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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.

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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!

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The ultimate pergola: shade, grapes, a hammock… and even a dog! Source: NanaGrandma, 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! 

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, laidbackgardener.blog will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

4 comments on “Pergolas (Should) Keep You Cool

  1. 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!!

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

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