Choosing the Right Arbor for a Front Garden Entry



Selecting An Entry Arbor

Selecting An Entry Arbor

Like all of you, sometimes I have a hard time figuring out why something isn’t working. Though I never lack for opinions on other people’s spaces, often in my own home & garden I have to feel my way toward the solution. Case in point: the entry arbor from Valentine Cottage. It took me three tries before I got it right.

First Arbor

First Arbor

Arbor #1 I chose the first arbor because it was white, wood and cheap ($110 on sale). Unfortunately, the minute I installed it I knew it was wrong. The flattish arch clashed with the home’s round-arched entry. The diagonal lattice seemed too busy against the other elements. Worst of all, the too-short arbor made the entrance feel claustrophobic. Feeling guilty, I lived with it for two years before I gave it away. When I removed it, the garden seemed to breathe again. Unfortunately, I misunderstood why.

Second Arbor

Second Arbor

Arbor #2 Thinking that the claustrophobic feeling was from the first arbor’s bulkiness, I next chose an airy wrought-iron “look” bought on clearance for $35. It was taller and featured a round arch and square lattice. But it didn’t work. Next to the bold white picket fence, it felt wimpy and lackluster rather than welcoming. After a year, I moved it to the entrance to the side yard, where its “barely there” quality is an asset, providing support for climbing vines without demanding attention.

Third Arbor

Third Arbor

Arbor #3 Finally, I got it right. Though this arbor was the most expensive, even on clearance ($133.50 down from $350.00), it was worth it. This arbor works for several reasons, the most dramatic of which I hadn’t anticipated. I knew the square lattice and nice, tall (almost 7′) round top would work. But I didn’t realize it would make the yard feel both bigger and cozier. Since it is the same style, scale and material as the picket fence, it visually connects them, making one unbroken line. Now the two halves of the yard feel like one (bigger), but also completely enclosed (cozier). I never would have guessed such a simple thing would make such a big difference. I knew it wasn’t right before, and I knew that when I got it right it would be better, but the profound way completely changed the feeling in the garden surprised me. It was one of those “a ha” moments that I hope to take with me into all of my new spaces. What about you? What’s the best “happy accident,” or unexpected benefit you’ve ever stumbled upon when designing a room or garden space?

This article on selecting an entry arbor is part of the Gardening Gone Wild monthly workshop series for January: Garden Bloggers’ Design Workshop: Arbors and Pergolas.


32 responses to “Choosing the Right Arbor for a Front Garden Entry”

  1. Hi Angela,Well…you’ve got that sense don’t you? And you did get it right, I love it. I’ve wanted to do an arbor off of my deck in the backyard…and too am struggling with which one is the right one. It looks beautiful.Hugs,Rose

  2. Angela-You certainly did get it ‘right’ on the third try, This arbor is perfect…isn’t it amazinghow one element in a garden can make such a significant difference…especially one as prominent as a front walkway. Am glad that you’re persistent!! Fran

  3. Wow, that’s a great story. I picked the same arbor and it has worked great in my cutting garden:, I picked the wrought iron one for my children’s garden and it isn’t working. I should follow your example and replace it until I find just the right fit. Thank you for your post.-Heirloom Gardener

  4. That was a great analysis, Angela. I’m sure it will be helpful to other gardeners trying to decide on an arbor for their own space, as well as to those who already have one that they’re not totally satisfied with. It’s great that you had the confidence to keep trying until you found the pefect arbor for that site. I look forward to seeing what you end up with in your current garden!

  5. Angela — the 3rd arbor is perfect! I too love the picket fence and the arbor together — nothing compares to how they make you feel — kind of warm and cozy inside. My problem with gardening and decorating the home is that I don’t always allow myself to make mistakes. I try something and just live with it becuase I know I’ve already invested time and money into it. My “new” goal this year (inspired by you!) is to let myself make mistakes — let myself redo things until they have the feeling I was going for. Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. Struggling with the guest room that I “re-did” just a year ago. I haven’t liked the aura, if you will, since I painted it. Now I realize it just isn’t happy with “Weston Flax”, the room has too much diffuse light and it looks washed out. The room wants an earthier color and I have found the one. Now to convince Bob to help me move the furniture…again!Janet

  7. Thirkellgirl Avatar

    It makes me feel better that even you sometimes struggle with getting things “right” in decorating, because your photos are so gorgeous I assume it comes easily to you. 🙂 I feel like I expend an awful lot of energy figuring out why certain things look right and others just don’t work the way I expect them to. Budget limitations make it even more complicated, I think. Love your photos, as usual. Please come do a Candice-Olsen on my house if you’re ever in the MidAtlantic, ok? 🙂

  8. Aha moments are good, and I suspect they come more often to you than to some. It was intriguing to read that it did take a while to figure out what didn’t work, because so many of us will look at something, not be satisfied, not know why…and get frustrated. I’m sure this post will be encouraging to others, and you sure did get it right on the third time. The entry looks so welcoming, cosy yet not too enclosing.

  9. The third time’s the charm. That last arbor certainly did give the finishing touch to your charming garden.I know exactly what you mean about that contradictory feeling of both coziness and space. When I had my front-yard fence built, it instantly made the small yard feel twice as big, yet it also gave it a feeling of security and coziness. The best of both worlds!

  10. The Feathered Nest (Manuela's) Avatar
    The Feathered Nest (Manuela’s)

    You got it right that last time – it looks great!Love that picket fence too – I’ve always wanted one- they’re so cottagey :-)Manuela

  11. Hello my friend.That arbor looks spectacular and I love the flowering trees (cherry?) You did an awesome job on the front of your home and now you are starting all over again!In answer to your question. The toile drapes in my studio are blue and cream and I didn’t buy them. They were there when we moved in. How lucky for me! The paint color was there too. It is a good color for someone who would like just a hint of yellow although it’s mainly a cream. There may be an old can of it in our basement so if I find it I’ll let you know the color. Enjoy the day. Rhondi xo

  12. That third one is perfect! The diaganol lattice WAS too busy. The square was perfect! Hope the new owners appreciate it!I think my happiest decorating ‘mistake’ came in moving the furniture around when we were having the carpets cleaned. I realized how great some of the stuff I’d had in my bedroom and even in my kids’ rooms looked in my living room. Since then, I’ve taken to moving things around from time to time. It’s like getting a whole new room full of furniture for free!

  13. This arbor is so absolute dream of mine. One of these days…sigh…oxoxJennifer

  14. Three’s the charm. It’s hard to take a moment and consider things like scale, pattern and design when you’re looking at an incredible bargain. I’ve made the same mistake many times. I’m a slow learner!

  15. I think the arbor looks great, and I’m glad you explained about why the other choices didn’t work. I love arbors too and have several of them. The happy accident in my yard is that my geometric shapes work well with the raised beds. The garden is on a slope, but I can sit and reach across the beds to garden when my back gets tired. Also, one gardener I respect came to visit and talked about my garden rooms. At the time, I’d never heard the expression and didn’t know mine were.

  16. Mr. McGregor's Daughter Avatar
    Mr. McGregor’s Daughter

    What a great story! It’s so encouraging to hear of your struggles & ultimate success with the arbor. It looks perfect in its setting.

  17. We try to do a litle english style on our garden to, even if our garden is in Sweden Scandinavia.I think you done a great work whith your garden and house.I think it looks just like a english garden ;-)Best regards Ken

  18. Hi ANgelaI love how you take us through the process and I feel like I’m always learning here! Thanks!

  19. Hi AngelaI love how you take us through the process and I feel like I’m always learning here! Thanks!oops- it”s me, not Anon!

  20. Hi Angela…I´m sorry and yes I have been missing you 🙂 Since I read your last comment I now have translated my last poster and I will try to do so from now… Please don´t mind if it´s a bad translation…my english isn´t so good… but I´ll try! :)The arbor is no nice…and soooo right and appropriate… and I agree with you the third is the best…~Annie

  21. This all works so beautifully together. Love your eye for this kind of thing.Enjoy!

  22. karen Arms Avatar
    karen Arms

    I love this post. I’m so glad that you, like me, design things by trial and error. I never know how something’s going to look until I see it in action and that leads to much tearing out!

  23. Pretty–so is this your present house? I know you moved recently. Looks really nice with the trees in bloom.

  24. Oh yes! That third one looks fabulous! I love arbours … we’ve been looking for one that suits our teeny tiny yard with no success yet but I’m holding out until we find the one we want. ~ Lynda xo

  25. Hi, Angela, I absolutely love the changes you made to your old landscape. Those arbors are such focal points & that one is a beauty. Good for you finally getting the one that made your heart happy. The first one wasn’t bad either. I’m waiting for a big iron one for our gate, one of these days! I know just what I want.xo,Rhoda

  26. Teri Prestash Avatar
    Teri Prestash

    Love this blog. I could get lost here for hours on end!

  27. I can see what you mean about all three choices. I don’t think an arbor will compliment my new yard even if I have a picket fence, but I do love them. Are you going to do one on your new yard?

  28. Lisa at Greenbow Avatar
    Lisa at Greenbow

    Angela, I am so happy to find I am not the only one that learns from trial and error. I will have to think about a post with that in mind.Your entry Arbor is perfect now. To find such great bargains…wow. I wish I was so lucky.

  29. Michele Avatar

    I really found this a fascinating post. It was very interesting to read the details of the progression to finding what worked for you and how you got there. THe arbor is really pretty!! Great job, and good decision!!

  30. Personalized Gifts Avatar
    Personalized Gifts

    I first met Sissy at a group dinner one night. I was impressed by her vibrant and dynamic spirit. Consequently, I was not completely surprised when she told me about her Belly Dance Club. It seems that this is a very popular activity of Shanghai women. A great way to keep fit, I’m told…

  31. This arbor is perfect for your setting and I believe it would be the best choice for my needs as well. I’ve been unable to source it however. Would you please send me contact info? Thanks, Trish

  32. Hi Angela,May I be nosey and ask where you purchased arbor #3?Did you get it online and what do you have growing up it. It is exactly what I am looking for. Thanks in advance.

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