What’s the single most important garden moment? I’m starting to think it must be the garden gate, simply because we pass through it to enter the green space beyond. And that’s why landscape designers call it a transition point. What this actually means, is that it’s the moment where we leave the public world, and enter someone’s private garden space. And that’s why it’s worth thinking about your gate’s position and style because it’s a great opportunity to set the tone.
If you’re about to put in a new gate, but you’re low on inspiration (and believe me, trolling through manufacturer on-line catalogues is a deadening experience), grab the dog and go for a walk. Stay local for your first reconnoitre and take quick snaps of anything that makes you pause. Don’t over-think it at this stage – file away your shots to look at later. Then, to broaden your sampling, go through the same process when you’re in a different location. (Visit family and take a walk after lunch, or drive somewhere interesting to do your shopping and wander around before-hand.) And finally, at home on a rainy day, type the words ‘garden gate’ into a search engine and drag any images aside that appeal.
The trick now is to cull anything that’s impractical or overtly out of style with your home’s architecture or materials. (In other words, you may love a studded gate set into an adobe wall, but does it suit your prim wooden cottage?) You’ll be surprised at how helpful (and fun) the process has been, and you should end up with a clearer idea (and some images) to help you brief the person who will be building or supplying your gate.
To get the process off and running, I put my dog on a lead and took off for a wander around my neighbourhood and these are the shots I came home with, each with a little comment to get you thinking…
Let’s start with the gate I walked out of – mine. It’s made of laser cut corten steel and is based on an image of deciduous tree. My husband (and landscaping business partner) took the photos and worked on the file that was supplied to the fabricators. The finished sheet was then welded onto the frame. In terms of style, the rusted gate has a warmth to it that’s inviting and it tones well with the rough-sawn hardwood fence of random palings. It satisfies the maintenance brief – zero – and it suits the style of the landscape beyond, (kindly described as a loose, inner-urban wilderness). And on a whimsical note, he hid a tiny bird silhouette in the laciness of the tree branches for the littler neighbours to stop and find.
Further down the street is this lovely Edwardian where the garden is a classic mix of roses, daisies and salvias rimmed by crab apples. The new fence couldn’t be too out of keeping with the style of the house so we designed (sorry; another of our jobs; it’s nice to work locally) the fence to suit the era. The gate is a one off too, referencing the good old Australian sunshine. Note the wonderful shadow-play you can just see at the bottom of the image.
Now this is something you’d expect not to work, yet it does. This old Victorian grand home had been a boarding house before being restored for use by a single family. When the builders ripped off the enclosed verandas and revealed the pink and blue paint, the owners and their architects bravely let the façade just be, and it really is lovely. The garden wall is a slightly modified carry-over from the boarding house days but the gate and letter box are crisp, recent additions. I look at this as a reminder that it’s sometimes good to move slowly so you don’t loose something special along the way.
A few blocks away there is this example of a completely new build – wall and gate – which in some ways echoes the one further above. This is an architect’s house and it’s his skill which has made is possible to pull together a drystone wall and industrial iron-work and set it against a timber Victorian cottage. When working in heavy materials (stone and metal) if you keep things low, they remain friendly barriers rather than intimidating compound protectors.
This is the more usual accompaniment to a timber Victorian. There are two points to make here. 1. Matching your gate and fence with the style of your house is an easy solution and the results are almost bullet-proof, and 2. This inset gate shows how being generous with your land, (as in giving some over to the public domain of the footpath), can make your entrance very appealing. But be warned, your plants may act as litter traps on a windy day, but that’s a small price to pay.
This is almost a reverse approach to the gate further above. Here the visitor has to be on the property before they can enjoy the rose-smothered archway. In other words, instead of beautifying the footpath as part of the garden, here the beauty is well within its boundaries. Perhaps that’s nice in a way because you know you’re special if you are welcomed in to walk under the bower of roses.
Here’s another lych-style gate which I love for its whimsy. Walking through this would transport anyone, surely? And interestingly I think it would suit many styles of house. I only wish I’d thought to take a shot of this gate when the wisteria was in bloom.
This is a lovely gate that suits the house yet it doesn’t demand attention. In fact even though it’s another one of ours, whenever I visit I still have trouble remembering which side is fixed in place and which is used for every-day. There is a point to having the option to open both sides… it was built prior to the owners moving back into their remodelled home and they were mindful of the big items they’d be lugging up the front path (and sole access). I call these piano access gates for that reason.
And finally this rocket-red gate and letter box, included here to prove that paint is often a good option when you’re keen to refresh, but have a limited budget. The trick is to be bold with the colour, but to make sure it sits with the rest of your house. Take a photo of your house then test out your preferred colours options on your desktop.