Trellis ideas – 10 beautiful ways to add plants, privacy and shade to your garden

Update your walls, fences and outbuildings with these trellis ideas for gardens

Trellis ideas
(Image credit: Future / Paul Highnam)

Are you looking for trellis ideas for gardens? Trellis is a simple way to add interest with planing, enhance an uninspiring garden wall or introduce an element of privacy or shade. The options are endless.

Among the many modern revivals of decorative feature that gave old gardens so much of their charm, the re-introduction of trellis  – also known as treillage – should surely be encouraged. In terms of garden layouts, there is very much to be gained by partially concealing and judiciously screening certain parts of your garden from immediate view. 

In fact, trellis dates back many years. As well in Rome, trellis also figured prominently in gardens of the medieval period in Western Europe. It was here we learn that the earliest use for trellis was for the support of vines, as well as for casting cool summer shade. For these purposes, and as a home for other kinds of climbing plants, it is still extensively employed.

If you wish to imitate the look of a romantic trellis garden in your own backyard, then read on for more wonderful ways to incorporate trellis ideas successfully in your garden ideas, whether it be for garden privacy, garden shade or vertical gardens. 

1. Install a trellis topper

Trellis ideas with trellis topper in small garden

(Image credit: Future / Mark Bolton Photography)

Trellis toppers are good for adding height to a fence, and providing support for climbing plants. They create more of a ‘design feature’ then basic fence panels, but are functional, too. Use trellis for creating divider within a garden, or for providing garden privacy in a small backyard or courtyard garden.

2. Use trellis to frame a door

Trellis ideas with colored trellis panels

(Image credit: Future / Paul Highnam)

Trellis doesn't have to be covered up with climbing plants. Instead, paint your trellis is a fresh color and use it around a door frame to add interest and intrigue. Of course, you now have the option to train plants up the frame, should you wish. 

3. Use trellis to provide textural interest  

Trellis ideas with painted green trellis panel

(Image credit: Future / Polly Wreford)

As above, trellis does not have to be purely functional. If you're looking to use a trellis to boost your garden privacy levels in your plot, or to add to your shade garden ideas, then this design might be the one for you. 

With its traditional small square design it provides an attractive and textural alternative to a fence. The view of next door will be suitably obscured, yet light and air will still flow through the gaps – perfect for all-day entertaining.

4. Pitch up an obelisk 

Trellis ideas with obelisks

(Image credit: Future / Mark Bolton)

Climbers and wall shrubs are perfect for covering bare walls and fence, but if wall space isn’t an option, install an obelisk instead.  

Obelisks and wigwam frames are the answer for supporting climbers out in borders or growing pot specimens. Most are self-supporting – the legs are simply driven into the soil or pot compost. Larger and heavier types may need firming in with a concrete mix for stability. The final result is a beautiful vertical garden, filled with self-climbing plants and flowers.

5. Plant a living wall with trellis 

Trellis ideas - Garden fence with living wall

(Image credit: Future / James Merrell)

If space allow, install a green or living wall with trellis. Living walls, such as the one shown above, are will not enhance shade and privacy – but also provide aesthetic and ecological benefits. 

In urban areas, green walls can help keep buildings cool, improve air quality and reduce noise pollution, as well as provide a habitat for wildlife. They also help keep rain water away from exterior walls and provide insulation.

6. Plant pleached trees against a trellis wall

Trellis ideas with tree support

(Image credit: Future / Davide Lovatti)

Pleached trees such as hornbeam, crab apples, pears or limes can be trained to create stylish screens or avenues that add permanent height and structure, a form of hedge on stilts. Casting minimal shadow while utilising space that might otherwise be unused, pleached trees are an effective way of dividing a garden into ‘rooms’, marking pathways and enclosing intimate areas in a manner that filters light in, while lighting veiling views out. 

7. Pick a modern metal trellis for an urban garden

Trellis ideas with modern metal design

(Image credit: Future / David Woolley)

Often made from zinc galvanized wirework, metal trellis designs are ideal for those seeking a contemporary look in an urban or modern garden. 

Far from being the standard, weaving wire by hand to create woven panels is a very specialist ancient skill dating back to the early Victorian period – so you know you are getting something truly bespoke. Be sure to check that your metal trellis has been coated to form a corrosion resistant finish. And contrary to popular belief, they can often be painted to suit your scheme.

8. Pick the perfect climbing plants for your trellis

Trellis ideas with ivy climbing plants

(Image credit: Future / Annaick Guitteny )

Ivies might not seem the most inspiring choice of evergreen climber, but choose a variegated variety such as Hedera colchica ‘Glacier’,  ‘Eva’ or ‘Dentata Variegata', and you’ll add instant impact to a shady wall. Ivy also attracts wildlife such as blackbirds and bees, which love the flowers and berries that it produces in the fall.   

If you are after more color and vibrancy, then passionflowers are an obvious choice. Passifloras will jazz up any wall or fence with exotic, eye-catching flowers from July to September. Passiflora cearulea is the variety most often found in garden nurseries and is best grow in a sheltered spot on a sunny. 

  • See: Garden wall ideas – create a boundary or define a space with a vertical structure

9. Install a pergola

Trellis ideas with pergola

(Image credit: Future / Polly Eltes)

A pergola is an interesting way to frame a feature of your plot – be it a pathway, bench, or patio dining area. They're a great match for trellis ideas if you want to establish a subtle divide between different garden 'rooms'. 

10. Use trellis to create privacy, shade and security

Trellis ideas for privacy in a small garden

(Image credit: Future / Paul Raeside)

A trellis isn't just for climbers, they can also work to define the edges of our garden, provide security and protection as well as privacy. With the range of choice on offer there, is so much a well-chosen garden fence can do for your outdoor space. 

In this small garden a sturdy trellis is the ideal option for creating a sense of privacy that allows light to filter through the squares. They also present an ideal opportunity for climbers to interweave and create a more natural, green screen from neighbors, should you want.

What can I use for trellis?

In small gardens, trellis is a space-saving means of screening off different areas, and adding height and supporting climbing plants – it’s ideal for evergreen climbers such as Euonymus fortunei or ivy. Available in large panels, trellis is most resilient if fixed between strong uprights. If it’s difficult to paint in situ, lay each panel on the ground and over an old sheet and spray each side in turn.  

If your backyard is lacking wall space, you could use an obelisk or teepee instead. Simply erect you chosen design within a garden border, flower bed or container. Alternatively, rope swags are a less formal way of forming divisions, and look most effective hung with ivies or roses, or even left unadorned. 

What is the best material for trellis?

Wood is considered the best material for a trellis in the garden. The warmth and natural beauty of wood, with its imperfections and the huge variety of tones, creates not just a luxurious feel, but a sense of  nature at your fingertips. Each cut, each trellis or fence, is totally unique – not metal or wire can beat it for versatility, color variation or pattern – plus it’s much warmer to the touch, and you plants will thank you for it.

What are the best climbing plants for trellis?

Brick walls and hedges of yew, laurel and holly form substantial screens; but in these days of short leases and ready-made gardens, how few there are who will care to incur the expense of solid walls or wait ten years and more before such hedges can be effective. In trellis we have an excellent substitute; against it the hedge can be planted and protected and trained – roses, clematis, jasmine and honeysuckle will climb readily and show their preference for it in comparison to cold and uncongenial iron rods and wire. 

Jennifer is the Digital Editor at Homes & Gardens. Having worked in the interiors industry for a number of years, spanning many publications, she now hones her digital prowess on the 'best interiors website' in the world. Multi-skilled, Jennifer has worked in PR and marketing, and the occasional dabble in the social media, commercial and e-commerce space. 

Over the years, she has written about every area of the home, from compiling design houses from some of the best interior designers in the world to sourcing celebrity homes, reviewing appliances and even the odd news story or two.