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There is much confusion over what to call garden structures. Is it an arbor, trellis, pergola, patio cover or gazebo? People often use these terms interchangeably and without knowing what each really means. Below you will find definitions for each of these structure types.


A freestanding structure with an open roof that is supported by columns or posts. A pergola may be used to cover a walkway or to provide filtered shade for an outdoor living space. The word pergola has come to be used interchangeably with patio cover.

Patio cover

An attached structure that provides shade and/or rain coverage for a patio or deck. A patio cover may have an open or solid roof. The term patio cover is often used interchangeably with pergola.


A freestanding, octagonal structure with a solid, pitched roof and open sides that provides full shade without obstructing views. It is common for gazebos to be screened in to provide a bug-free space for relaxing. Gazebos can be confused with pergolas.


A freestanding structure similar to a pergola, but with a closed roof. A ramada provides complete shade as well as protection from rain. The closed roof traps heat, which can be beneficial in colder weather. Ramadas are often placed over outdoor kitchens or near an outdoor fireplace. Some landscape professionals use the term pavilion.

Pool House

A freestanding enclosed structure which can include a kitchen, game room or even a spare bedroom for guests. Often used in areas with inclement or cold weather. Also a great place for storing pool supplies and equipment. Learn more about pool house design.


A small framework that supports climbing plants and serves as a passageway. Arbors are often arched and placed over a path or gate. Arbors are sometimes called pergolas or trellises.


A flat section of lattice work used to support vines. Often used to add interest to a blank wall, add height to fences, or to add privacy to an outdoor structure. Trellises are commonly confused with arbors.


Greenhouses are structures that create their own microclimate inside their walls. They are good for those who want to grow exotic plants or have homegrown food year round. Learn about the four criteria of greenhouse planning.

Since many of these terms are used interchangeably it is important to be able to explain what you want to a designer or contractor. Make sure you express whether you are looking for a freestanding or attached structure and whether you want it to have an open or solid roof. If you communicate these factors clearly you will end up with the right type of structure despite what you or your designer may call it.

See how your outdoor structures might fit into your overall landscape design with a full yard design mockup from the experts at Tilly Design, an affordable online landscape design service.

Landscaping Network

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