Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Garden Design - making an entrance

A vegetable garden as beautiful as this deserves an entrance that makes a statement
Neff garden, Kitsap peninsula, WA

A mysterious break in a hedge
entices you to explore what's beyond.
Design by Paul Repetowski, WA
Entering your garden should be like the start of a journey, filled with excitement and anticipation. Trailheads typically mark the way with a sign directing you to a path which disappears tantalizingly from view, enticing you further and further along the trail to discover what might be revealed around the next corner.

Too often when designing our gardens we jump straight into buying armloads of our favorite plants, then plugging them in wherever we find a patch of bare earth. We may be so accustomed to being in our garden that we forget to consider how visitors will approach the space. What will they see as they drive up? Is there a clear path to your door or might they end up visiting the garbage cans instead? Will they have that ‘Ta Da!’ moment as they enter your wonderland or will they walk through it and not realize that the journey has already ended?

Porcelain vine smothers this
romantic arbor.
Shelley garden, Woodinville, WA
Vine clad archways and arbors are the quintessential garden entrance, with or without a gate. Who can resist walking underneath knowing you are entering another world, a special place into which you have been invited? Whether festooned with fragrant roses, jasmine or honeysuckle or left bare to show off the structure, these features make a clear statement. Framing a distant focal point within the arch serves to draw both the eyes and feet further into the space, encouraging exploration with the promise of an interesting journey.

This entrance is marked by two posts. The absence of a gate
suggests that visitors are always welcome.
Ross Chapin design Kirkland, WA
Gates provide a clear sense of entry even without an overhead structure. They can be a way to keep out unwanted visitors – “this far and no further”, or they can be an invitation into a very personal space. I often design ornamental gates which are simply staked into the ground with rebar. They don’t physically open and close, but rather stay partially ajar as though to say “come on in”. This is particularly effective for a side garden or an entry into a secret grotto hidden amongst the trees.

Add some personality to your gate
with old garden tools
'Hobbit garden' Dallas, TX

Where neither gates nor arbors are appropriate, pathways need to be clearly visible and defined. Flanking an entrance with a pair of matching shrubs, grasses or container gardens can be a useful ploy or even just a single specimen tree whose height and form draws your attention.

So welcome friends and enjoy the sense of anticipation on their faces as they begin the journey into your unique garden. In my next post I’ll look at options for designing paths which move beyond the utilitarian, from rustic and informal to contemporary, horizontal sculpture. Join me!

Photo credit for Shelley garden One Thousand Words Photography

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