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Enclosed Pergola - What Plants To Grow & Layout Design

Hi, I have built a pergola in my courtyard and it is enclosed on 3 sides and partially open on the 4th. It has a concrete floor. I have put a polycarbonate roof on top as originally I planned to make it an all weather outdoor hobby area. During the summer it receives direct sunlight from midday to sunset and in the winter it stays damp much of the time. The pergola is about 2 metres high.

I want to create a garden of sorts underneath using containers and troughs and don't mind to build permanent raised beds against a wall. Can anyone recommend (1) plants I could use that won't dry up and die in the summer months, and ones that are tolerant of damp conditions in the winter and (2) a design? 

I was hoping to make a tropical style garden with a nice waterfall and pond with lots of evergreen plants.

Many thanks for your help, Matt


  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,653
    Tall order so need more info.

    Where are you?  How hot and cold do you get?  Can we have a photo?
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Hi, sorry for the late reply. Please see below the photos of the pergola taken from above. During the winter it gets down to about 5 degC and shady, and summer time it's sunny and climbs up to 32 degC. 

    My concern is more about the direct sunlight in the summer months killing all the plants / shrubs / small trees.

  • NollieNollie Posts: 7,329
    Hello, I think you might have a problem with the clear polycarbonate roof intensifying the summer sun and frying plants, would you consider shade netting or another form of sun filter on top? The winter damp/wet won’t be so much of a problem if you choose your plants wisely and incorporate good drainage into your troughs. As to plant choice, there are a few people here who have tropical-style gardens so hopefully someone with direct experience of growing them will chip in...
    Mountainous Northern Catalunya, Spain. Hot summers, cold winters.
  • edited January 2020
    HI Nollie, that was exactly what happened last summer. I put a nice healthy wisteria down there to grow up one of the legs, by the next day it was dead. 

    I was thinking to hang some form of fabric cover under the clear polycarbonate so there is no direct sunlight comes through in the summer months. Winter time should be OK.

    From the photo, the house wall is south facing, the wooden fence is west, and opposite the wooden fence is east direction. The little building with the roof in the bottom left is an outside toilet - it goes in further under the wall.

    The handy part is, the east wall open, so there could be scope to put some large trees/plants?

    Any ideas or suggestions are welcome. I am a complete novice gardener - this is my first home, so willing to spend time and money to make it nice.

    Many thanks in advance.
  • Hi Matt, we did what you are doing about five years ago. First of all we planted a rose, city of York in the soil border. Trained it underneath the polycarbonate and made a good fan. We found that greenfly dropped into our food on the dining table, we have now taken it out and spread it on top. The sides are clothed with trellis that has plastic leaves in it just for convenience. We have a pot here and there with an escallonia for yellow stripped colour. Ferns, arum lilies , busy lizzies, fuschia black stemmed bamboo, and at the lightest corner star jasmine plant for scent. The down side is that leaves get clogged under the roses stems and it goes green where the sun doesn’t get it in winter and this has to be cleaned off. It’s not a massive job though. All in all we would t be without it.
  • Hi Valerie, thank you for replying and the photo. Your pergola looks fantastic, I definitely like what you have done. Colourful and nice smelling. 

    I was debating to make a raised bed in the open area in the east area (rather than a water feature) and to get some climbing plants to grow from there - such as roses like you have done.
  • We found a water feature quite noisy, it’s difficult to make it sound tinkling, but it looked amazing. It was in a different place in the garden. I have panels of plastic clothed trellis and in front foliage evergreens, eleagness. it makes it cosy. I am surprised that the polypropylene keeps it quite warm in winter especially with the wind breaks I have. Tropical looking plants like Fatsia, Bamboo, very tall bronze leaved  cannas look good with arum lilies, arums keep their leaves with us as we are in Devon. Abutilon megapotanicum look quite tropical and is still flowering, and there are plenty of flowering plants that don’t mind the shady area. depending on where you are in the Uk, what a wonderful project you have to look forward to and experiment. Val.
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