Thursday, April 3, 2008

Arbors, Pergolas & Patio Coverings

Most people living in a hot climate, want trees for shade. But you can also gain some relief from the hot summer sun from arbors, pergolas and patio coverings and they are a quick way to gain instant shade. When we moved to our location over 4 years ago, we decided to put in a few arbors and pergolas and patio coverings as soon as possible. We sited the structures to take advantage of adjacent shade and chose plants which would cover the structures quickly. As with any plants that grow quickly, they may take more time to prune than slower growing plants.

The first pergola we put in was the wisteria pergola. The concrete is 12 x 20 feet, but the posts are set in about 1.5 feet and there is a built in planter for the two wisteria I planted on either end of the pergola. When I bought the wisteria, they were already trained as standards and had about a three foot square of greenery and a few blossoms on them. Within one year half of the pergola was covered and within two years the wisteria covered the whole pergola. With lots of pruning this past winter, the wisteria has thousands of blossoms and is just beautiful. The pergola is large enough to have three small tables or one huge one and we have hosted several dinners and events under the shade of the wisteria. Having a plant covered pergola is wonderful since the breezes in summer flow through making the shade more pleasant than a solid roofed patio covering.

When we built our gallery/gift shop, we wanted to take advantage of the winter sun, but we also wanted to shade the windows in the summer to reduce heat gain. On the front and back of the shop, we have solid roof overhangs and on the east side we have a slatted roof overhang. In summer at different times of the day, we can sit in the shade provided by on of the three overhangs. In the winter we can sit under the overhang facing south and since the sun is low in the sky that time of year, we can enjoy the warmth. The concrete surrounding the shop allows solar gain in winter by warming up during the day and reflecting heat back into the building at night.

While constructing our rose arbor, we made sure it was tall and wide enough to walk under and there was room to place a couple of benches to sit on. The arbor is 10 x 5 and about 8 feet tall. We also had to make the arbor strong enough to support the weight of the fast growing roses I planted underneath, Cecile Brunner. I also planted Jasminum polyanthum, pink jasmine, on the south facing side. The pink jasmine is a little frost tender in this area, so I wanted to make sure it got early morning and winter sun. In three years the arbor is completely covered by the Cecile Brunner roses and you wouldn't know it now, but I actually pruned it very severely this past winter. I will post another photo of this arbor when the roses and jasmine are in full bloom.

The pergola was built at the top of our herb garden for three reasons. The first to minimize or screen our 4000 gallon water holding tank, second to benefit from the afternoon shade the tank gives, and last to take advantage of the spectacular views of Black Mountain to the East. When I tell people about the water tank they have actually asked me where it is. Since the eye is drawn to the pergola rather than the water tank, some how the water tank seems invisible.

This year I am already enjoying the shade provided by our wisteria pergola, sitting in the shade and hearing the hum of the bees above. As soon as the jasmine and Cecile Brunner begins to bloom I'll be sitting in the shade there too. Later in the year the herb garden pergola is perfect in the late afternoon. Our garden structures are serving their purpose well and providing beauty to look at as well as a source of food and shelter for the insects and birds as well.