Towering Pergolas in Children’s Gardens

By Michelle Domocol

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When I designed a children’s garden for Healing Present and other schools in the Philippines, I needed an special architectural element that would impress students. One structure wowed children: Living Arches. Living arches can be rectangular pergolas, curved arbors, or archways filled with growing vines, ephiphytes, flowers, or edible flora.

Children are awed by towering structures that gently envelop a space. Arches strewn with plants can make a garden entrance, stairway or outdoor path magical. Interactive pergolas and archways can be a delightful design choice. In Healing Present’s, I designed pergolas with edible fruiting vines, berry shrubs and flowers. This design facilitates fun harvesting activities and healthy fruit snacking.

Photo 1. One of the Healing Present pergolas with herbaceous borders along the path.

I made sure the plant varieties for Healing Present’s pergolas produced eye-catching shades of red, pink, orange and yellow petals or fruit. The edible fruits were multiple passionfruit types varying from yellow, purple, red and green hues.

Other seasonal planting schemes included:

  • Aromatic Shrubs/Trees: Acerola Berry, Bengal Berry, Cinnamon Tree
  • Fruit Vines: Apple guava passionfruit, Cherry Passionfruit
  • Edible and Medicinal Groundcovers: Cosmos, Mitsuba, thai basil, holy basil, Vietnamese coriander, Lemon Grass

Overall a broad biodiversity occupied the pergolas and archways. Some of the pergolas included herbaceous borders (Photo 1) and playground features (Photo 2) beside or underneath the pergola. This gave children a visual and edible feast at their feet and above their heads. The delicious assortment of tastes, sounds, textures, aromas and tasty treats were a sensory treat.

Photo 2. A) Custom-made “monkey bars” B) Slide C & D) Swinging Rope Bridge