Pergola Landscape Design
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Landscape Design

Pergola Landscape Design

Arizona is known for its extreme summer temperatures – A Ramada or Pergola is perfect for outdoor entertaining.

Arizonans are constantly looking for ways to beat the heat! With swimming pools being the number one investment for those looking to cool off when it hits 100 degrees, you can bet creating shade follows a close second. For the average Phoenix backyard, you can almost expect a covered shade patio. Most of us know that the “builder patio” is always very small, and can barely fit a table and chairs. The newest fad is getting out into the backyard and creating your own shade.

Unique Companies has many different ways of creating a covered patio to assist in managing the Arizona sun. As licensed general contractors, we are one of the only landscape and pool companies that can legally build one of the structures with one of our custom landscape pool projects. We have many different types of structures available but the most popular are the pergola or a Ramada/gazebo.

Terminology 101

Many of our clients have different terms used for these outside structures – here are Unique’s definitions and how they correlate with the dictionary definitions:

Ramada – [ra•ma•da]
Dictionary: An open or semi enclosed shelter roofed with brush or branches, designed especially to provide shade. B. An open porch or breezeway.

Unique’s Terminology: An outdoor shade structure with a covered fully-enclosed roof, generally matching the architecture and materials used in existing house structure. A Ramada generally has 4 supporting columns or posts, with open sides.

Pergola – [pur-guh-luh]
Dictionary: An arbor formed of horizontal trellis work supported on columns or posts, over which vines or other plants are trained.

Unique’s Terminology: An outdoor shade structure with an open trellis or wood ceiling, generally constructed of wood, with large wood beams and wood rafters for the ceiling. A pergola generally has 4 supporting columns or posts, with open sides.

Gazebo – [guh-zey-boh, -zee-]

Dictionary: 1. a structure, as an open or latticework pavilion or summerhouse, built on a site that provides an attractive view. 2. A small roofed structure that is screened on all sides, used for outdoor entertaining and dining.

Unique’s Terminology: An outdoor shade structure with a covered, vaulted ceiling, generally constructed of wood, with 5 or more sides. A gazebo is usually hexagonal, and may match the architecture of the house. Unique generally builds Ramadas to match the house, not gazebos.

Palapa – [puh-lah-puh]

Dictionary: 1. An open-sided dwelling with a thatched roof made of dried palm leaves. 2. A structure, such as a bar or restaurant in a tropical resort, that is open-sided and thatched with palm leaves.

Unique’s Terminology: A tropical shade structure or “umbrella” that is built with pine-peeled posts and palm leaves. This structure can be an umbrella with a single post, or constructed with multiple support posts for a larger palapa.

The basics: Unique’s basic outdoor shade structures are our pergola structures. These are the least expensive structures because they are made almost entirely of wood, and can be built in a few days. Ranging from 100 Sq Ft to over 600 Sq Ft, pergolas can accommodate almost any look by just changing the support posts. An Italian pergola may have Corinthian stone columns, where a southwestern pergola could have wood or round peeled posts.

The upgrades: For the most shade one can buy, a Ramada is the best bet! These structures have a completely sealed roof, with tile & more. Outdoor lighting, ceiling fans, and speakers can finish one of our upgraded Ramadas in Arizona. An upgraded pergola may contain some built-in landscape lighting, some shade cloth (for more shade), or one of our featured “double-post” setups.

The “enthusiast”: Backyard living begins in your covered patio areas, and Unique is known for building some of Phoenix’s finest Ramadas, pergolas and gazebos! Our “enthusiast” for backyard shade will demand a covered Ramada by the pool, most likely sunken to water level – creating a swim-up bar! Belly up in the pool, mix a drink from the bartender’s area, you name it! Sunken Ramadas are our number one specialty. Add a custom fireplace in one of the corners, and you’ve got Phoenix backyard living at its finest!

Create a space out in the yard, where you can sit and look back at the house. This will encourage you and guests to venture out in the yard. A pergola provides plenty of shade, even with an open roof – remember the sun is never directly over the rafters. Make sure you run your rafters North and South – this provides the most shade, 12 months a year!

Make sure your custom Ramada or Gazebo matches the architecture of your home! In fact, most HOA’s require it. When building your Arizona shade structure, don’t skimp on electrical wiring – you’ve got only one chance to make sure that you’ve got ample lighting, ceiling fans or you are pre-wired for future outdoor speakers.


All of our backyard structures are custom built to fit our clients design needs. Unique is licensed to build these structures, and we also handle all aspects of the design and engineering required for city permits. Unique handles the HOA submittal requirements, secures the necessary city permits and deals with each city inspection. Typically any structure over 150 Sq Ft will require some sort of city or county inspection – and Unique Landscapes designers are trained to handle these tedious submittals for our clients.

Upon receipt of permits and construction documents, Unique Landscapes begins with a solid footing / foundation on all of our Ramadas and Pergolas. After footing, the structure is generally framed with lumber, or columns are built with CMU block. Our clients love our “vaulted” ceilings which create an open atmosphere outdoors. Our framers are highly trained in making sure the exposed lumber is cut to perfection and Unique’s painters provide a coat of paint or stain to preserve the wood.