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Patio 101: What Is A Pergola?

by Emily Durgan | Tue, Jun 16, 2015

a pergola is a garden structure that provides shade on patiosIf you’re looking to make your patio a more popular place to hang out, consider adding a pergola. A pergola is a structure built outside to provide shade and beauty.

Some call it a patio cover, but its use is much broader than that. It can be built in the garden, providing a shady sitting area or walkway. It can be further from the house, to cover a seating or entertaining area. Homeowners most commonly build one on their patio, though. Here’s why.

What Is A Pergola?

With so many types of garden structures, it’s easy to get confused about the definition of a pergola versus other structures like an arbor, trellis or gazebo. Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably, which is understandable but misguided! They all have common features, but there are some notable differences.

The word pergola comes from the Latin, meaning “protected eaves.” It can be freestanding or attached to a building (sometimes they even connect buildings). The vertical posts support a top section, often wood, metal or more modern materials like fiberglass or aluminum – even retractable canopies.

Some people prefer to make the pergola roof solid instead of slatted, for more consistent shade. Of course that makes cleaning a little harder. Pergolas are often decorated with vines or climbing plants, for beauty as well as for shade.

Why Build A Pergola In Northern Florida?

pergolas for commercial properties can help shade walkways and outdoor seatingPergolas are a great way to enjoy your outdoor space in hot, sunny weather. The pergola provides shade and looks attractive. You don’t have to limit pergola building to the patio. You can build a pergola over walkways in your yard to make a nice passage to other parts of the garden.

Pergolas add a sculptural design element to the yard and help define the space as well. Some like to build a pergola next to the pool for a cooler spot to relax when not swimming.

For commercial buildings and apartment complexes, pergolas make walkways more attractive and comfortable, guarding from the sun while providing greenery and an architectural element.

Pergola Vs. Arbor Vs. Gazebo — How Are These Garden Structures Different?

While pergolas tend to be rectangular and larger in size, arbors are small and usually arched on top. Arbors can be made of wood or thin materials like plastic, while pergola columns are commonly wood beams or masonry. Pergolas also tend to be more linear, covering pathways, while an arbor is a smaller structure that might act as an entryway or highlight a section of the garden.

A trellis, on the other hand, is a piece of lattice that supports climbing vines or plants. A trellis might be part of an arbor or pergola, as a framework for the vines. It can stand on its own as well, often against a fence or wall.

A gazebo is the easiest one to distinguish from a pergola. A gazebo is a small pavilion, a round or octagonal structure with a solid, often turreted roof and partly open sides.

But it’s less important to worry about the differences in these definitions. When deciding what you want, just make sure you and your landscape company are on the same page about its purpose and design.

Pergola Decorating Ideas

adding a vine like Morning Glory is one pergola decorating ideaPergolas look good on their own, but we like to encourage our clients to beautify them by adding personal touches. One of the best ways to make your pergola more attractive — and to provide shade — is to train vines on it.

One vine to consider is the Dutchman’s Pipevine, which attracts butterflies and grows quickly. Another is the Virginia Creeper, whose leaves are red when they’re young. It’s also fast growing. Consider a flowering vine like the Morning Glory (pictured) for more color.

You can also add soft, sheer fabric to one or more sides of the pergola, either free flowing or tied back, if the vine growth isn’t too heavy. In addition to providing an additional barrier to the elements, it’s another way dress up the pergola. Hanging baskets and strings of decorative outdoor lights add color and warmth to the area as well.

GreenEarth Can Help You Choose The Right Garden Structure For Your Home Or Business

Pergolas, arbors, gazebos, oh my! If you’re considering adding a pergola or other shade structure, we at GreenEarth can help you decide what would work best in your yard and can build the perfect pergola for you.

Give us a call at our Panama City Beach office at (850) 236-1959, or call our Santa Rosa Beach office at (850) 267-0010 to set up an appointment. You can also fill out the online form on our website to schedule a consultation. And download our FREE Landscape Planning Guide below and start turning your dreams of a more comfortable, more beautiful outdoor space into reality.

free landscape planning guide from GreenEarth

Images: Pergola top, Pergola, Morning Glory

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