Design, planting and styling tips

When the weather permits, there’s nothing quite like relaxing under a pretty vine-covered pergola and putting your feet up, so it’s no wonder the search for ‘pergola roof ideas’ has skyrocketed during lockdown.

But we haven’t reached the pinnacle of pergola yet. Furniture brand Harbor Lifestyle said its pergola sales are up 195% this year … and with good reason. Installing a pergola will add an instant wow factor to your garden and provide your plants with additional structure to climb on. Handy if, like us, you have no more floor space.

The main purpose of a pergola (actually just a fancy word for a roof terrace) is to provide shelter from the elements while increasing your seating area. Pergolas are incredibly versatile. They can be a stylish way to create privacy as well as a functional focal point. Whether your garden design is traditional and relaxed, or sleek and modern, or somewhere in between, there’s a pergola roof for you. But before we get to our favorite pergola roof ideas, here are some top tips for building your perfect pergola.

Pergola Roof Ideas: Building Tips

1. Nail the construction

RHS approved spiritually crafted pergolas sit in Lyme Regis. Founder Martin Young has some tips for the right connections: “Traditionally, pergolas are built with mortise and tenon joints that are ‘doweled’. However, with the changing seasons in the UK, the wooden pegs can shrink and fall out, weakening the structure. To counteract this, we recommend using concealed stainless steel screws. Additionally, a curved brace at each corner adds stability and looks fantastic.”

When purchasing a pergola kit, make sure you have accurate measurements and consider whether you want a wall-mounted or free-standing structure. There are some cases where you will need planning permission for a pergola (e.g. if your home is listed or is in a conservation area).

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2. Choose a durable material

Whether you are building your own pergola or looking for one, invest in quality wood for a structure that will provide years of enjoyment. “Many different types of oak are used in pergola construction. Most in the UK tend to be green oak, which once dried has many knots and can warp dramatically.

“We recommend looking for ‘Prime Grade’ joinery quality green oak. This guarantees that it is not only free of knots but also of sapwood. Sapwood is the outer part of the tree, usually much paler, used for interior furniture. But for an outdoor structure like a pergola, the sapwood will rot within 5 years.”

3. Choose the best roof

The best pergola roof really depends on how you use the space, how well it fits in with your environment, and whether you want an open structure or something more secluded and waterproof.

With our unpredictable British weather, many are now opting for a waterproof pergola roof. Pergola roof panels come in plastic, aluminum and fiberglass. All are popular choices for a dry soiree space — albeit with the added expense of keeping them clean.

Others may opt for a traditional four post pergola with an open structure and a batten roof for climbing plants and the addition of a trellis wall or trellis roof panel to help any climbing plants.

3. Time it right

If you’re on a budget, try shopping for gardening supplies during the off-season. Usually, the best deals come between October and January, when we’re all thinking about hot chocolate on the sofa, rather than cocktails on the veranda.

Pergola Roof Ideas

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Pergola roof ideas: style and design

1. Get cozy by adding a swing seat

One of the best things about a pergola with a roof is that you can attach things to it. Depending on how much space you’re working with, you can opt for a full-fledged swing seat or cozy up with a hanging chair. For a laid-back, boho vibe, try a macrame-style hanging chair. We love this organic cotton number on Etsy.

Read: 12 Comfortable Garden Swings for Relaxing Outdoors

2. Add a decorative privacy screen to your pergola roof

A striking way to add some drama to your pergola is to add a decorative privacy screen. When the sun shines through, you get a mesmerizing light and shadow show. Garden design duo The distinctive gardener are fans of the decorative pergola privacy screen and use it screen with envy in their designs.

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3. Add edibles

If the way to your heart is through your stomach, then try to get your vegetable garden to the top. There are many climbing plants that look beautiful and give you a cheeky lunchtime snack. Opt for relatively quick cover for vigorous growers like grapes and passionflower.

Those with a warmer climate and a sheltered but sunny spot might even try loofahs — the ones you don’t eat can be used as dishwashing sponges. For flowers, try hanging or climbing nasturtiums. The flowers, leaves, and seeds are edible and they look great when you’re not chewing on them.

Pergola Roof Ideas

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4. Opt for Cottagecore

Some people like the architectural quality of bare pergola beams, others prefer their cottagecore-style garden structures to be covered in foliage and flowers. If you fall into the latter, a pergola is a great way to indulge in floral maximalism.

Go for romance with climbing roses, add sweet peas or jasmine for an intoxicatingly scented seating area, or go all out with a stunning white wisteria draped over a metal frame, like this one by a garden designer Manoj Malde. If you’re looking for a long flowering period, clematis is unrivalled. Treat those blooms right and your pergola will be bringing in the bees and Instagram likes in no time.

5. Keep it contemporary

A bare pergola painted black can look dramatic with a few well-chosen pieces of furniture, LED strip lights, and a few low-maintenance plants. The addition of glass panels like the SunsLifestyle Outdoor Living Garden at Hampton Court creates the feel of a garden room, while a retractable pergola roof is sure to impress. But of course you can also set limits. Ula Maria Studio does it work wonderfully with grasses such as Calamagrostis “Karl Foerster” which adds movement and texture while giving the impression of being embedded in a cave.

6. Make it multifunctional

If you’re short on space, check them out Garden of the John King Brain Tumor Foundation for inspiration. It featured eye-catching pergola seats that doubled as planters for fragrant climbing plants. Plus, you don’t need a sprawling backyard to have an eye-catching pergola. A sensitively positioned pergola like this one is the envy of zoom meetings @ourlondonlistedhome tucked one into her courtyard-style room. Perfect for relaxed working from home and al fresco dining.

7. Surround yourself with 50 shades of green

Create an expansive green canopy with the lush foliage of a variegated Hedera, a large-leaved, self-clinging climber that thrives in shade. Pair it with star jasmine for the scent and those pretty white flowers. If you have a sunnier plot. Opt for low-maintenance tree ivy, also known by its less flattering name, stubborn lizzie.

It might be tempting to paint your pergola, but don’t do it, says Martin. “As oak is exposed to the elements, it will mature and change color over time. It naturally turns to a beautiful silver tone that allows the surrounding planting scheme to really take center stage.”

8. Transport yourself to the Mediterranean

For that weathered, beachy look, use reclaimed wood for your pergola roof (see The Blue Diamond Group Beautiful Abandoned Garden for inspiration). If you have light, sandy soil, try bringing the Mediterranean into your space with drought-tolerant vines that thrive on litter water. Bomarea multiflora has tubular flowers of sunset orange that complement the earthy tones of your terracotta pots. Bougainvillea ‘Barbara Karst’ can be grown in a pot and will cover your pergola with cheerful pink flowers.

You can also build shelving into your pergola or add hanging baskets to your pergola roof for oregano and aloe vera. If you’re outside any time of the year, consider including winter-blooming plants like Tropaeolum tricolor, a herbaceous climber with tiny black-edged flowers that look like miniature flamenco dresses and are sure to get you in the holiday spirit on even the cloudiest of days.

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