The Japanese have used pergolas in their landscaping designs for centuries. If you want to design a Japanese-style garden in your yard, you will want to include some type of covered walkway or pavilion. Pergolas are arbors with cross-beams over the top which are often used to create formal entrances to gardens or to provide a covered area for relaxing and talking. Although the roofs of these structures are not water tight, you can grow vines over them to provide for a shady retreat. While the ancient Japanese built pergolas of stone, modern tastes have changed to wooden structures which are much more affordable to build. In addition to models made of wood, arbors are also available that are fashioned from iron, vinyl, and fiberglass.
Japanese pergolas are knock-offs of the original pagodas which were built to house the ashes of Buddha. Their design often includes straight crosspieces with scrolled ends.
Through the centuries, the structures lost their religious connotations, especially when the designs caught on in the western world where Buddhism is seldom practiced.
Although these classic bowers went out of favor during periods of the 18th and 19th centuries when fashionable gardens when through a natural trend, they have come back into vogue in the 21st century in a big way.
One of the cool things about today’s pergolas is that many of them are available as kits that homeowners can easily assemble without professional help. These kits can either be stock models, or you can find companies that will custom-build your design at their factory and then deliver it to your home for installation. Some websites offer tools so that you can learn about the different elements that are used in order to design the perfect arbor to fit your lawn, deck, or other application.
In order to give your pergola a more Oriental flare, you might want to consider adding Japanese lanterns for soft light and tatami floor mats. You also might like to enclose all or part of the pergola with Shoji sliding doors and Japanese screens. A pergola will add architectural interest to your yard or patio, and adding plants that are typically found in a Japanese garden, such as bamboo, azaleas, moss, and carefully-pruned pine trees, can give your garden a truly Oriental flare.