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The Differences in Pergolas, Arbors, and Trellises

One of the best things about landscaping structures is the choices you have. That having been said, many are confused about exactly what pergolas, arbors, and trellises are, and often use the terms interchangeably. The first step in designing the exact landscape structure you want is knowing what it is called. Pergolas, arbors, and trellises each have their own unique features and can be clearly identified with some tips.


By definition, a pergola is a garden feature forming a shaded walkway, passageway, or sitting area of vertical posts or pillars that usually support cross-beams and a sturdy open lattice. It can be free-standing or attached to your home or other structure. Today, a pergola consists mainly of four posts or columns and is used to define a space. It can be topped with beams, retractable canopies, pergolaor woody vines. Another option is open rafters. A retractable canopy provides protection from sun and rain.

A pergola can add architectural interest to a flat landscape and provide shade during the summer. Fruits and vegetables can be grown on a pergola or you can string up a hammock and relax. You can also add lights, heaters, and sheer curtains to create a type of outdoor room using a pergola. There really is no limit to how you can design your own pergola and, best of all, it is easy and inexpensive to build.


An arbor is typically an open, free-standing structure using interwoven lattice pieces and sometimes having an arched top. It is common for arbors to define an entry point such as the entrance to a garden. Arbors are also used as dividing spaces along a pathway or simply erected over a walkway. The main difference in a pergola and an arbor is the size. An arbor is usually much smaller than a pergola. Additionally, a pergola usually has open sides, although some have curtains or lattice work.

Arbors can also be incorporated into hedges (as shown) using wood, metal, stone, or a mixture of materials. Topped with flowers or climbing with vines, an arbor can be truly stunning regardless of its size.


A trellis is a one-sided piece of woven latticework that is typically built to support climbing plants, vines and flowering foliage allowing them to grow longer, higher, and fuller. As it has no roof or sides, the sunshine is always able to penetrate the foliage. It does not provide protection from rain.

The versatility of a trellis makes it very attractive. It can be attached to the side of a house or building, but it can also be freestanding in a yard or garden. Today, trellises are made of many different materials, including treated lumber, wire, copper, and even the side of an old crib. A trellis is usually not placed in the ground and can be relocated if you choose to do so.

Hints to Help

Now that you know the difference, here is an easy way for you to tell the difference. Memorize a word that fits each one. Here is a simple way to remember:

  • Pergola = people
  • Arbor = arched
  • Trellis = less

When you think of a pergola, remember that people can fit under it. Typically, an arbor is arched. A trellis is less because it is one-sided. There you go!

Pergolas, arbors, and trellises add beauty to your landscaping. If you need help designing or building a pergola, arbor, or trellis for your landscape, contact Hyatt Landscaping, Inc. at 704-888-5390. With 30+ years in the landscaping industry and an outstanding reputation based on trust, dependability, and superior work, we are more than happy to help you design the landscape structure that is perfect for you.

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