If you haven’t been out today, gaze through a window on to your surroundings. It’s the depth of winter, so what you’ll find will likely be skeletal trees, sere lawns, slumbering flowerbeds, and an overcast sky. Not very inviting, huh? But as counter intuitive as it sounds, now’s the time to contemplate adding a bit of structure to your landscape, and provide a bit of oomph. A great way to add interest to your outdoor setting, as well as provide a place to congregate or contemplate, is to erect a pergola.
A pergola is traditionally constructed of wooden posts and open cross beams at the top, so that light can filter down below, while vines—or other plant life–can wind about above. It serves as both a plant support and an area for seating. The ancients created pergolas as a feature in their gardens for two reasons: functionality and efficient use of space. Pergolas are the perfect interface for plants and humans, and can be an inviting part of your landscape, and they’re never fussy or too detailed. You aren’t creating a Victorian bandshell—think ‘The Music Man’—nor are you constructing a ‘folly,’ those small whimsical buildings beloved by 18th Century landscapers. You want an area for plants to take root and feel at home, at ground level and above. If the word ‘pergola’ bothers you, then think’ arbor,’ but remember to incorporate seating for all the times in the year you want to personally use your outdoor room.
The one featured is constructed from treated 6” x 6” pine posts and 1” x 6” cross pieces above. Sink the posts for stability, and think about seating. You can bring in benches, or build seating directly into the structure, like done here. You’ll see this pergola spans the sidewalk leading up to the house, an unexpected touch. Even if your landscape leaves little room for such construction, you can find an innovative way to add it.
To maintain the open feel of this pergola, we also used window boxes to contain plants above, rather than support vines up the posts. Vines would have intertwined along the beams above, minimizing the light below, and created a tunnel effect on the sidewalk. Although the shade provided by vines growing above is a desirable feature in many pergolas, the citing of this one directly in front of the house called for maximum light to filter down and through.
Pergolas are traditionally painted a lighter color—to absorb and reflect the light, and keep them from looking ‘heavy’—and we used the same white as the house. The benches are the perfect way to welcome friends, or for a semi-private area for you to wind down after a busy day, and enjoy your landscape.
During these dreary winter days, you should dream of warmer times, when you’ll want to be close to your landscape and its serenity. And an outdoor room, like this pergola, is the perfect touch.
Live Life to the Fullest!