The Pergola Option For Garden Shade

Pergola is a term many people are not familiar with even though they may have walked under it and welcomed its shade. Pergola is derived from the Latin word ‘pergula’ which refers to a projecting eave. It is basically a garden feature which forms a shaded walkway, passageway or sitting area. It has side pillars or vertical posts on which is placed a lattice like structure on cross beams. When used as a gazebo, it may be a part of a building extension or serve as a sunshade in an open terrace. They may also be used to link pavilions or to connect isolated garden features such as a swimming pool, sit out etc. There are freestanding pergolas, which are not attached to any building or structure, but are built to provide a sitting area, open to breeze and diffused light, but offerering protection from direct, harsh sunlight.

Pergolas are widely used all over the world. In some of the older cities pergolas cover the streets. Pergolas are generally not covered with metal or plastic sheets, but the cover is provided using thatched sheets, palm fronds, wines, plants etc. Sunlight is allowed to filter though the pergola. Since it is open from all sides, it is well ventilated and breezy. It is an ideal structure to support the growth of climbing plants. Some climbing plants that are used to cover the pergola, wither away in winter and then the pergula will be devoid of any cover. To solve this problem, in some places, shade sails are used to cover the pergola. The advantage of using a shade sail is that it is permanent, yet it can be placed in such a manner that it does not block the sunlight fully. The sunlight is allowed to filter though in patches.


Pergolas through history

The history of pergolas stretches in time to the middle ages. The forerunners of the modern pergola were made from easily replaceable shoots of willow or hazel. They were tied together at the top to form a sort of arch. Then it was loosely woven using long slats. On this structure climbing plants were allowed to grow. It formed a cool, breezy passage, spotted with sunlight and offered a modicum of protection from the rain. Since it had an artificial look, it fell out of favor in the 18th and 19th centuries, but made a come back later on, as brick and stone pillar structures. Architects such as Lutyens, Jekyell and Mawson used it when designing some of their renowned works.

In modern times, cost is a factor and pergolas of today are made of wood rather than brick or stone pillars. Since it is open to the elements, the pergolas are made from weather resistant wood such as Western Red Cedar or are treated, by painting or staining, to make it water resistant. There is a wide variety of climbing plants or vines that are used to top a pergola. Bougainvilleas are popular for use in pergolas since they are hardy and come with a wide variety of different colored flowers. In many places, pergolas are dotted with places to eat and drink at a leisurely pace.

There are many innovative ways of covering a pergola and materials vary from place to place. Usually local factors, availability and suitability of plants play a major part in what is used for a pergola. In many Asian countries, where coconut trees are in abundance, palm fronds, thatched together form the cover. Even the husk of the coconut, due to its heat absorbing capacity is used. This serves a dual purpose. When the husk starts to deteriorate with time, it is then used to light the hearth and new husks are put on top. In this way it is renewed from time to time. Pergolas, in hot climates are a boon from the harsh sunlight and provide a welcome respite.

Pergolas have been an integral part of human civilization for hundreds of years. With its resurgent popularity, it is springing up all over the world again in different sizes, shapes and designs. Whichever way it is constructed, the breeze, shade and diffused sunlight make it a welcome place to walk or rest. It not only adds beauty to a place, its shade gives the pergola the aura of a place where time stands still.

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