A pergola (also called an arbor) is a garden feature that provides shade, either a walkway, a sitting area or combination. It may be an extension of a building or provide protection for anyone walking between buildings or outdoor garden feature. Freestanding pergolas are not attached to a home or other structure. Instead they provide a sitting area with protection from direct sunlight, so you can sit outdoors and enjoy the fresh air.
Building a pergola consists of vertical posts or pillars, that support an open lattice of woody vines, wood or one of the many new composite materials that withstand the elements better. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the pergola pillars were made of brick and stone, and woody vines were trained to cover the supporting cross beams.
The Pergola Today
Today's pergolas are built using less expensive materials like wood, aluminum, fiberglass and PVC. This has allowed them to grow in popularity, becoming a popular landscape feature in many backyards. Wooden pergolas are made from weather resistant wood like redwood or western red cedar. Low maintenance materials like fiberglass (shown here) don't require the annual maintenance of wood.
For more ideas about popular outdoor features, see the Top 10 Features for Outdoor Living Spaces.