Pergolas are a perfect balance of form and function. Originally used in gardens and to cover walkways, today they are primarily used as ornamentation for outdoor living spaces in people’s backyards. If you think a pergola may have something to contribute to your backyard landscaping, learning about what pergolas are and what they have to offer is an excellent place to start.
It is still undetermined what first inspired the pergola, but they remain mostly unchanged since their inception in ancient times. One hung over the main entrance to the estate of an Egyptian high court official of Thebes in what is the earliest-known example of any garden plan (dated circa 1400 BC). Since then, pergolas have continued to inspire a sense of nobility by taking function and uniting it with beauty.
The term itself comes from the Latin pergula (English: “projecting eave”), commonly referring to the extension of a roof or an arbor. Indeed, pergolas are seen serving this function on rooftops and balconies in countries along the Mediterranean, perhaps just as often as they are seen in backyard landscapes in the U.S. No matter their location, all pergolas provide the same roof-like function with added style and sophistication.
Whether pergolas were purely aesthetic or served a greater function like shade or rain cover, the joining of these principles via design is what helped pergolas stand the test of time.
Vertical posts support cross-beams to form an open roof-like framework on which plants may grow. Highly likely, influence came from trellises that grapes grew along in vineyards. The pergola’s sturdy structure made its construction just as much about the frame as the foliage. It served as a shelter from the elements but equally enhanced the visual appeal to the space in which it stood. With flora scaling up and along the branching framework, pergolas displayed a profound union of natural and manmade creation.
During the Italian Renaissance, the pergola was resurrected along with many other Greek architectural features. Valued more intently for artistic beauty than functionality, the pergola grew increasingly opulent in materials and design. Only the wealthy could afford such a luxury, so what may today seem commonplace was once reserved for only the higher classes. As with most luxuries, exclusivity romanticized the pergola in Western culture as an achievement of grandeur.
Upheld to this day as extravagant, pergolas are more accessible to the masses than ever before. Modern technology has streamlined the building process and lowered labor costs, while affordable materials provide options for those who prefer to minimize the amount of maintenance required. All of this, in turn, has allowed the popularization of pergolas to take its place in the American garden, and it is being utilized in new and exciting ways all the time.
Perhaps learning the story of these classic structures has inspired a bit of the creative within yourself. If you can look out on your grounds and envision a pergola gracing the land with its beauty, perhaps the only thing missing is knowing what benefits a pergola can provide for your property.
- Definition: No matter where you see yourself placing a pergola or the purpose you intend it to serve, by its very nature one function it serves is framing an area as a distinct space. Be it part of a garden path, leisure area, or outdoor kitchen, a pergola draws the eye naturally to its placement and welcomes the watcher to step beneath its verdant canopy. Use this attribute to accent your outdoor living space with an intentional style and purpose. Consider it an invitation extended visually to guests and loved ones to enjoy your yard.
- Integration: Due to their primary function as a covered walkway or overhang, pergolas can successfully connect to other design features in the layout of your backyard’s landscaping. As a lead-in to a gazebo or veranda, or to link your home with a greenhouse or garden shed, pergolas offer a powerful visual component, instilling the yard with a sense of wholeness or completion.
- Protection: No matter the climate or time of year, a pergola provides shelter from the forces of nature. As a shelter during springtime showers and as shading from the heat of the sun, pergolas can shield one from nearly any type of weather. Some even have a retractable synthetic canopy that can even protect against snow, when the roof of climbing flowers has withered in the winter cold.
- Privacy: Outdoor living spaces are an extension of the home and all the comforts that come with it, and that includes privacy. No matter how sociable you are, there’s something nice about feeling contained from the rest of the world, especially when on your own property. Even in yards that back up to a loud and busy street or are visible from the road, a sense of solitude can be achieved. The simple addition of latticework, when foliage adorning a pergola reaches full bloom, protects not only from the rain and sun but the curiosity of passersby, as well. Even drapes or a screen can serve this function, in addition to adding a personal touch.
- Plant Life: With smaller spaces, pergolas can add much-needed real estate for plants to grow. Elevate plants by hanging them from the beams to create a garden in the air. Make use of vining plants like honeysuckle, ivy, and wisteria. They will wind up posts and reach overhead to intertwine and form a most elegant natural roof.
- Beauty: In addition to the plants that adorn these outdoor structures is the beauty of the pergola itself. Even when bare, they resonate with an air of refinement that can be embellished in a variety of ways. Consider the possibilities with hanging pots or lamps, curtains flowing along the edges of the frame, or strands of lights twinkling overhead. With a touch of imagination, a pergola can transform any outdoor living space into a miniature paradise located right in your backyard.
- Value: Unlike some residential landscaping improvements, pergolas have a high return on initial investment. Some experts estimate they can add as much as 20% to a property’s worth at a fraction of the cost of, say, a gazebo. Should the right buyer come along, a pergola can add even greater value and be the determining factor in your property selling over another.
A Pergola of Your Very Own
Picture yourself in your backyard, beneath the shade of a pergola, sharing laughter and wine with loved ones. Feelings of joy and contentment flow tranquilly through the garden as naturally as the breeze that rustles through leaves in treetops. Regally, you lean back and take everything in like you would a work of art at the museum. These are the moments that memories are made of, and these are the spaces where dreams are born, so make the space your own! At Front Range Outdoor Living in Fort Collins, we want to help you with a landscaping design for an outdoor living space that can inspire your dreams. Whether you’re looking for a new pergola-build or in need of a complete backyard remodel, we are ready to answer the call, so contact us today.