20180731F www.pergolakitsusa.com .jpg
Beautiful pergola, and very typical, but it doesn’t seem to have any real purpose. Source: www.pergolakitsusa.com

A pergola in the backyard is the ultimate ornamentation: it is very Italian and very chic, ideal for the proud gardener who wants to show off his home landscape. The problem is that many people seem to forget what a pergola is designed to do. So many of them simply sit there, totally out of context with the rest of the garden, as if randomly dropped by a tornado. And they are completely void of vegetation.

20180731D pinterest.ca
Grape vines on a pergola provide shade, cool air … and grapes! Source: pinterest.ca

It is worth remembering that the pergola is an old Italian tradition and it wasn’t a decoration per se, it had a use. To escape the heat, a structure was built with open sides to allow air circulation and an open roof made of crossbeams and/or lattice over which grape vines were grown, not only to keep the sun out, but to cool the air through transpiration. Hot air was able to escape upwards, while the cool air created by leaf transpiration sank to the people relaxing or working below. And the difference is considerable: the temperature under a covered pergola vegetation can be up to 8˚ F (5˚ C) cooler than in the blazing sun just outside. Pergolas, it turns out, were the original air conditioners!

20180731G NanaGrandma, www.houzz.com.jpg
The ultimate pergola: shade, grapes, a hammock… and even a dog! Source: NanaGrandma, http://www.houzz.com

The modern pergola can easily become a backyard air conditioner again. Just plant climbing vines (they don’t have to be grapes … although that would be so cool!) and let them cover the roof of the pergola. Soon the space below will be the best place in your garden to hang a hammock! 

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

4 comments on “Pergolas (Should) Keep You Cool

  1. At least in our part of the world, this would be a perfect summer to have a couple of pergolas to beat the heat. 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing such an informative post!! Not all the Pergolas stop all sun rays. So, I suggest everyonr to install an Adjustable Shade Pergola to solve the issue upto some extent. Please also share your opinion. Thanks!!

Leave a Reply

Sign up for the Laidback Gardener blog and receive articles in your inbox every morning!

%d bloggers like this: