Swell is trellis

Trellis as backdrop

This is the back garden of my previous home in downtown Toronto. I had trellis custom-made (seen in the background) to help soften the existing fencing.

My back garden has finally rediscovered spring.  There’s a Virginia creeper about to conquer new territory. The clematis is feeling sorry for itself. And I’ve got morning glory seedlings about to bust open their seed tray.

All of this means one thing.

There’s gonna be trellis.

In my opinion (as someone who loathes to spend loads on their gardening obsession), flat wooden trellising is the unsung hero of garden design–never mind how handy it is for climbing plants. Trellis can act as an interesting backdrop to your garden and can blur the boundary of it (fences are so in-your-face) to give the illusion of more room beyond them. You can even use trellises to create an outdoor “room” in your garden without going to the expense of building a gazebo or other major landscaping project.

Trellis from another angle

The 1/2″x1/2″ pieces of wood were laid out on the patio in the pattern I wanted first and then nailed together using an air hammer.

If you’re like me and plan to add some trellis to your garden this spring, here are two bits of advice:

1. Try making your own trellis: Pre-made trellis panels made of strapping are handy and certainly get the job done. But after doing some number crunching, I found that making your own trellis can cost about the same and the results can be far more rewarding. The pictures at left are of the trellis I had custom-made (in my 20′-wide urban garden) using 1/2″x1/2″ pieces of wood nailed into a grid shape and then mounted onto an existing fence. The top of the trellis was intentionally finished unevenly to create the silhouette of a city skyline.

If you’re the DIY sort and want to start with a smaller project, Sunset magazine has a straightforward set of instructions for making a funky plant support using branches from prunings or lengths of bamboo.

Trellis with top edging.

The top of the trellis is finished in irregular lengths to echo the city’s skyline.

2. Figure out which plants you want first: If you have your heart set on growing clematis, then trellis made of strapping won’t make them happy. They have tender little tendrils that much prefer slender trellising they can easy twine around. Think supports made of wire, branches or bamboo.

If you’re visualizing a wall covered in ivy, don’t even bother with trellis. The plants don’t need it. In fact, you may even confuse the poor things.

Climbing roses, on the other hand, need a sturdy support that can handle a lot of weight. Ordinary trellis made of strapping won’t be able to support the weight of a big rose climber over time.

When in doubt, find the garden expert at your favourite nursery and discuss the type of plant you want to grow and suitable trellis options that can not only support the plant but enhance the look of your garden.

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