Despite the grip of winter on much of the nation, or maybe because of it, one can’t help but plan projects for the warmer weather to come. A slew of do it yourself design and home improvement books have hit the new arrival’s self at my local library the last couple of weeks. “Trellises & Arbors” by Steve Cory and the editors of Sunset Books is one of the just arrived books despite the fact it came out last January. With “over 35 step-by-step projects you can build” as the tag line this book also features lots of photographs and plant advice to make your landscaping stand out.


After a brief introduction praising plants and gardening, the book begins with “Going Vertical in the Garden.” This first chapter is also an introduction of sorts as it showcases different types of trellises and arbors in a variety of elaborate settings. While the trellis or arbor might be of simple design and fairly quick to build, they are ensconced in walls of flowering greenery that have taken years to achieve.  Formal gardens, cottage chic, Asian styles, etc are showcased and in each picture it is very clear that lots of time and money have been heavily spent to achieve the look.


Chapter two covers “Trellis Projects.” After opening with an explanation of how many trellises are pre-manufactured these days and assembled from kits by the homeowner, the text segues to the various types of trellis one can use. If you chose to make your own there are plans for a number of them in this book. Materials lists for each are included along with assembly tips and instructions and photographs showing how to build each project. Wood, metal, pvc pipe, copper, and rebar, are just some of the materials covered and the resulting trellis can be simple or complex. Also included are tepees and suggestions for different types of trellises for vegetable gardening. If space is an issue these ideas could be very helpful.


“Arbor Projects” is the third chapter and the format is the same. After a discussion complete with pictures of different kit projects the chapter shifts into ones you can make starting from scratch. Simple to complex in design with plans, lists of materials, instructions and color photographs to guide you through the building process should you chose one of a number of possibilities in the chapter. Since these are arbors, they are a bit more complicated than trellises and as a result usually require more skill in handling various tools depending on the materials being used.


After you have erected the trellis or arbor you have to choose the plants to complement it. That is what chapter fours all about with “Choosing the Right Plants.” Over the fifteen pages of this chapter through text, pictures, drawings, etc. the authors make suggestions about what plants to pick and what to avoid. They also explain how to plant correctly, how to prune and support plants, how to water and mulch and all of the many things you need to do to have the plants survive and ultimately thrive. They also offer their top forty plant picks of their favorites and caution readers to check locally for the best plants suited to their area.


The final chapter might have been better suited as the first chapter as it covers “Tools, Materials and Techniques” and is a survey of exactly what it states. The techniques part of the discussion is the weakest as it assumes some familiarity with power saws, table saws, reciprocating saws, power nail guns, routers, setting posts, etc and an ability to do many things that a novice could have issues with.


An acknowledgement page, a brief listing of five resources and a one page index bring this colorful 160 page book to a close. A book that works on all levels and does exactly what it sets out to do. And yet, the book is disappointing in a couple of ways which won’t impact some readers.


First, my home state of Texas is under the grip of yet another long term drought situation. Nowhere in this book are their any pictures, plans or discussion of low water situations or xeriscaping. One would think as one sees page after page of lush, thick landscaping requiring heavy water use that there could have been a chapter or small section devoted to the opposite end of the spectrum.


Second, there aren’t any before and after pictures of landscaping situations. Considering how many television shows and books as well have something devoted to before, during, and the finished deal, one would think something could have been done here. It would have been nice if they had depicted a stripped own to dirt landscape, the addition of an arbor or trellis or even both, the initial landscaping and then a year later, etc to see how the design evolved from start to rolling finish. While this is a lower level of compliant than their complete avoidance of the low water landscaping issue, it was noticeable.  Most, if not all of the pictures in the book of finished deals depict situations that have gone on for years if not decades. Some sort of timeline that showcased how to achieve a particular look would have been helpful.


As noted, those two issues may not bother many readers. What the book does, it does very well and is a good resource. It just could have been better if those two issues had been addressed in some fashion.


Trellises & Arbors

by Steve Cory and the editors of Sunset Books

Sunset Books


January 2008

Paperback—Soft Cover

160 Pages



Review copy provided by the Plano, Texas Public Library System.


Kevin R. Tipple © 2009


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