A pergola, or arbor, is a garden structure that is primarily designed to create shade. Traditional pergolas make shaded walkways, sometimes between two garden walls, or a sheltered area next, to a building. They can also serve as freestanding structures providing protection from the sun over a garden terrace. Nowadays pergolas that extend from the side of a building to a feature, such as a terrace or a swimming pool, are extremely popular.
However, pergolas function equally well away from the main building in a corner of the garden. A pergola that is hidden away, like this, can create a sense of destination and discovery in a landscape design. Wherever you choose to site your pergola, think about it as a mini room within the garden creating an external zone of the home in its own right.
Once you have decided on the location of your pergola, it is time to work out how large it will be. Your pergola should not dominate the garden, by taking up too much space, but work as a structure within it. As a rule of thumb, make the base area of your pergola no larger than you would a patio seating area.
If you are in doubt make a scale sketch drawing of the garden. A pergola that is oversized will stand out. If you are making your pergola stand over a patio area a good tip is to not have it take up the same area exactly. Make the footprint of your structure take up a little less space than the seating area.
Pergolas need to offer at least seven feet head clearance and you can achieve the height you need with a walled substructure. This adds height and creates definition to the base. If your pergola is creating shade over an area with steps, then remember that the height needed for your uprights will be different on either side.
The Trellis Pergola.
Wooden horizontal beams, which create the ‘roof’ of the pergola will offer the shade you want. However, the gaps between them allow partial sunlight to stream through.
Growing plants up the sides and into the upper area will provide additional shade and make the structure integrate into the exterior design better. Creepers and vines are the perfect choices for a pergola. If you have a coach house or a large garage, a good tip is to grow a climbing rose through a mini pergola canopy to create a softer edge to the entrance way.
A pergola that is connected to the home can create an additional architectural shape. Another top tip is to extend the curve of a bow window with the shape of the pergola that sits out in front of it. Classically inspired columns that support a pergola’s horizontal lintel can help coordinate the look of your structure with other architectural element of the building.
Pergolas often have flat roofs, but if your building has a pitched one, why not reflect that in your chosen design? If you are building a freestanding pergola, away form the home, then remember to create a sense of a room with the uprights that clearly define the space. Add a ceiling fan to compliment the effect.
Once you have built your pergola and started growing a creeper through it, consider how you will accessorize and decorate it. Decorative white lighting wrapped through the top of the pergola looks attractive.
Strung lighting will mean that you continue to use the pergola into the evening, ensuring that you get the most out of it. For additional shade, add fabric into the roof line, like the blinds of a conservatory. Side drapes are another good idea if you want to use your pergola for entertaining in, since you can draw them in the evening to keep bugs from spoiling the party.