“Pergola” — that’s a flower, right? As in “While strolling through the lush garden, he picked a red pergola and gently placed it in her hair.”
No, a pergola is not a flower. It’s an Italian pastry. As in “Her favorite treat on Sunday mornings was a cream filled pergola, warm from the oven, covered with chocolate sauce. Mmmmmm!”
Unfortunately, the truth is more mundane. A pergola is not exotic, nor is it delicious. It’s the snooty word for a trellis. You know a trellis – that airy structure in the garden; it’s got no roof, just a sort of open canopy, perhaps with vines growing on it. Webster¹ defines it as “a structure usually consisting of parallel colonnades supporting an open roof of girders and cross rafters.” Huh? That sounds complicated. A pergola can be simple. Here comes one now:
So a pergola has posts that support beams and rafters above. A more elaborate pergola might have layers above the rafters — purlins and maybe even laths above the purlins:
Pergolas have been around for ages.
They shaded ancient Romans² from the hot Mediterranean sun, like this:
The Romans were inspired by the even more ancient Egyptian pergolas. Here’s a mosaic from the Roman city of Palestrina depicting earlier life on the Nile³:
Modern pergolas are usually square or rectangular.
But they can incorporate curves:
Or other interesting shapes:
Pergolas can be made of wood, but fiberglass and PVC have become popular because they eliminate maintenance. Imagine climbing on the top of a wooden pergola to stain the purlins and rafters. Wobbly…or worse.
So, why would your deck want a pergola? Not to protect you from rain; a pergola has more open space than protection. Not to provide shade – again, too many spaces.
Unless you plant some vines and wait five or eight years for them to grow over the top to give you that shade.
Now, you could add a canopy to your pergola to get some instant shade. Good idea. Or a retractable canopy — even better.
People build pergolas to create a sense of enclosure. With a deck floor, some natural or fabric walls, and a canopy roof above, a pergola creates an outdoor room.
It works on a patio as well.
A pergola can create a special space.
Or even add some romance….
Want one? Add some class to your deck or patio.
- On-line, see: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pergola.
- Indeed, the word “Pergola” comes to us through mid-17th century Italian, “pergola”, from the Latin word pergula, meaning “projecting roof,”. Reference: Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 05 Dec. 2015. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/pergola>.
- From 75 BC, according to Robin Lane Fox in an informative book on Roman pergolas, see a review here.
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My husband and I have been trying to find something to spruce up the look of our backyard, we didn’t think about adding a pergola! I do really like the design and the look of a pergola! That is a great idea to add a canopy to it as well! We can have the design and the shade, if we do that! Thank you for all the information!