How to Design a Pergola


A pergola is an arbor-like structure that leads from one place to another. You will need some space if you want to use one in your landscape. There are lots of styles and materials you can use to build a pergola. Here are some design ideas.

  • To build a pergola, you need to understand what a pergola is! A pergola is a structure that is like any other arbor or ramada but actually leads from one place to another like a framed passageway. It offers the feel of enclosed space with the airiness of an open frame. Build your pergola to lead from one area to another.

  • Make your pergola out of wood for a natural look. It can a row of simple three-piece planks of wood forming a squared U and linked one to the next. You can ornament it with lattice or add boards on the side or to augment the top or sides. You can even use stylized woods like bamboo, tree branches or logs and lash them together for a rustic feel. Styles of construction are limited only by the imagination!

  • Make your pergola out of vinyl or recycled plastics. Many of these newer wood-look-alikes are used just like wood but will never need painting and will never rot or decay.

  • Make your pergola out of metal. Metals like rebar will rust, cast iron can be formed in to all kinds of shapes, and copper will form a patina of coppery browns, and blue-greens. Metals can be used for a curved effect or for an angular design.

  • Make your pergola out of living materials. Growing bamboo or other flexible shrubs or trees in rows and tying and training branches to curve and meet over the top can create a living pergola that requires no construction. Even the footings don't need to be sunk in concrete as they will grow their own roots!

  • Pergolas can be can be heavy or light, minimal or decorative, simple or elaborate, formal or rustic in design.

  • You can create an elaborate environment by adding paths through your pergola that can be paved or textured or even planted. Plants can form gardens on either side of the passageway. Vines can lightly accent certain areas or smother the entire structure.

  • Cement, brick or blocks can make pillars for a more solid structure.

  • In short, you can create any style of pergola you want from a wide assortment of materials including found objects and recycled materials. Make sure your structure is solid, strong and well seated into the ground to handle any weather or other demands.

  • Pergolas are ideal ways to divide areas of property, to offer an opportunity to grow wonderful vines like wisteria, grapes or other flamboyant climbers, and to create a passageway with the feeling of being somewhat enclosed. Use a pergola to lead from a house to another structure like a garage, guest house or work room. Or create one that opens on a swimming pool or meditation area. Build a small one in a more limited area that opens to a small patio with seating or a fountain or sculpture at the end.

  • Have fun designing and building a pergola. A basic design can create textures with light, shadows or can be colored in with clambering plants. Though a pergola may connect one area to another, you can make your pergola an experience in itself as it meanders. A pergola is a powerful statement that can be as practical as it is ornamental and transform a ho-hum garden into a spectacular event!

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