How to Create a Pretty Pergola

We Brits love our gardens, we love being outside and we are keen gardeners who love vibrant colours. A simple way to combine a beautiful seating/dining area with an eye-catching splash of colour is to create a pergola. The added benefit, especially if you have space, is that a pergola area can be quite well shaded to give you an escape should you need it, from the sun. Where do you start, though and what plants are best to achieve that stunning green haven? Read on and we will explain all we can about how to create a pretty pergola for your garden.

The practicalities

Building a pergola is relatively easy and well within the capabilities of most DIY enthusiasts. You’ll need to decide if you want a free-standing pergola or one that joins on your home. Either way, the basics are the same.

The first stage is to decide where in your garden you want your pergola to go. Remember that your pergola should ideally not be built near tree roots or underground services. Once you know where you want your pergola, measure the area out and draw up a plan of what your pergola will look like. The benefit of this is that you will be able to work out exactly how much timber you need for your pergola. If you are building on to an existing patio or path, you will need post supports to secure the uprights to the patio. If you are building onto grass or other softer ground, you will need to allow enough length to bury and secure your posts into the ground by at least 50cm.

Tools you will need

  • Saw
  • Drill
  • Spirit level
  • Tape measure
  • Screwdriver or hammer

Pop to any DIY store for the wood, just remember to buy pressure treated wood as this will be much more durable against the elements. You can choose from cheaper softwoods all the way up to hardwoods like oak. As long as you look after the wood, both options will see you enjoying your pergola for years to come.

For the uprights, we would recommend a minimum of 75mm x 75mm with 100mm x 100mm being better for larger structures, you’ll need to buy 3m lengths if you are going to concrete the uprights into the floor. For structures on solid ground 2.4m lengths should be enough. Crossbeams should be 150mm x 50mm. 

Once you have your plan and your wood, it’s a relatively simple matter to build your pergola. B&Q have a great handy guide detailing how to actually build the pergola or you can pop over to this specialist pergola plan website and get some great advice and free pergola building plans by simply entering your email address.

What plants to use?

Pergolas are great for all kinds of climbing plants which will give you an array of different aesthetics:

  • Grape vines are a great option, especially if you have an enclosed south facing garden with plenty of sunlight. You will need to make sure that your pergola has some extra rigidity to take the weight of the fruit, but just imagine the bunches of grapes hanging down from the vine in the late summer.
  • Honeysuckles are another great option. They flower in the summer with flowers which range all the way from cream to yellow to pink and even red, just be careful of the berries. Whilst a tasty treat to birds, they are not at all good for humans or pets.
  • For those of you who want to encourage bees into the garden passion flowers are a great option. Flowering all the way from July to October their multi-coloured blooms, anything from blue, white and green to simple white to blue and white and even red and violet, really are spectacular. They will need some protection in the winter though
  • If you are after year-round blooms then you might want to consider a clematis which offer varieties which thrive in all seasons. With lovely white, pink violet and red flowers, you could have a different colour every season
  • Have you ever passed a picture postcard cottage and seen the climbing roses and thought that you’d love that in your garden? Well a pergola is a great structure upon which to grow rambling or climbing roses. The world really is your oyster here, from the rampant, bushy rambling roses to the more structured and graceful climbing roses.
  • As a final option, we really can’t forget the ever popular Wisteria. As with a grapevine, wisterias are not for delicate pergolas as they can grow pretty large and heavy but those beautifully fragrant blooms are really spectacular.

Pergolas are a great addition to any garden and with carefully chosen vines can create a colourful oasis of shade and tranquillity. Easy to build and reasonably priced to boot, your pergola will give you plenty of pleasure for many years.