Entering garden arbors you can slip into an outdoor room that may be inhabited by creatures foreign to the house. One can almost hear the fairies flitting about in the moonlight.
The term garden arbors or arbours is from Middle English, erber – plot of grass and Old French, herbier – plot of grass. It is also defined as a bower of vines or branches or latticework covered with climbing shrubs or vines. The term bower is defined as an attractive dwelling or retreat; and also as a shelter made with tree boughs or vines twined together. The trellis is the latticework upon which the vines trail or climb. Another definition of bower is a lady’s private apartment in a medieval hall or castle.
By combining the three definitions, one begins to envision a deeper picture of the meaning of garden arbors. Clearly they could be described as a refuge, a retreat, a place for reflection and one of solitude. Perhaps this then explains the popularity of garden arbors and indeed gardening in general. Most of us lead such hectic lives, surrounded by people, machines, and noise. It’s no wonder that we would seek sanctuary and solitude in secret garden arbors.
A quick search for garden arbors returns everything from simple to elaborate and expensive structures. These are made from a variety of products – copper to cedar to PVC pipe. Personally, I think the PVC pipe takes away a lot of the romanticism and probably explains why people will pay $599 for a 4 ft. cedar arbor with a bench with a back (if you can do without the back, you can save $70) or $769 for a fancier one of copper. Or if you want a pergola, you can have one for a mere $1,359. The question is not so much what people are willing to pay for garden arbors, but rather are they satisfied? Is that expensive structure really what they were after or is it just a prop in an elaborate set that they hope to create? Did the fairies come in the packing crate (and slip out when you weren’t looking)?
When my wife and I first looked at our property, I was delighted to find a small pool hidden away just a short distance from our future house site. Except for the trail to it created by the forest creatures, I may not have discovered it for months. The native salmon berries grew nearly up to the edge and their canopy almost completely hid the pool from view. It was one of the first areas that I choose to rescue from the hidden depths of the forest, only realizing afterwards that some of its mystery and allure was related to the fact that it was hidden.
Today, as I sit here at my desk, I can see that “enchanted pool” from my office window. And slowly, by careful plantings and even neglect it is returning to what I originally imagined it was… To me, this is really what garden arbors are about. I think that I am very lucky to have such a beautiful place, but the specialness, the enchantment, the feeling that a fairy could be bathing in that pool is all in the imagination. (At least, I think so.)
Whether or not that can be captured and passed to someone else that desires it is the real question. I know I am a bit of a romantic at heart. Maybe that comes from reading stories of Knights of the Round Table, Ivanhoe, and even Robinson Crusoe as a young man. But isn’t everyone who attempts to create a sanctuary in their garden, a romantic?
Again, we come back to the question, can someone create that special place of mystery, allure, and romanticism, box it up and ship it to you by UPS? I don’t think they can, but perhaps, with just the right props, you can create it yourself. Whether you prefer copper or cedar or PVC, the rest is up to you…