Pergolas, arbors, gazebos and other small structures open to the air provide pleasant places for shelter or simply to sit in and enjoy the view of your garden. They can also provide interesting and attractive focal points in the garden.
It is important to make sure all these structures are generously proportioned but not too large or grandiose for the size and style of garden you are creating, otherwise they will be overbearing and detract from the beauty of the garden itself.
Pergolas have become particularly popular for their ornamental value. Festooned with climbers, they can be situated anywhere in the garden. They may run around the perimeter of a garden or straight down the middle of the plot. They can also be used to cover a patio, architecturally unifying the transition between house and garden. They are also particularly effective in joining two separate garden areas.
Pergolas may be made of brick pillars with wooden cross beams or constructed entirely of wood. Once the main pieces of the structure are in the position, lighter struts can be added to assist climbers to reach over the gaps.
Metal or plastic arches can be linked together to make elegant pergolas that are very suitable for small gardens. If the supporting pillars seem too light, they can be made to look more substantial by planting evergreen shrubs at the base.
In many gardens a central pergola running right through the garden may be too dominant. It is better to run it along one side, near the wall or fence. When it is used as a long shady walk, you can place a few seats underneath for people to sit and enjoy the planting. However, it is not necessary for a pergola to be this long; it can also be quite a short structure, simply covering a seat or arbor or the place where paths intersect.
An arbor is an open structure, strong enough to support climbing plants. Traditionally old-fashioned plants such as climbing scented roses and honeysuckle are used in arbors, although there is no need to be restricted by these and there are many other attractive climbing plants that will work just as well.
The arbor usually encloses a seat. Once again, this may be made of wood or metal, or you can be even more creative and make the seat by simply by clipping a niche in an evergreen hedge such as yew.
Arbors make romantic focal points and they, too, mark transitional areas where one part of the garden ends and another begins, or the meeting point of two paths.
An arbor can be a large pergola-like construction, perhaps taking the place of a summer house, or it may be quite small. It is important to ensure the arbor is in scale with the garden and does not take up too much space or detract from the planting.
A bridge offers exciting opportunities for garden design – from a simple timber plank or decking to a hump-backed Chinese or Japanese-style bridge painted a rich red. Bridge usually look best when seen from a boat on the water or from a path approaching from the side.
As always, the style should match that of the garden. A modest, perhaps rustic style of bridge is best over a small stream; an oriental zigzag bridge constructed from posts and boards makes a suitable walkway over a wildlife pond. If the water is still, the bridge and any planting next to it will be reflected in it with magical effect.
A false bridge next to a small pond can give the impression that the pond is bigger than it looks, perhaps suggesting that it continues beyond the garden.