Intro to Backyard Structures: Gazebos, Pergolas, Trellises, and Arbors

Gazebo example of backyard structures

Have you ever thought about adding garden or patio backyard structures to your house? Do you like the look of climbing plants on your house but don’t want to compromise your siding?

Climbing plants can indeed be harmful to your siding. Plants harbor insects and animals that like to eat into wood siding. In addition, the plants themselves often grow too vigorously and become too heavy for your house’s siding.

Given enough time, a tiny climbing plant out of place will become a force of destruction. That may be a big part of the reason these outdoor structures have become so popular. They create a natural extension to your garden and a place for those beautiful climbing plants homeowners love.

What’s The Difference Between a Gazebo, Pergola, Trellis, and an Arbor?

Gazebo example


Most people know what a gazebo is because they are often found in public parks. Large gazebos can host a small wedding or an orchestra for outdoor events.

A gazebo is a round or octagonal structure that has a domed roof and no sides, but it feels more enclosed because of its closed roof. Gazebos keep out rain and sun and allow people to hold events outside. Small gazebos provide shelter and visual interest for a private backyard or park.

However, what about a pergola, trellis, or an arbor? People use these terms interchangeably, although they are distinct structures.

It is true of these backyard structures all serve similar functions. They each are designed to support and display climbing plants and flowers. They are all found in gardens. However, there are significant differences as well.

Pergola - example of backyard structure


Pergolas are so popular that we’ve dedicated a whole article to the pros and cons of building a pergola in your backyard.

Two main differences between arbors and pergolas are size and construction. While arbors tend to be small and to act as a passageway between two parts of your yard or garden, a pergola is more like a canopy.

Many people use pergolas to cover a seating area on the patio near their house. They are often connected to the structure of the house on two sides.

A pergola is a “room” with four posts supporting an open roof. There is typically no latticework, and plants are encouraged to climb up the support posts.

If you desire more shade, you can add fabric awnings and curtains to your pergola.



If you are a gardener, you might know that a trellis isn’t truly a structure, but merely a wall of latticework. It’s meant to be leaned against the outer wall of a house for climbing plants.

Trellises can be made of thin strips of wood laid in a diagonal or other pattern or made of metal, bamboo, or almost any other material. It’s supposed to serve a decorative and practical function.

There is virtually no downside to having a trellis, other than that they can wear out and break down over time.

Making sure you have used a sturdy material for the type of plant you want will go a long way toward keeping your trellis looking good.



An arbor is often called something else – either a pergola or a garden arch. Whether you call it a garden arch is up to you, but a pergola is something else.

Arbors and pergolas have even more in common, but as you will see, they are different. An arbor is constructed with posts, walls of lattice, and an open roof with plenty of places for vining plants to become entwined.

Like a trellis, an arbor is decorative and functional. It can be made from wood or metal, but it needs to be sturdy. Many climbing plants grow thick and woody stems as they mature and can collapse an arbor that isn’t well-constructed.

Many people put arbors over a garden path or a door – like a garage door. It is a perfect way to cover your house in vines without actually covering your home in vines.

Backyard Structures – Takeaway

Whether you are thinking about adding a gazebo, pergola, arbor, or trellis to your home, now you know the difference. Each of these backyard structures can help you display your climbing plants without ruining your siding. Each type of structure adds beauty and visual interest to your home.

If you have any questions about these or other backyard structures and live in Southeast Michigan, please give us a call. We would be honored to help!

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