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GREENFINGERS… the Alan Titchmarsh column – April 2023

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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Richard Young/Shutterstock (10241148ab) Alan Titchmarsh on the Viking Cruises' 'The Art of Viking Garden' at RHS Chelsea Flower Show' RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Press Day, London, UK - 20 May 2019

He’s a brilliant presenter, accomplished gardener, talented novelist, and all-round horticultural inspiration. This month, Alan Titchmarsh discusses something in our gardens that dates right the way back to 1400BC, yet is as popular today than ever before. It’s the humble pergola.


I was asked by someone the other day what my favourite thing was in my garden – a plant, a tree, perhaps something manmade.


I guess the answer is really that while in one week I’m won over by the glory and spectacular appearance of some raised beds; the next maybe I’m in awe of an old stone wall that could report on the changing of the seasons for many decades further back than me, and so the deliberation goes on and on as the weeks and month go by.


However, if I had to pin my colours to something, I would struggle to look past a pergola. And if there’s one addition you’re thinking of making to your outdoor space this year, consider one of these. They date right the way back beyond Roman times, though were popularised by Caesar and his chums.


While the belief is you’ll need a decent plot of land on which to place it, in truth pergolas can be built in a variety of sizes, shapes and materials to suit any garden style or size. They can be freestanding or attached to a house or other garden structure and will give you the necessary height that means you can experiment with vertical gardening – think climbing plants such as vines, roses, and wisteria – without having to worry about awkward poles, wonky trellises and more!

Mostly, a pergola provides a real focal point to the garden – I often think of mine as being akin to a church altar! It’s something that looks over an entire space with a sense of importance and prestige.


On a practical level, pergolas are brilliant for shade and shelter. There are many plants that shouldn’t be in direct sunlight for the whole of the day, while having a shaded area that can be used for outdoor entertaining, dining or relaxing can transform an average afternoon, whether alone or with friends, into a glorious one.


There’s also the privacy element, and the fact pergolas are generally low maintenance and can last for many years with minimal upkeep.


As for cost, my advice is to shop around and see what you can get. From the very basic costing a couple of hundred pounds to elegant stone-pillared creations that go well into four figures, your budget and your personal taste can lead the way in creating for you a garden centrepiece that will evolve in the same way that your garden does. With good maintenance, your pergola has the ability to outlast the majority of other features in your garden… just ask the Romans!


Main Photo by Richard Young/Shutterstock (10241148ab)

Alan Titchmarsh on the Viking Cruises’ ‘The Art of Viking Garden’ at RHS Chelsea Flower Show’


RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Press Day, London, UK – 20 May 2019

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