Behold the garden gate

From the biblical gates of wisdom to the Gates of Paradise, gates as a threshold of transition have inspired as many allegories as they have provided practical function.

When landscape architects seek to mark a shift in the spirit of garden design or to create a playful departure, we look at opportunities to create a sense of passage. This allows both a physical and emotional definition of space while simultaneously creating spatial continuity. It also creates a sense of pause between the harsh realities of the outside world and the sanctuary within.

Whether open and welcoming or closed and mysterious, the garden gate adds charm, intimacy and drama to even the smallest garden.

Eight tips to ensure your garden gate will be more than just a pretty face:

• Consider function and aesthetics and use gates to break up monotony, such as a gate in a hedge.

• To stand up to rigorous wear and tear, make sure the gate material is sturdy, long-lasting and practical. Choose any material that’s weather-friendly. Reclaimed wood, recycled materials, glass, driftwood, steel, iron, copper, bronze—even old doors—the gate should complement the character, style and personality of the house.

• Gates are an exceptional opportunity for originality. Styling can be classical, traditional, contemporary or whimsical to create a sense of the unexpected.

• Don’t confine gates to the perimeter of your property. Consider using a gate to extend the space in the interior passageways, to demarcate vignette areas such as rose gardens and terraces, for safety around protect swimming pools, or to protect vegetable gardens.

• Consider using historical artifact gates from Old World gardens to create a unique focal point or combine gates with tall hedges to create a secret garden.

• Put the gate in context. Repeat architectural details from the home into the gate’s design by replicating elements, such as arches, rails, finials, and stylistic carvings.

• Select galvanized gate hardware that is in character with the gate to complete the design statement—cross-braces to prevent sagging, fancy hinges strong enough to endure daily use, and hand-forged latches that are simple to operate.

• Give your gate a peekaboo quality by using keyhole openings on axis with sculptural elements, such as fountains or ornamental trees, to arouse curiosity or backlight the gate with the light of the garden.

Tom Nugent, Landscape Architect

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