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To picture a pergola is essentially to picture four poles or columns, supporting a flat or sloped surface which forms what looks like a roof. Designed for use outside, pergolas are purchased as a means of supporting the growth of climbing plants, while also providing the user with an area of shade for recreational purposes and personal use. In short, pergolas serve a function both to support plants and to benefit the user, as well as creating a unique design feature in the garden which is low maintenance and can be designed to look as simple or as elegant as you like.

The primary uses of a pergola

First and foremost, most users opt to buy a pergola when they want to support the growth of climbing plants; extending their way upwards around the legs of the structure, before extending themselves across the roof. Members will find that while some pergolas are made with solid roof structures, others are designed with wooden beams – letting light through, and also offering plants a chance to grow between the beams and create a rustic and natural finish. It is worth noting that the growth of climbing plants will take time, and the first couple of seasons with your pergola will be spent watching the plants grow without really benefitting from the beauty or shade provided by the climbing plants. If the user is looking for something to provide shade immediately, consider a solid roof as the best option. The other top use of a pergola is as a design feature in a garden or at the end of a patio, defining a really comfortable area under which to place outdoor sofas and tables, floor cushions or beanbags. As well as personal outdoor spaces and gardens, pergolas are a popular addition to public walkways and are particularly prevalent in well-manicured gardens and public access park spaces. One of our favourite things about pergolas is the way they replicate the feel of an Italian garden or European villa, instantly bringing a tropical holiday vibe into your own outdoor space.

Dressing your pergola

As previously stated, you cannot count on your pergola becoming a wild haven straight away – so in the meantime, it is worth having a few tricks up your sleeve to decorate or accessorise your structure. Some of the best ideas we have seen from retailers and innovative users include draping fabrics over the roof to create a welcoming covered space, weaving fairy lights around the legs and roof to create atmospheric lighting, and hanging solar bulbs from the roof (only in the case of exposed beams which allow the solar lights to benefit from direct sunlight). When it comes to installing your pergola, ensure you give it enough space to benefit from sunlight while also locating it in a place where you are happy for it to remain in the long run. After all, once the climbing plants start growing, you will be unable to move your pergola without taking yourself back to square one of the growing process.

Buying a pergola

If you’re looking for a standard pergola, you will likely find the best selection available at garden centres and specialist outdoor stores, with many available to purchase as flat packs which you then put together at home.

Don't forget to check the legalities of a garden structure, whilst many do not need planning permission there may be certain requirements where planning permission is a must.

Note that the materials of your pergola need to withstand the elements and life outdoors, as well as provide your desired look, with most designs made from either solid wood or metal frames. Consider researching the way that both material styles look both in their first year and after they are covered with climbing plants, to get a full understanding of the different options and determine how they will look in your own garden.

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