Pergolas

Walk along a sweetly-scented path

The garden path has been known from time immemorial as a place for friendship and romance. It also serves as a practical pathway through your garden where you don't have to walk through muddy soil and dripping trees. Pergolas, or covered garden pathways, are also known as arbors and are built to give you and your garden guests a bit of shelter from the elements, but still let you enjoy the plants and decor your garden has to offer.

A pergola, or pergula in Late Latin, showed up in Italian gardens around 1645 and meant "a projecting eave". They offered the inhabitants of a busy household a chance for a bit of rare privacy or romance in a cool, shaded area.

Many pergolas are still like this; they're essentially sheltered areas that project from the house or porch. They can be covered or not, depending on the gardener's taste. Often, people use them as a shaded area to place a dining table or a few comfortable chairs, like an extension of a deck or a verandah.

A pergola's other definition is a trellis, or a covered walkway. Pergolas were originally planted with climbing plants that had widespread leaf growth to keep out the wind and rain. They could be planted with ivy or roses to create a decorative pathway, or simply remain a stained or natural wooden cover on a natural path over a lawn. Whatever you use your pergola for, you'll be happy when it's boiling hot outside and you can enjoy your garden in relative comfort.

Many people like to build their own pergolas, and they're a relatively easy project to complete - often, you can build on in a single weekend. However, it's always best to use a precut pergola kit or consult a contractor before starting to build.

Make sure:

  • That you stain or paint the pieces of your pergola before you begin to build. It's a lot easier to paint your pergola when it's in pieces than it is to stand on a ladder on uneven ground with a heavy paint can.
  • That you follow the instructions on your plan or kit so that your pergola doesn't fall down at a later date.
  • That if you are using pressure-treated wood, you must let the wood weather for a season before staining or painting.
  • That you pay attention to detail - when building a pergola, the slightest miscalculation can result in a lopsided-looking structure. Regularity and proper spacing will ensure that your pergola is an elegant part of your yard.

Pergolas bring a sense of old-world Italy into your yard and give a sense of originality to an otherwise prosaic garden. Create your own garden path and watch the romance bloom in your garden this summer.

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