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A garden arbor is an outdoor structure used as a design element in a garden. It can be as simple as a gate-like structure or take the form of a large structure that encloses or shelters a patio. The sides and roof are usually made of latticework and therefore partially open to the elements. A garden arbor usually has at least one open side, but can also be open on all four sides. Arbors often shelter outdoor seating, typically benches but also swings or individual chairs. With their latticed walls and roofs, climbing plants are often trained to grow on garden arbors for decorative effect.
One of the most common types of garden arbor is a simple gate that can be arched, rectangular, or peaked. It may or may not have a hinged door. Arbor gates, which can be unassuming or highly ornate, can be used for a decorative effect to mark a passage into a different part of a garden.
In large gardens, an arbor might designate entry to a part of the garden that features a different type of plants, or the passage into a water garden with a pond. A garden arbor can be used mark the entry of a lawn into a formal garden, a way from a patio onto a lawn, or any other distinction the owner wishes to draw attention to. Arbor gates can straddle paths, paved walkways, or small concrete patios.
A garden arbor is often used as a place of retreat in a garden, perhaps to provide shaded seating in a recessed area. At its simplest, a retreat arbor might be nothing more than a bench beneath overlapping branches. For shelter, a secluded arbor in the garden could include a lattice roof and three walls, all having thick climbing plants on the outside.
In formal gardens or parks with lots of space, a garden arbor can be quite large. Large arbors can be supported with posts and have open sides to allow access to a table and chairs. Although they can be bare, hanging potted flowers and vines are common decorations. Long walkways with lattice walls and a roof are another example of a large garden arbor.
A great variety of garden arbors can be purchased in wood or plastic for home assembly. Books offer numerous plans for construction of all types of arbors. They often include advice for siting arbors as well as recommendations for plants to decorate them with.