Trellises

Rebar mesh in stainless steel square tubing as frame.
Rebar mesh in angle iron frame

A trellis supports plant material on a vertical surface (no da)

Design/build with Rebar

Trellises have been a favorite landscape element throughout the ages. Some serve as partial walls, screening off less desirable views, others to en-frame a view. All of which support flowering plant material, usually vines.
 

Trellises are formed into many shapes and sizes, different configurations to serve various needs: Overhead trellises, Pergolascreate a 'landscape room' beneath, while an arched trellis, Arbor, may serve as a 'gateway' into the garden itself.  The focus of this article is upon the building material from which the trellis is constructed; it is not of wood, metal tubing or from expensive wrought iron. Can you guess? Read on to find out, we promise to delight you!
 

In keeping with our promise to present unique and affordable landscape ideas for your garden, here is a trellis material you will not see on every street corner!
When I was touring northern Italy and Spain, I was struck by the timeless beauty of wrought iron works, fashioned into garden trellises. It was not so much the ornate details, that I found so interesting, it was the strength and durability of the material.  It was time tested, growing more attractive. Later, back in the U.S.A., I took that imagery and sought out a building material that would evoke those same properties.
 

Wrought iron was only affordable in the most selective of projects (i.e. those with very, fat budgets).  I did design my share of wooden and hollow-tube trellises over the years but I was always looking for a material that would capture the essence of wrought iron, at an affordable price. That is when I began experimenting with REBAR. (reinforced iron for concrete building footings).


Rebar comes in a variety of diameters and surface patterns, usually in 20 foot lengths. It is the 'poor cousin' of construction metals, exclusively finding its' way into concrete pours to reinforce the structural integrity of footings, stems, and walls. I have not seen it utilized for much else.  There are quite a few good reasons why rebar works well as a trellis building material.

 

Personally, I like the way it looks, it reminds me of Saguaro Ribs and Ocotillo sticks used in the Southwest. It also takes on the look of knotty pine poles as well. Part of its attraction is that the knobby surface catches the light in a play of shadows throughout the day (and the night with directed accent lighting).
 

Rebar does not have to be treated or painted; it looks best in its natural state of surface rust.  It can, however, stain tile or other surfaces beneath it in a rainy climate, and in this case, it is a good idea to spray a mat sealer over those areas that may drip.
Most landscape surfaces, however, are durable enough to handle these occasional drips.

 

Occasionlly, I have the rebar elements powder-coated with bright colors to go with the festive character of the project. I do not very often recommend this treatment because of its expense but it does have its uses, and it is very cool.
 

Although, rebar does not sculpt as well as wrought iron, it can be bent within certain limits. In fact, the bending of the rebar can be best taken care of at the rebar yard itself, (look under rebar suppliers in the yellow pages).  Just give them your shapes' specifications and they will oblige.   Specifications from building contractors for all sorts or shapes and configurations to accommodate their building footings are the norm.  They might raise an eyebrow to such landscape requests, but more often than not they
get into the spirit of the project and appreciate the change of pace.


I once designed and built a rebar Arbor named "Double-Helix"; the curve linear shapes of the trellis's roof-line created a shadow of a double helix on the ground. You also saw the double helix form when walking underneath, (see Arbors).   Naturally, you can build a rebar trellis out of straight pieces of rod as well and eliminate the bending.  A
really nice look is to use different diameter rebar sticks and place them along side one another in a descending pattern. They can also be cut to different lengths and be placed in a staggered pattern. It is really up to your imagination or that of your designer and landscape contractor.

 

So, the fashioned sticks of rebar the ornamental structure.  Custom cut sheets of rebar mesh can then be added to function as a trellis scaffold for plants; as semi-transparent walls, and also for the roof when building Pergolas or Arbors.  Most common are the rigid sheets that have four inch squares of open space - this mesh is made of woven wire-rod.

It is extremely cost effective and aesthetically in tune with the rebar sticks.  There is also roll wire fencing with a similar pattern.  An interesting one is called 'Horse 

fencing', which has a log-rhythmic pattern (the boxes are smaller at the bottom and are increasingly larger up the face of the wire.

 

 An alternative to wire mesh is perforated sheets of metals in attractive punch patterns.  Depending upon your budget you can find many varieties of types of metals, thicknesses, and patterns.