Gazebos and Pergolas
July 6, 2023

By Kate and Len Lucas

Now, here are a couple of fancy gardening terms that make a change from horse manure and wheelbarrows. While neither of these requires an explanation, overhearing “gazebo” and “pergola” at a posh Chelsea Flower Show cocktail party could make you wish you had a dictionary handy. So, we’ve saved you the trouble.

GAZEBO: Origin is obscure. An ornamental shed with only a roof and corner posts, without any sides or an official door.

PERGOLA: Origin is not in the least bit obscure, as long as you know what an arbor is. And for those who don’t, it is a series of posts and trellis used for trailing plants to grow over. So there you have it.

Panic over—more bubbly, please!

Apart from the Chelsea Flower Show, why would any amateur gardener want either or both?

So get ready for the fancy part because we have both. Before the gazebo, we couldn’t shelter from the rain even on a warm summer evening or stay out of the sun on clear blue sky days. And while having your sparkling chardonnay naturally watered down might be ecologically sustainable and one step away from a Bucks Fizz, we would rather be in dry clothes.

So, we bought a metal gazebo with a polycarbonate roof and, with the help of our neighbours, put it up and secured it to the patio. In hindsight, an all-wooden one would probably have looked better for about the same price. Complete with removable curtains and anti-insect netting, we have added some lighting. With the BBQ close by, rain or shine, we can start any outdoor meal during the day or evening and finish it around the table outside. Who needs the Chelsea Flower Show?

The pergola, on the other hand, took a long time to plan because we had a fair idea of what we wanted to do but got stuck at the drawing board. And if we had rushed it, everyone would have realised that we didn’t know what we were doing. So, we really do know how the government feels.

For us, pergolas serve two very important purposes. First, they screen off part of the garden, and second, they display plants more effectively than would otherwise be the case. We have a pale blue summer house at the bottom of the garden that would benefit from looking less obvious. At the same time, we wanted to grow climbers that truly need space so you can see them from every angle. Growing them on our six-foot fence wouldn’t do them justice. A Wisteria would be a good candidate, but we chose the Banksian rose. This is probably the most vigorous rose on the planet and could easily grow thirty or forty feet. They don’t cost much more than any other rose, and since we had a long pergola to cover, we bought two. Besides, it’s nearly evergreen and thornless.

As far as we know, unlike gazebos, pergolas don’t come ready-made to fit your garden. So, we made one using 3×3 standard fence posts and lengths of six-foot-by-about-one-foot garden trellis. The finished pergola consists of a double row of posts one foot apart, with six feet between the pairs of posts. They are secured in the ground with metposts and connected all along the top with six-foot lengths of narrow trellis, exactly the width of the double row of posts.

It was made by two amateurs and fortunately doesn’t look like it. However, some wood pigeons have decided they like the young rose shoots as they poke through the trellis at the top. We put a stop to that by using a length of curved green garden wire netting.

The Banksian roses have grown about fifteen feet on both sides in their first year and have covered about thirty feet of trellis. As amateur gardeners, we are really proud of what we have achieved here. And it is sturdy enough to hold several of our suspended garden mobiles and even hanging baskets if we wanted to.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling posh, even if you aren’t. Yes, they did cost us a bit, but the poshness of a gazebo and pergola has been translated from paper to practice in our own garden. With so much to bring you down today, we genuinely feel better for having them—every day.