Funny things, garden structures. At a guess, you know why you want one, where you'll put it in your garden and you probably even have a vague idea of what you want it to look like, but have you any idea what it’s called?
You're not alone. Many people don't know the difference between arbours, pergolas and gazebos, so when it comes to shopping for their garden, they end up trawling through images of structures they don’t want. First things first, if you haven’t already done so, decide what you want your garden feature to do and then you'll be able to narrow your choice down to one of the following categories:
These are stand alone features that usually have wooden lattice around the sides which makes them ideal for climbing plants. Designed to be used as a place for relaxation, arbours tend to have an arched or domed roof and they'll seat about four people.
Confusingly, some sites list arches under ‘Arbours’. Although they both have an arched roof, an arch is a stand alone structure without any seating. You'd use one to mark an entryway, to frame a pathway or just because you liked it.
You'll often find pergolas used for walkways or seating areas. They have a set of pillars with overhead cross-beams that provide a level of shading. Like arbours, pergolas often include lattice work which supports climbing plants so that the entire structure becomes a natural looking shelter. Pergolas can be used as an independent garden feature or you could attach one to a side of your house in order to provide shade over a patio.
It's the roof that is the distinguishing feature of a gazebo. They always have a full roof to provide shelter, but it's up to you whether you choose to have the sides open or closed. An open-side gazebo could be confused with a pergola because they both have pillars, but you'll know it's a gazebo because it has a solid roof and its own floor, whereas a closed-side gazebo has solid walls with one open side.
Finally, there is one other garden structure you should know about, although it is slightly less common, and that's the pagoda. They're often mistaken for a gazebo, but if you visualise an oriental tea house with an elaborate and extravagantly designed roof, you'll appreciate the difference.