A pergola is an outdoor structure with posts that support a roof-like structure. The most common use of a pergola is to shade a walkway, a portion of a deck or a defined area of a pool deck, such as a dining spot. While some pergolas remain in their pure form with no attached vines or other materials, these architectural elements were created to support climbing vines.
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A pergola is built solid enough to support the heavy vines of wisteria, an aromatic, deciduous vine providing shade in the heat of summer and allowing light to filter through in the cooler parts of the year when its leaves fall. Grapevines also require the sturdy support inherent in a pergola's structure. Plants that do not require such strong support, but that provide light to heavy shade over a pergola's roof, are Carolina Jessamine, morning glory and hyacinth bean. Hyacinth bean is an antique plant that was once grown at Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello.
Add shade to your pergola with weather-resistant fabric used to manufacture awning. Canvas sheets may be stretched on wires in separate sections stretched taut and overlapping each other. Many installations are positioned parallel to the ground over or under the pergola's roof. This flat installation allows breezes full access to your landscape and obstructs your view the least. Use a dense lace to cover your pergola's roof for a dappled shade effect and to create a romantic ambience. Attaching sheers to hang down the sides of your pergola lends privacy and a Mediterranean feel to your backyard.
Create a shade tree canopy by planting one or more arching shade trees next to your pergola. When selecting a shade tree to arch over your pergola, avoid trees that are susceptible to insect damage and disease. Also avoid trees that produce large amounts of seeds or fruits. The linden tree is an optimal choice for a pergola shade tree. The linden produces small fragrant flowers in the spring that are ornamental and fragrant and its leaves hang on the tree long after most trees lose their leaves in the fall. Linden trees are also bothered by few insects or pests.
The architectural make-up of your pergola may provide built-in shade. The crossbeams that form the roof can be slanted at an extreme angle to allow only filtered light through the open spaces. You may also have your builder cover part of your pergola with roofing material to make shade an option at any time or season. Use terracotta tiles for a Mediterranean feel or thatching to mimic a Caribbean palapa.
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