The Garden Pergola : A beautiful outdoor living space

by chevril

A pergola can create a distinctive and beautiful outdoor living space. It can bring a romantic and almost magical ambiance to the garden and can also enhance property value.

The old ivy covered structure in our backyard is practically screaming out for me to come inside. It looks like it's made entirely out of ivy...I don't see any sign of what's underneath. How can a building be made out of a vine? So mysterious looking! It's got a small opening in the front, like a cave. I like caves and I WANT TO GO IN! But, I'm six years old and my parents tell me I can't. It isn't safe. My thirteen year old brother is allowed to go in if he's careful, so I'm able to (at least) get some information I've been dying to know: just what's under there? He reports me that it's a wooden structure. Not a gazebo, not a shed. It has some sort of posts to hold it up and something like beams or slats across the top. Years later, when I first learned about pergolas I thought back to that ivy cave and realized that it was a pergola that had long ago been eaten up by that voracious vine. Not surprising, since our house was a lovely old victorian. Although (sadly) in the four years we lived there I never once got to go in that mystery structure it sparked a lifelong interest in garden structures and in particular the PERGOLA.

Classic Freestanding Pergola



The History Of The Pergola:

Pergolas have a very rich history. The earliest known reference to what appears to be one dates back to 1400 BC in Egypt, but the earliest known usage of the word dates to Rome in 1640. During the italian Renaissance they became quite grand, often consisting of large stone pillars. By the late 19th and early 20th centuries they were a common architectural garden feature. They were practically a staple of the craftsman style and tudor style home garden. They have been a feature of palace grounds and city, suburban, and country gardens. In some areas they have even been used as a support for food crops.


Circa 1930
Circa 1930

Types Of Pergolas

There are many types of pergolas and in fact, the term is kind of a loose one. Something between an arbor and a gazebo, it may be free standing or wall mounted. It can be made of a variety of different materials including wood, stone, cement, metal and vinyl.

Classic pergola








The Classic Free standing Pergola: The Freestanding pergola usually consists of upright pillars or posts and has a "roof" of either lattice or more widely spaced horizontal beams or slats. This creates dappled shade as well as a support system for any vines that may be trained to climb it. This type of pergola is a wonderful way to create a "room" in your yard. With some lawn furniture or a picnic bench placed underneath it can become a great place for the family to gather and have some protection from the breezes and light showers of spring and to cool off during the hot days and evenings of summer.

 Attached Pergola








The Attached Pergola: There are also wall pergolas that can be attached to a house or garage, usually over a door. This type of pergola can be a fairly inexpensive way to create the impression of a porch and can add a great deal of visual interest and charm to what might other-wise be a plain looking entryway. Vines can also be trained to attach to wall pergolas, usually by adding a panal of lattice to the side that reaches to the ground. Then by simply planing vines at the base of the lattice they eventually climb their way up to the pergola. Above is a photo of the entrance to the Hollywood Police Station on Cahuenga Avenue, ca.1910-1915, that features a porch-like attached pergola. Now doesn't that look friendly?


An Outdoor Dining Space

The palace garden of the Evangelische Akademie Tutzing in Tutzing.
The palace garden of the Evangelische...

Vines Recommended For Pergolas

Many vines can be trained to climb a pergola, but if you're looking for color and tradition, you can't go wrong with these:


A member of the pea family, wisteria is an absolute heaven of scent and beauty that comes in a variety of purples, pinks and white. It can live a very long time and become heavy (after many years), so some pruning may eventually be necessary. Blossoms of the wisteria vine hang down through pergola roof slats, creating a stunning could of blossoms above all who enter. In Sierra Madre, California, there is a beautiful Chinese lavender wisteria (planted in 1894) that weighs over 250 tons and spans over an acre.  









Cecile Brunner Roses:

 Who doesn't love roses? Imagine the delightful vision of a pergola covered in small old fashioned powderpuff pink Cecile Brunner roses that seem to tumble down it's sides. Introduced in France, circa 1881, Cecile Brunner roses have a charming, rambling nature that make them perfect for the pergola. If you love shabby chic, you'll surely fall for them.  Many years ago I saw a small old house that had been abandoned. It was almost completely devoid of paint, the windows were covered in weathered plywood and it leaned noticeably to the right. Clearly It never was a showplace, just a very plain country home (nearly a shack), but it was gorgeous! Why? Because at least half of it was covered in pink Cecile Brunner roses that had escaped a small attached pergola decades earlier. They cascaded over a small gate at the side of the house and ambled across the lawn. I was an instant fan of this almost etherial rose. How I wished I had a camera with me!  


Cecile Brunner Rose

A Full Sized Vinyl Pergola

Venetian Vinyl Pergola - VA42022

Ground anchoring stakes not included. Consistent building surface. Curved top slat design. Premium alternative, high end, advanced technology. Impervious to termites and other i...

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Pergola Design Slideshow

A Peaceful Pergola Respite

DC America PAGAR808MBR-S Toscana Double Bench Arbor with Pergola Style Top, Bronze

Toscana Double Bench Pergola Arbor in Bronze is made of heavy duty steel construction, and has a rust-resistant powder coat Finish. Everybody loves to sit outdoors on the lawn, ...

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A Book About The History And Design Of The Pergola

Pergolas, Arbours and Arches

This title offers both the history of the pergola - how it has been used and enjoyed over the centuries - and a manual of design and planting for today's gardener. It begins wit...

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A Lovely Book With A Lot Of Ideas

The Big Book of Gazebos, Pergolas, and Other Backyard Architecture

0764331701|9780764331701. The Big Book of Gazebos. Pergolas. and Other Backyard Architecture published in the year 2009 was published by Schiffer Publishing. Limited. View 3226 ...

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Updated: 02/25/2015, chevril
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blackspanielgallery on 06/24/2015

Walking beneath an arch of plants is indeed refreshing. I like the plane covered ones.

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