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Garden Design Series: Pergolas

Posted on 10th September 2015

A pergola is a garden structure created by installing a series of pairs of posts, usually with cross

beams joining them above head height which are usually positioned to partially cover a walkway

and to provide shade for those taking a stroll and as a structure to support a variety of climbing

plants. Pergolas have been used in garden design for centuries and can be seen in early examples of

Eastern and Europeans gardens. In English garden history they became very popular at the turn of

the last century with the rising popularity of the Victorian pastime of taking a ‘promenade’ to take

in the air.

Modern gardens can benefit from the addition of a pergola as they give the opportunity to plant a

range of climbers, create shaded areas, and are also useful for screening and dividing gardens,

creating hidden spaces and garden rooms and covering outdoor eating areas as well as being highly

decorative in themselves.

Pergolas may be straight or curved, single or double row, formal or informal, rustic or modern and

can be made from a wide range of materials that can harmonise with other structural elements in a

garden and the style of the garden and the house. Even the smallest of gardens will benefit from

this vertical design element and the opportunity to plant climbing plants that take up very little

ground space and maximise interest.

Traditional planting includes roses and clematis, honeysuckles and jasmine adding scent and colour

and seasonal interest, but you may also grow edible ornamentals such as grapes or kiwi if you wish

to maximise the benefits. Find out a bit about how your chosen climbers will actually attach

themselves to the support. Plants that have twining stems such as honeysuckle and jasmine will

wind around the structure and will need very little additional support but plants with tendrils like

Clematis and Vitis (grapes) will need wires for the tendrils to curl around in order to climb. These

elements should be considered within the overall design.