In the final part of our 12-part series on designing a large country garden, we look at the importance of gates and archways in a garden masterplan
HOW TO USE GATES & ARCHWAYS IN A LARGE COUNTRY GARDEN
Incorporating a sense of movement and exploration is one of the most important aspects of designing a dynamic garden. The most interesting gardens have both elements woven throughout their design, helping to draw the visitor in and encouraging them to move from one area to another.
One of our first considerations when designing a large country garden is to break it down into a series of ‘rooms’ and then create an enjoyable journey between them. The transition between the spaces can be as dramatic or as subtle as you choose and there are a number of devices that can be used. Gates and archways are two of the most effective. Gates neatly separate territories and can either completely enclose a space, in the form of a high, solid structure, or offer a hint of what lies beyond through open fretwork or slats. Arches, on the other hand, act as an open door, drawing you through from one area to another and creating a frame for the garden beyond. Here we examine the benefits of both.
A garden gate can do far more than allowing you access across a boundary. As well as acting as a portal, gates can be used as an integral part of a garden masterplan, either to separate different areas; to act as a focal point that draws you in and guides you through the garden; or to enclose an area, for privacy or for the practical aim of keeping animals, or people, in or out.
Whatever the purpose, there is something magical about going through a garden gate. It not only entices you through into another realm, but it sets the tone for what lies beyond, so it’s important to choose the right style.
How you intend to use the gate will obviously influence the type and design you select, but whatever its purpose, a gate should always be appropriate for the setting in which it is placed. If it is sited close to the boundary of a property, with a view of the wider landscape, for instance, it could be a simple field gate, with a single set of wooden bars; while the entrance to a stately home might require a more impressive, decorative, metal gate topped with ornate finials.
If the gate is to be located close to the house, it’s also important to relate it to the architecture of the building. We are in the process of implementing metal gates, with ornate scrolls, for a garden surrounding a Victorian Italianate house, the design of which is to reflect the style and period of the house (see above). A rambling farmhouse, on the other hand, will suit something more relaxed, such as an oak gate, to blend with the rustic farm buildings. We often use gates as focal features, in their own right, positioning them so they give a tantalising glimpse of what lies ahead, in which case often ornamental wrought iron gates works well, where one can see through and beyond.
The size of the gate is important too and will depend on the size and scale of the landscape it will sit within. Too small and it will get lost, too big and it will dominate. The key is to choose a gate that is proportional to the size of the space or frame through which it provides access, such as a hedge or wall.
We almost always commission bespoke gates and we have a large archive of images from historic properties for example, that we show clients to help them visualise what their gate could look like. With client discussion, we may choose to replicate a design or adapt several designs to create something unique to them. Additionally, we may find some existing gates on site which we can then replicate or reference in other gates within the garden.
If you prefer a more ‘open’ transition between the spaces in your garden, an archway will create immediate impact. Like gates, arches can be magical, creating the sense of a journey into another world, whilst also being a useful way to introduce height; to act as a frame for a well-placed feature, such as a bench, pot or sculpture; and to provide a structure for vertical and overhead planting.
The most important thing to consider with an archway is where to place it. An arch should always sit between elements, whether it’s planting, a hedge or a trellis, so that it becomes the only route through from one side to the other. There is little point to having an archway if you can simply walk round it! Placing a series of arches over a longer path to create a tunnel is also a great way to bring an architectural element to a garden while helping to build excitement as you journey to the other side.
We especially love the classic elegance of a wooden or metal frame draped with climbing, rambling or twining plants, Wisteria, vines and Clematis, although, aesthetically, nothing quite beats a tunnel of Roses.
A covered walk becomes particularly enticing too, if the climbing plants are scented. Having a pause point in the middle of a tunnel, where the view is framed in different directions and where one can sit and enjoy it, also works well; while adding a sculpture, or other feature at the end further helps draw one on to discover new areas of the garden.
Finally, there are no set rules on the size of an archway, but generosity is the key. A wide arch means that there’s plenty of space, a view is well framed and it will invite you through to discover what lies beyond. A long tunnel creates more intrigue and drama, particularly if considering the use of Wisteria, Laburnum and roses as the wow factor plants to guide you through.
Look out for our journal posts on large garden design covering:
Driveways and Entrances
Views & Borrowed Landscapes
Designing with Water
Designing with Trees