Pergolas can be stand-alone structures or can be connected to buildings. They are great for walkways and dining areas. Free-standing pergolas control large vines that could otherwise damage roofs. Pergolas are made using a series of overhead slats. Vines planted below can easily find their way up and over these slats. Plants will reduce the amount of water and sunlight allowed through the pergola. This type of structure will provide the best sun exposure for vines and climbers, which will result in many more blooms.
At maturity, wisteria vines are more like trees. The trunk can become heavy and will require a sturdy wood structure to grow on. Use a free-standing pergola for wisteria so it will not damage house structures. Aside from its size, this is a rewarding plant to grow. Even when not covered with masses of hanging fragrant flower clusters, the vining wood is attractive. To get the greatest benefit, plant a Japanese wisteria at one end of the pergola, and a Chinese wisteria at the other. Each of these vines have different bloom times. There are white, pink and purple varieties to choose from. Buy them at 3 to 5 years of age so they will be ready to bloom the first year you plant them. Wisteria that are grown from cuttings will bloom the earliest.
Honeysuckle (Lonicera) is not a heavy vine, but it is fast growing and large. It can be kept pruned, but it will be an ongoing task to tame it. It is better to allow it the space it needs on a pergola. Some Japanese honeysuckles are considered invasive, so choose a legal variety. Each state has an invasive plant list so you can check to see if any are banned. Once you have chosen the right honeysuckle, there are few plants as carefree to grow. Most will bloom all summer and well into the fall. The red or black berries are ornamental and also attractive to birds. Honey bees, bumblebees and hummingbirds love the spider-like blooms. Most honeysuckles will bring intense fragrance into your garden.
Hydrangea vine (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris) is a medium-sized woody vine. The bare twining wood is attractive even after the leaves have dropped. This vine loves to wind up the posts of pergolas. The small, round leaves are a shiny medium green that will turn bright yellow in the fall. The sterile white hydrangea flowers appear after the vine is at least 3 years old. This vine requires more water than some, and protection from afternoon sun. Hydrangea vine attaches itself by aerial rootlets that can stain wood surfaces. This is why it is better to train it onto a free-standing pergola rather than house siding.
Few vines have the duration of bloom that the trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) has. The yellow, orange or red tubular flowers bloom from early summer until the first frost. Hummingbirds go mad over the flowers, which is reason enough to plant one. The compound leaves have many thin leaflets, giving it a tropical look. This is not a woody vine but will get very large. Trumpet vine can be kept pruned, but grows so fast it will quickly outgrow smaller structures.
Kiwi plants provide wonderful fruit but are also used for ornamental purposes. By planting a male kiwi you can have the beauty of the vine without the falling fruit. A popular male kiwi (Actinidia kolomikta) has white and pink variegation in the green leaves. Should you decide on fruit, kiwi is clean compared to many other fruiting plants. For fruit set you must have a male and a female kiwi. The two plants must also bloom at the same time for proper cross-pollination. The common fruit found at the supermarket is (Actinidia deliciosa). Another small, edible kiwi to try is (Actinidia arguta). Arguta is the hardiest of the kiwis for cooler climates. The hardy kiwi has smaller fruit with thin smooth skin that can be eaten without removing the peel.