Supportive Garden Structures

Table of Contents

So, the beds are edged and mulched, the annuals are planted, and the trees have leafed out for the summer. There just seems to be something missing in our gardens to make them truly spectacular. What could it be? Adding a sculptural element to the landscape is a step in the right direction, but adding one that accomplishes a function as well as being aesthetically pleasing will take your design to a whole new level.

Garden structures provide a platform for climbing plants to perform, while adding a vertical dimension. Structures can blend into the landscape or they can be a colorful complement. They can add a bit of formality or a bit of whimsy. Supports can be purchased or you can do it yourself, and their material varies from manufactured to natural.

Design-wise, limit the amount of features you place in your landscape. Place structures so that you focus on one element at a time. Think quality, not quantity in this case.


Often built as a freestanding roofed structure, gazebos are hexagonal or octagonal and open on all sides. Traditionally, gazebos were constructed as permanent structures, built of stone and wood, but today there are many options for seasonal, relocatable structures, constructed of powdercoated steel or aluminum framework and roofs constructed of aluminum, plexiglass or all-weather fabric. Some recent additions to these kits include full screens and fabric side walls, and even lighting options. More permanent structures can also be found in “kit” forms for the do-it-yourselfers, complete with shingle roofs and copper weathervanes!

Gazebo in the Garden


A pergola is a permanent garden structure made of vertical posts that support cross-beams. It can be free-standing or as an extension of a building, and it will support rambling roses, and woody vines such as wisteria and bougainvillea. The structure and plants covering it provide a cool shady spot to sit and enjoy the outdoors.

Pergola-Arbor with Roses


A trellis is a free-standing vertical structure of open lattice framework used to support plants. A trellis can be in a planting bed, used as a privacy screen or directly in front of a large wall to soften its impact with architecture and greenery.

Using trellises in vegetable gardens increases the garden’s output per square feet, encouraging plants to grow up, not out. Aesthetically, a trellis presents a neat and tidy garden. It also makes harvesting easier and keeps the plants off the ground, reducing damage to leaves and to fruit.

Trellis with Roses and Trellis with Leaves


Tuteur: A French word for stake or support. Traditional French and English cottage gardens utilize this three-sided, free-standing structure to support climbing plants, however, many tuteurs are used as purely a sculptural element. They are constructed of metal, plastic or natural materials. Its definition has relaxed lately to include four-sided structures. Small tuteurs can support annual flowering vines, while the larger, sturdier structures are better for perennial vines such as clematis.

Obelisk: Usually more rectangular than the pyramidal tuteur, an obelisk traditionally has four sides rather than three. Its construction and its purpose are the same, however.



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