Gazebos are stylish and regal structures which have graced high class lawns and gardens for centuries. These days homeowners can afford garden gazebos themselves, and so they are becoming a more common sight. With mass produced gazebo kits and even portable gazebos, you can often find a solution for less than a hundred dollars. Though the old adage that you get what you pay for is always an important consideration.
In some cases this widespread nature of prefabricated gazebos can undermine the sophisticated look that they are known for. A the same time it also opens up a great deal of room to make your gazebo and landscaping into a unique and functional combination. There is a tremendous variation in the styles, materials used, and price range for gazebos these days, and so there should be an option that is right for every yard and every budget.
In general there are two types of prefabricated gazebos that you can buy. Portable and lightweight gazebos that function much like camping tents, and more sturdy kits that you assemble on site. Each has a specific purpose they can fulfill. Understanding how they fill these purposes will ensure that you can choose the right gazebo for your garden.
Roles that Gazebos Play in Gardens
In a garden, a gazebo can do a lot for an outdoor structure. The style of the gazebo can of course be a wonderful aesthetic addition to the garden. Not just in it’s own right, but in how it interacts with the more natural aspects. Wooden gazebos are especially adapt in this regard, as the natural look and feel of the construction materials will feel right at home among the rocks, bushes, and trees which decorate the landscaping.
A gazebo can also serve as a foundation upon which to build that landscaping. For instance, much like the potting shed, a gazebo can have built in planters and places to hang pots from, creating a great area to grow plants which could use a little bit of protection from the elements. At the same time, these plants can help give the gazebo an even more natural appeal. In some cases, an arbor integrated into the gazebo can even make for a privacy screen, and increased shading in the hot summer months. This is an especially useful addition to the south facing side of a gazebo if there isn’t adequate shade from trees.
Benefits of Hardtop Gazebos for Your Garden
Most gazebo kits are heavier and have wooden structures with a conventional wood slat roof. This allows for the gazebo to be used year round, whether snow or shine. The roof is sturdy enough to stand up to snow accumulation, and during the summer the shade is complete to provide a very cool place to enjoy the beauty of your garden from.
Since the framing of hardtop gazebos is generally heavy duty, you can use it to support heavier objects. This could mean hanging pots from the rafters or eaves, or even stringing a hammock between two of the posts. With a hardtop gazebo in your garden, you will have a comfortable place to rest and relax and soak in the beauty of nature.
There are some problems with hardtop gazebos though, especially in gardens. Often these roofs aren’t as high quality as you’d expect, and can have problems with water damage within just a couple of years. Using the gazebo as a trellis can increase the likelihood of water damage occurring, due to the plant canopy increasing the humidity the roof and structural components face.
Another problem is that often the roof isn’t as high quality as you’d expect. Wood slats bring a picturesque look, but they have to be made of the right wood to resist water and pest problems. Also, regardless of the wood used, you will need to maintain the finish so as to keep it well protected from the elements.
In cheaper kits though, poor choice of wood for the slats is a common problem. Even with reapplying protective sealants, wood like pine can have problems with water damage, dry rot, or termites within just a couple of years. Wood such as cedar, redwood, and teak are far better suited for such applications. So choose your kit carefully.
Why Gazebo Canopies Help in Gardens
Gazebo kits aren’t too difficult to set up, but for those who just want a gazebo now without much effort, canopy versions are available. While some of these are still rather heavy duty in regards to their framing, there is a whole range between that and the instant pop up gazebos that are also available. In between you will find lightweight gazebo canopies, often with aluminum framing, which can be moved around without much effort.
This can be a real benefit in a garden. When plants are first sprouting, they need protection from the hot sun and heavy rains. With a fabric cover like canvas, you won’t get total shade. In fact, you can choose just about any amount of shade you want by choosing the right gazebo canopy. Canvas, depending on what weight of material it is, is somewhere in the middle ground, with lighter fabrics allowing more sunlight through.
So having a lightweight gazebo canopy can give you a rain shelter and screen house for your new plants.
Drawbacks to a Garden Gazebo Canopy
The problem with gazebo canopies is that they aren’t able to stand up to heavy weather, especially snow accumulation. This means that you can’t leave them out all year in colder climates. Heavy winds can also damage them, leading to tears in the stitching or even bent framing poles.
Also, the structures aren’t very hefty in most cases, so can’t hold up a lot of extra weight. You may be able to get away with hanging a planter or two from the frames, but a hammock is out of the question. You can get around these drawbacks by using stands for planters, or even for hammocks. In fact you may find that a standalone hammock frame is the perfect accessory to a lightweight garden gazebo. That way you can have a shaded spot to enjoy your hammock when it’s too hot outside. At the same time, you always have the option to remove the canopy and enjoy the extra sun while taking a nap during the cooler times of year.
Turning Your Gazebo into a Garden Screen House
Most prefabricated gazebos have accessories that you can add to them. This can be lighting or curtains, privacy screens or insect nets. For the garden, the insect netting offers an interesting possibility, especially for gazebos with very lightweight cloth canopies. In this case you can create a simple greenhouse that doesn’t cost much money. It can be a wonderful place to grow light-sensitive plants and seedlings.
Whether in the garden or covering the patio, wood pergola kits are a quick and easy way to bring style with a natural touch to your backyard. The elegant and graceful lines of a pergola’s structure can really impact the visual aesthetic of your home and garden. Because of how it will draw the eye, making sure it looks right is very important.
In outdoor environments, wooden structures fit in so beautifully. Their grain, color, and texture meld into the surroundings and help soften the artificial lines of the structure. This is one area where wood has an advantage over most other materials. It can be difficult to match the look of vinyl or metal structures to the natural feel of your yard and garden, but wood fits right in.
Of course there are some disadvantages to wooden structures. Rot and termites can attack wood that isn’t protected. Understanding what types of wood will look best and last longest can go a long way towards ensuring that you get your money’s worth from the pergola kit you choose.
Are Cheap Pergola Kits Worth the Cost?
When looking at all the plans, designs and kit pergolas for sale, it can be very enticing to go for the cheaper options. The cheapest pergola kits can be several times less expensive than the designer pergolas that can cost thousands of dollars.
In general though, you do get what you pay for. Lower price will mean lower quality of components. Of course, part of what you are getting with the very expensive kits is the exclusivity of having something most other people won’t. This isn’t generally a good investment with a wooden pergola kit, as the unique look of the wood is going to ensure that no two pergolas end up looking alike.
A good compromise is to look for high quality kits that aren’t carrying a high priced designer label. The most important thing is going to be that the wooden components of the kit are made from weather and pest resistant wood, and that they have been fabricated to fit together snuggly. Loose joints in a pergola can spell disaster, as there is no exterior shell to help stiffen things up.
A wobbly pergola can be a real eyesore, as the main visual appeal of the structure is the parallel lines in most designs. For that reason it is very important that the wood pergola kits you consider have been manufactured to exacting standards.
We’ve talked about Google Sketchup here on pergolawning.com before, it’s one of our favorite places to go for design ideas for just about anything. There are plenty of great pergola designs there too.
When we think of pergola designs, usually it’s the visual of the structure itself that comes to mind, rather than the various purposes that it can fill. With the right planning though, a pergola can be a cornerstone for many different backyard activities. A place for barbecues, or to use as a trellis for plants. One of our favorite backyard activities though is simply being lazy in a hammock, and a pergola can help there too!
This is something I’ve always tried to design into outdoor structures. Tying off the hammock to two trees can be difficult, and can harm the trees in some cases. Also the shade cast by the trees may not be right to provide the most comfort.
But with a structure like a pergola, you can design it in such a way as to provide just the right spacing for your hammock, to support the weight without causing damage to your landscaping, and also to provide just the right amount of shade to make your lazy afternoons in the hammock as comfortable as possible.
Aligning Your Hammock Stand Pergola
One of the interesting things about pergolas is how they cast shade. Because the slats on top are generally rectangular, with one dimension much wider than the other, they will cast varying amounts of shade at different times of day, and even at different times of year. You can use this to your advantage if you plan properly.
For instance, if you live in a generally mild climate, you might enjoy the sunlight most of the time. Perhaps only during the mid-day would it be uncomfortable. In such cases, aligning the hammock pergola stand North and South at the ends would mean that in the morning and evening you would have more sunlight than at mid-day.
Also you could align the slats at an angle to not allow as much sunlight through in the summer as in the winter when the sun is lower in the sky.
Taking Shading to the Next Level
Of course in hotter climates, you might not want sun much at all. To accomplish this you’d want to extend the width of the slats up top so that they provide cover for more of the day. Or you could go with a more traditional pergola design with 4 posts, keeping your hammock between the Northernmost posts (in the Northern Hemisphere) so as to keep shading throughout the day.
Another way to dramatically increase the shading a pergola provides is to run vines up it and let the plant canopy do most of the shading for you. This can even be a way to expand the amount of room you have for gardening, as fruits and vegetables could be trellised on the pergola. You see this commonly with grapes, but various types of melons, cucumbers, tomatoes and other productive vines could also be used.