Trellises also have the ability to camouflage unsightly areas of the yard and provide screening. We use our trellises to provide shade on both the front porch and in other areas of the yard. The trellises placed near south-facing windows also keep the summer sun from warming up the interior of our home.
Modern Trellis Materials
In the old days, trellises were pretty much made of either wood or wrought iron. These days, vinyl trellises are another option. Each of these types of materials have their advantages and disadvantages.
Wrought iron trellises last forever, but can be expensive. Most iron trellises are small and tend to be quite portable. They are nice to use in the vegetable garden or a flower bed or placed against a house to support a climbing plant.
Vinyl trellises are also long-lived, maintenance-free, inexpensive, and easy to install. Most of the ones I’ve seen are white or green. Stay away from the cheaper plastic varieties; these will often break within a couple of years.
Wooden trellises are my personal favorite because of their versatility. They can be custom-built to fit any area and aren’t terribly expensive to make. A wooden trellis must be fabricated of cedar or redwood, and set into concrete to prevent rot or getting nibbled on by carpenter ants and other little critters. In dryer climates, a wooden trellis can last 70 years or more.
Where to Place Your Garden Trellis
A Garden trellis can be placed anywhere you want to add interest to your yard or want to provide shade or screening.
Most people have at least one trellis up against the side of their house. Instead of stopping at one, why not add 3 or 4? Place a garden trellis on either side of a picture window to create interest.
Do you have a walkway that runs alongside your house, or leads to the garage? Walkways are ideal locations for creating a semi-enclosed garden pathway.
Trellises nailed to open porches or stoops can help shade these areas in the summer, while providing beauty and privacy. If you are looking for privacy in your back yard, consider uses trellises to create a three-sided enclosure.
Do you have a storage shed that needs to be hidden? Or perhaps an unsightly view of the neighbor’s junk? These are other great locations to place a trellis.
What Plants to Use with Your Trellis
There are an incredible variety of climbing plants that can be used on your garden trellis. In areas where you want to create summer shade or privacy, Virginia Creeper is an aggressive vine that can grow 20 feet in a year. In the fall, the leaves turn to bright red. After the leaves have died back, the vines can be used to create wreaths.
Trumpet vine is another vine that is a fast grower. It produces orange, trumpet-like blossoms in the summer, and dies back in the fall. I use it on my porch to provide summer shade.
Trellises can be used for such delightful flowers such as climbing roses, clematis, wisteria, and honeysuckle. There are also several varieties of climbing annuals which include morning glory and sweet pea.
For year-round greenery, English ivy and euonymus are two slow-growing vines that can be used to block out even the ugliest views.
Whether you buy an iron or vinyl trellis or build one from wood, installing a trellis is an easy weekend project. But, the elegance and beauty it brings to your yard will be enjoyed for many years.