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Bring Art and Structure to Your Garden: Pergolas add Space, Style and Elegance

(ARA) Arbors, trellises and pergolas have been adding art and structure to gardens for centuries. Today, America’s growing fascination with outdoor living spaces and gardens has renewed an interest in these versatile wooden structures.

For anyone looking to add space, style and elegance to their garden, “pergola” is more than a fun word to say. Building one of these arbor-like, post-and-beam structures is a practical project and fairly easy to accomplish in a weekend. Fall is an ideal time to consider outdoor architectural upgrades. While it may be the last major project of the season, your appreciation for the effort will grow when spring 2004 arrives. The pergola is already in place, ready to enjoy as plants grow and flowers bloom around it.

A popular building material for a wooden pergola is western red cedar. It’s stable, resilient, and durable while avoiding the dangers of chemical treatment.

Cedar looks beautiful and is among the most durable woods. For hundreds of years, cedar has been highly prized for its natural compounds that resist rot and mildew. While western red cedar’s natural qualities have always been recognized, they are taking on new, heightened value among builders from professionals to do-it-yourselfers. Earlier this year, The Environmental Protection Agency issued a recommendation to avoid chemically-treated wood, specifically wood treated with a form of arsenic. Recent studies have linked the arsenic in treated wood to cancer. Above-ground structures like pergolas, which might once have been built with treated wood, can be easily built of cedar, known as the “Tree of Life” to the Indians of the Northwest Pacific coast.

You may have seen pergolas on houses and called them trellises or arbors. Like a trellis or an arbor, a pergola can support vines or climbing roses. And like a free-standing arbor, a pergola can filter light with its lattice-like canopy. Pergolas are often used as covered, open-roofed gateways to homes, paths, and gardens.

The basics of pergola construction are readily available online or from your trusted home improvement store. Here are a few handy reminders:

  • Ensure that the posts can handle the weight of the overhead beams. The posts can be encased in concrete postholes you dig and pour yourself, or be attached to ready-made concrete footings purchased from your building supply dealer.
  • Take special care when deciding the proportions of posts and crossbeams. A set of 4-by-4 inch posts would be ideal with 2-by-6 inch boards nailed vertically for main and crossbeams.
  • Remember to create the layout in the shape of a rectangle.
  • Make sure the posts are vertically straight and even in height. Ensure the main beams are level and evenly spaced in parallel to each other. Use a carpenter’s level for easy precision.
  • Finally, add decorative flair to the crossbeams with a simple cutting, such as a quarter circle from the underside ends of each crossbeam.

Consider attaching the pergola to your home, using it to shelter a path between a main house and a garage or other outbuilding. Because the overhead spans are supported by the uprights, they can be made virtually any size. Remember, one of the great appeals of the pergola is that it’s a piece of architecture.

In its simplest form, a freestanding pergola in the garden provides a focal point. It can also create an effective soft screen from neighbors, additional shelter for a walkway, or the frame for a view to another feature within the garden.

A pergola gives a deck character and creates a feature for decoration and design. Pergolas are great for vines, other climbing plants such as roses, and hanging baskets. If you don’t have a green thumb, adorn the pergola with lights or decoration for special occasions. With slight changes of the supporting columns and overhead lattice, a pergola can fit almost any house style.

A pergola can make a dramatic change in the yard and garden. It can display a style or be the final detail. Better yet, you can do it in a weekend.

Courtesy of ARA Content