Making an entrance - GARDEN GALLERY - Garden Design (2015)

Garden Design (2015)

Garden Gallery

Making an entrance


An intricate antique metal gate, supported by warm-toned dry stone columns, makes a grand and imposing gesture, offering hints of what may be experienced in the garden beyond.


FIRST IMPRESSIONS are critical to any design, and features that mark the entrance to a garden are particularly important, reflecting its character and ambience, defining the route into the space and offering visitors a hint of what lies beyond the threshold.

Points of entry

Design elements that contribute to our enjoyment and the value of a garden always require careful consideration and entranceways are a case in point. Often the first elements we encounter, they control our entry into a garden, but can be far more than just a physical barrier restricting unauthorised access. When carefully designed, they provide tantalising glimpses of the garden beyond. They may also be imposing, making a grand gesture, or understated, creating a surprise when we discover what lies ahead, while ornamentation can introduce or perpetuate a style or personalised theme.

In any garden, there needs to be a hierarchy of entranceway solutions, from the main gateway to interior openings within the space. These are determined by a variety of intentions and purposes that help to enrich the fabric of the design. The scale and proportion of the entranceway and the way it is framed with lintels, archways or other architectural decoration can imbue a sense of importance and authority, while the use of different paving materials at the point of entry further enforces a change of status or demarcation from one area to another. Conversely, an understated gap in a wall, fence or hedge allows the design to flow between two spaces in a more casual way, discrete and unannounced, and offers the chance to create surprise with a dramatic view or focal point beyond the threshold. Context and the geographical location are other important factors to consider. For example, simple, rustic gates will look more appropriate than civic and elaborate features in gardens set in the countryside. If the design becomes more relaxed with distance from the house, then entranceways to those areas should, likewise, be more casual or practical in nature and meld into the landscape. Hewn stone uprights are likely to be all that is required to mark the entrance to a wild garden or meadow from a formally planted area, or an archway set into trellis screens could be used in a small suburban garden.

Designing with gates and doors

The design of a door or gateway will help augment or reinforce the intention of the design. A solid door set into a wall will impart the look of a secret garden, remote and private, forever willing us to enter and discover something new. Perforated or open-structured gates and doors offer glimpses into the space beyond, still beckoning us to enter, but secure in the knowledge of what we will find there. Such solutions can be used to enhance a vista, enabling views from one end of the garden to the other, with aligned entranceways guiding the visitor through a series of outdoor rooms.

Gate design may also embody the theme of the design, making historical, cultural, artistic or personal references. It can be authoritarian, playful or whimsical in character and it is worth considering gates that are locally handcrafted to create an individual or quirky look or to enforce a particular cultural ideal that references the overall design. Alternatively, scour architectural salvage yards or internet sites for old or antique gates and doors that can be recycled to convey a period feel or individual approach, but ensure they are fit for purpose before making your purchase.

The colour and texture of a door or gate will also play an important role in the design. Rusted metal, such as corten steel, or weathered timber will deliver a sense of timelessness and stylish decay and if constructed from durable materials, such as oak or wrought iron, they are also likely to need little maintenance. Use of strong colour, such as red or yellow will command attention, while pastels or neutral shades - avoid white, which can be quite startling - will look more natural and fade into the distance.

“An effective way of bringing visual drama into gardens large and small is to use a device such as a moongate, which is a round opening, or an archway. By dividing the space or framing a view in such a way, you are focusing the eye and inviting people to explore the delights beyond.”



Sculptural garden opening by Ana Sanchez-Martin


A series of simple arches can provide a modest entranceway or herald a change of direction. The fast-growing hop, Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’, offers a leafy cover.



Formally marking the transition between two spaces, a simple brick arch is enlivened by tile inserts and a contrasting central keystone.


Integral with the boundary wall, an archway invites entry, while a short flight of steps suggests a garden of high status.



Positioned inside a generous archway, a timber gate allows a tantalising glimpse into the garden and offers a sense of enclosure and protection.



A Gothic arbour frames the main vista through the design, creating a welcome opportunity to linger and appreciate the scene.



Imposing slatted gates with a distinctive leaf motif announce entry to the walled kitchen garden at Gresgarth Hall in Lancashire.



Timber gates and a rose-clad arbour mark this entrance, allowing views of the meadow beyond.



Suspense and mystery are heightened as visitors approach the narrow entrance to this secret garden, with the substantial antique door adding period charm.