To use vines to their best advantage, they require some type of support. The appearance of a chain-link fence can be dramatically improved by covering it with vines. Other structures commonly used in the landscape include trellises, arbors and pergolas. These terms are often used interchangeably, however, they are not the same. A trellis is a flat, open structure made of intersecting slats (Figure 2). It can be made of wood, metal or plastic. A trellis is positioned vertically and can be used as a fence or a screen. A trellis can be mounted next to a wall allowing the use of vines that require that type of support. Wood lattice and fan trellises are easily found in home centers and garden centers.

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Figure 2.  A trellis is a flat, open structure made of intersecting slats. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

An arbor is similar to a trellis in that it is an open lattice-type construction (Figure 3). It differs from a trellis because of its arching form. An arbor can be used to span a door, gate or walkway. It can also be used as a stand-alone feature in the garden landscape and can contain a seat as part of its construction. Arbors come in many styles and are usually made of wood, but metal and plastic ones are also available.

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Figure 3.  The arching form is characteristic of an arbor. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

The pergola is the third type of structure used to support vines (Figure 4). A pergola has a lattice framework upon which vines attach themselves. This lattice is supported on posts. In a sense, the lattice acts as a roof. Pergolas can provide shade over decks, patios and walkways. Most pergolas are made of wood. Construction is heavy duty because pergolas cover a larger area than an arbor. They usually support much more weight because of the increased amount of plant material used.

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Figure 4.  A pergola is a horizontal lattice supported on posts. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Some vines do not use an external structure for climbing. Vines such as English Ivy or Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris) (Figure 5) produce aerial rootlets allowing them to attach themselves directly to a vertical surface. These types of vines can climb walls made of wood, stone or brick with ease.

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Figure 5.  The aerial rootlets of the Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris) help the plant climb brick or wood walls. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

Return to Vertical Gardening

How do vines climb?
Growing Vertically
Table of Climbing Vines

Horticulture Projects