How to Choose the Perfect Garden Structure

Designing your garden around a built garden shelter adds a whole new dimension to your green space.

A stunning wooden structure in your garden not only gives you somewhere to sit out of the rain or in the shade, but makes a striking design statement too. Dividing your garden into sections with structures creates an illusion of extra space as well as a wonderful base for planting trailing, climbing, or even roofing plantsWhether it’s an arch, arbour, pergola or pavilion, there's a whole range of garden structures on offer....

The easiest way to put a roof up as a form of garden shelter is to install an arbour. An arbour is, in its simplest form, a seat with an attached roof. Arbours work well placed in any sun trap in the garden or positioned where the sitter is guaranteed the best view of the garden. What’s more, their size makes them perfect for tucking away in heavily planted areas. You might also want to use an arbour as a seating option close to the house, perhaps on a patio or new decking. Arbours lend themselves to growing plants brilliantly and the majority of them come with a trellis already integrated into the structure. Classic climbing roses, Bougainvillea, English cottage garden favourites like sweet peas and clematis all make great flowering climbers on an arbour. If you want to go down the edible route, then consider grape vines, peas, squashes, or even runner beans for an unconventional but heavy cropping addition.

Arches and Pergolas
Both arches and pergolas (also called gazebos) are semi-roofed structures, meaning beams are slung across the top of the supports, providing some, but not total, cover. Traditionally, a well-planted pergola should offer enough cover to act as a smoking or rain shelter. The likes of clematis, roses, honeysuckles and vines will climb quickly, though bear in mind that not all offer year-round cover. Treat your pergola like an outdoor – albeit wall-less – room, a place to sit and socialise. When it comes to plants, choose something evergreen: clematis will stay green all year round, as will jasmine. You could also use this semi-roofed structure as a rain shelter to cover the end of a length of deck where you might be eating or drinking, or to provide shelter for shade-loving plants, like ferns. Arches are usually used as entrances or gateways into the garden, and look great situated over paths: they won’t provide anything more than passing shelter but mark out a section in the garden and invite visitors to explore. 

A pavilion offers a whole other level when it comes to garden structures. Although most don’t feature a fully water-tight roof, they do provide serious weather shelter. Most garden structures don’t require planning permission, but some pavilions are big enough to cross that line, so if you’re unsure it’s probably best to check with your local planning authority. And remember, neighbours always appreciate forewarning of major changes to your garden.There are limitless uses for a pavilion - you can drink and dine under there, set up a hot tub, or create a children’s play area. You can order pavilions with or without decking, giving you even more choice. Like all of these structures, pavilions – usually made from quality wood – are something of a blank canvas. Potted plants and planters work well in and around a pavillion but you can also have a bit more fun decorating – theme it around anything from a desert oasis to a country cottage room.

Our experts say...
• Before you choose your shelter, have a good think about what it will be used for, how it will sit in your garden, and how much of the year you’d like to use it for – garden lovers tend to enjoy them all year round, but few people want a barbecue in February!
• There are lots of other options, and most wooden garden structures are very customisable, so if you have a specific use in mind and arbours, arches, pavilions or pergolas don’t quite cut it, then take a look at some sheds, playhouses and tool stores to see if they suit your needs.

23rd Apr 2019