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How to Build a Killer Trellis and Get the Vines to Grow

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A great way to incorporate some greenery into the architecture of your garden is to build a trellis. By setting one up in your backyard, you’ll be adding a wonderful, eye-catching piece of art, perfect for climbing plants and vines, and with sturdier trellises, hanging pots full of flowers and herbs as well.

Trellises come in various shapes and can be constructed with a variety of materials, including bamboo and wood. Some trellises are fairly simple: vertical fences with greenery, or grape vines snaking through the latticework. Other trellises are more complex, and take on the form of a pergola, which can offer shade and a bit of protection from the elements while you relax in your garden.

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First off, you’ll need to decide just how involved and grand you want your trellis to be. If you’re a do-it-yourself-type of person and enjoy building things with your hands, you might want to tackle this job on your own.

For those of you who only want a simple, fence-like trellis, there are a few options available to you. If you take a section of old wooden fence and prop it up against a wall, or build a stand for it, you’ll have a basic trellis ready in no time at all. You can do the same with an old window frame or some old wooden pallets. Bent-wood trellises are also easy to set up, as well as fantastic ways to get your garden growing strong.

If you want to build a slightly more complicated vertical trellis, you can set up a wooden frame, and then stretch a prefabricated nylon, twine or wire (other materials are available as well) trellis between the four corners of your frame. Of course, for those of you who aren’t exceptionally handy with tools, you can always head down to your local home-and-garden store and buy a pre-made trellis. All you have to do is take it home.

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If you want a gazebo or pergola type of overhanging archway trellis, you’ll have to put in a few more hours of planning and construction work. You’ll need to stock up on lumber, watch a few how-to guides online, and make sure you have all of the tools you’ll need on hand. With some basic construction skills and a little forethought, you should be able to knock out a decent, or even a great trellis, in a long afternoon or a couple of days.

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And last but not least, you’ll need to get some greenery crawling up the sides of your trellis. Selecting plants and vines that like to reach for the sky—and climb in just the right way—is key to filling your trellis with organic life. Some plants thrive on trellises, while others don’t do particularly well.

Twining plants (pole beans, rhodochiton) are generally better that scrambling plants (Cape leadwort, climbing roses), since scramblers need a little help to climb, while twining plants can usually climb on their own. Check various guides about what grows best, as there are tons of choices out there, and make sure you set up your trellis before you plant your vines and vegetation. Then all you have to do is water and care for your greenery, and watch your plants reach for the clouds.

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