Pergolas & Patios - A Gardening Guide

Published: 26th February 2008
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Pergolas, patios and courtyards extend the living space of a home and add spaciousness. In Australia, the pergola is fast becoming the natural addition to any new or existing home. Pergolas not only provide protection from the elements all year round but they also allow us to entertain in comfort and style outdoors.

This article looks at design tips for enhancing pergola areas with potted plants, statues, water features, lighting, paving and outdoor furniture to help create an outdoor sanctuary for relaxation.

Ideal Plants for Pergolas - Climbing Plants

If considering the addition of a climbing plant to your pergola structure then the ornamental grape is an ideal choice. The ornamental grape is a deciduous climber that allows sunlight through in winter and much needed shade in summer. These plants are suited to a warm, dry climate and are thus perfect for Australian conditions.

Plant vines 1.2 metres apart for use on a pergola and 2 metres apart if growing them up a fence or trellis. You will need to train the vine up each pergola post to form a trunk and remove all lower growth as the vines develop. The best time to plant grape vines is in winter with fruit harvested between February and May. Regular pruning and trimming is required to produce grapes.

Screening Plants

If looking to add some privacy to your pergola area then there are a number of plants ideal for this purpose including the bougainvillea, wisteria, passionfruit and jasmine. If you want to add some perfume then consider gardenias and orange blossom in the form of Murraya. Tall shrubs in pots can also provide an effective privacy screen.

Container Plants

Some ideal potted plants for courtyards, balconies and pergola areas are:-

• Chinese Star Jasmine

• Small deciduous trees

• Azaleas & camellias

• Daisies & geraniums

• Dwarf impatiens

For seasonal colour consider using planter boxes and hanging baskets filled with petunias, marigolds, geraniums, phlox, snap dragons and nemesia for sunny areas. For shaded areas use potted orchids, violets, ferns, lobelia, cyclamens, fushias, begonias, cordylines, campanula and cinerarias. Hanging baskets are an quick way to add instant colour to an outdoor area however they can also dry out quickly so make sure they are adequately watered. A drip irrigation kit is ideal for watering hanging baskets.

Design Tips

To create harmony and balance in an outdoor entertaining area ensure that pot plants, statues and planters are made of the same or complimentary materials. Group plants and pots together for the best visual effect, coordinating the foliage texture and colour of plants rather than using a mix of individual plants. This can look fussy and crowded in a confined area. 

The added benefit of grouping plants together is that a moist micro environment is created for the plants. Remember to grade plants and pots in size so that they are visually in proportion.


Court yards and pergola areas are often subject to heavy foot traffic thus adding paving or decking is essential. Make sure the area to be paved has good drainage for water run off to avoid pavers becoming slippery and mossy.


Outdoor lighting can be used to highlight water features and special garden aspects. Diffused lighting is best for outdoor entertaining areas.

Garden Furniture

Pergola areas can be greatly enhanced with the addition of casual outdoor furniture. Make sure any furniture used outdoors is durable and waterproof to withstand the elements. Gourmet barbecues are available in a wide range of styles and functioning and can be portable or in-built, the perfect accompaniment to the Australian summer.

© Greg Jacobs, Pergola Land

About the Author
Greg Jacobs is a leading designer of pergolas, patios and outdoor entertaining structures and is the founding director of Pergola Land a successful Pergola Company based in Sydney, Australia. Greg and his team at Pergola Land have been designing and constructing top quality pergolas, patios and carports for Australian customers for the past 10 years. Pergola Land specialize in customized pergolas, patios, carports, sail shades, opening roofs, privacy screens, awnings and decking.

Greg Jacobs is a regular contributor of articles on designing and constructing outdoor entertaining areas. For more information on pergolas and building outdoor entertaining structures visit our website .

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