Here at Perfect Pergolas we often receive calls from potential customers confused about the difference between these garden structures. There is an incredible amount of information out there in 'internet land' however - most of it is just as bemusing and in some cases simply plain wrong! There are differences between a pergola, arbour and a gazebo and knowing them will help you choose your garden structure with confidence.
A gazebo is a stand-alone structure, usually with sides and a roof, frequently situated to maximise available views, of the garden itself or the landscape beyond. They are often hexagonal or octagonal in design. Some have lattice-work sides and built-in seating, giving them a sturdy, enclosed feel. They are structures in their own right and are rarely vehicles for plants.
An arbour is a short 'walk-through' structure, usually made of wood, that connects one part of the garden with another (say, the vegetable garden to a formal lawn area). These are often used for climbers, particularly roses.
There are also smaller, stand-alone arbours with latticed sides, backs and built in seating, for secluded comtemplation of the garden. These arbours with seats are sometimes referred to as Bowers. They can carry climbing plants for additional sensory and romantic appeal.
There are two types of pergola:
The traditional 'lean-to' pergola is frequently made of wood and built against the house to provide a transitory area from the inside to the outside. During the Renaissance period in particular it gave ladies the opportunity to take a walk or sit outside without damaging their complexions.
The 'stand-alone' pergola, again usually made of wood, features uprights but no solid sides or roof. These can be positioned attractively in the garden and allow some degree of protection from the harsh rays of the sun, particuarly if planted up with shading climbers.
Both types of pergola are, in effect, frames fro climbing plants and vines that surround the occupants with foliage, flowers and aromas and offer a measure of protection from the weather and some privacy in urban areas.