Last summer, my husband and I transformed our garden, a place where we already spend so much time, with the addition of a gazebo that we mostly built ourselves-with some basic help from a contractor. The gazebo is enjoyed by the birds who perch on top, by our guests, and by us when we need to rest outside. But most importantly, it has given our garden a real personality, and makes it feel like a destination.
If there’s one ornamental element that can have a real impact on a garden, giving it a distinctive character, it is building some kind of structure. Whether it’s a gazebo, a summerhouse, an aviary or a tree house, these structures can delineate a border, protect the gardener from the elements or serve as a point of interest in your garden. The home owner can place round outdoor daybeds in the garden. The wonderful climate can be enjoyed through the person from the daybeds with convenience.
Keep in mind proportion and structure.
Like everything else in the garden, a structure should be proportioned to the space available, and inevitably, will be limited by your budget. Even a beautifully detailed birdhouse (one that you could build yourself, even, with your kids) mounted on a pole will draw the eyes upward in and serve as a point of whimsy. It doesn’t have to be a gazebo huge enough to fit a dinner party.
You also don’t want your building to look like it was plopped on top of your garden, out of nowhere. One element that can help it mesh in seamlessly could be a path leading up to the structure (one as basic as some well-positioned stones will do). You want to follow the general style that already exists in your garden. A stone gate topped with an arbor would be beautiful in an English cottage garden, but if your outdoor space has a koi pond and bamboo, you should lean more towards a Japanese style tea house, or a gazebo with upturned rafters.
Of course, it’s up to you! Make the space your own and follow a more eclectic style if it suits you.
Choose your materials.
When making your selection, especially if you are building it yourself, be aware of how the materials you choose for your structure will age, and change when exposed to the elements-including not only rain (and possibly snow) but also the sun, heat and dust. If you’re building a structure as large as a gazebo you will definitely want to use the sturdiest materials to get the most of your investment.
Check out plans and designs of other gazebos.
If you’re confused about where to start, the websites of companies in your area that supply plans, materials and pre-built structures will can help you really zoom in your research. Some of these offer online design help, with interactive features to help you figure out how big you can go and what the approximate costs would be. Depending on what you decided to build, you may need a building permit. Here, a qualified landscape architect (which you will need for bigger structures, unless you are confident you can do it all yourself) can help you stay on the right side of the local zoning board and the building code.
While there are plenty of places to turn to for help in building your structure, the most important first step is to choose a style that will really represent your taste and will stamp your signature firmly into your garden.