Use ready-made arbors to make an easy garden getaway

Few landscaping projects will have more of an impact on a garden than this instant gazebo, which is based upon a structure we found at Simpson House Inn, an elegant bed-and-breakfast in Santa Barbara.

Since the gazebo’s walls are four prefabricated arbors and its roof is an umbrella that rises from a garden table, there’s almost nothing to build. In just a matter of hours, you can be enjoying a meal alfresco.

Build a gazebo

TIME: An afternoon

COST: About $450, not including plants


• String, a nail, and flour
• Four garden arbors (we found ours at a home supply center for about $80 each)
• Paint (optional)
• An outdoor umbrella and table sized to your space
• Shovel
• 1/2 cubic yard decomposed granite
• 1 1/2-inch screws
• 30 feet plastic or wood benderboard
• Tamper
• Plants


Our arbors – which are 8 feet high, 2 feet deep, and 54 inches wide and came painted white – required some finish work: We had to bolt the tops to the legs. We also repainted the arbors a soft sage green.


Our gazebo forms a circle, roughly 13 feet in diameter, on a level site. An 8-foot-diameter umbrella is at the center, and the arbors stand 6 inches from the edge of the umbrella, fanning outward like spokes in a wheel.

1. Lay out the area needed using string, a nail, and flour. Draw a 9-foot-diameter circle.

2. Determine the main entry point and lay out the locations for each of the arbors as if they were the four main points on a compass. Remember that the openings will likely be 54 inches wide (but check the width of your arbors’ openings).

3. Open the umbrella to determine the height of the outer rim. You’ll want to set each of the arbors in gravel-filled holes so their peaks will be at the same height. (Here, the height is 7 feet.)

4. Dig holes for arbor legs, place gravel in bottom, and insert the legs. Check that the sides are vertical and remain evenly spaced.

5. Screw an inner rim of benderboard to the front of the arbors that rises about 1 inch above ground level. This creates a low retaining wall for gravel.

6. Pack more gravel around the legs and fill the center area with decomposed granite. Dampen and compact the granite with a tamper.

7. Plant. We’ve trained star jasmine up the arbors and planted annuals in the remaining space.

FURNISHINGS: American Leisure (831/423-2425)

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